ESPN's Chris Berman stepped aside as host of "NFL Countdown" this year, but he'll be back for special episodes of "NFL Primetime" after Sunday's conference title games and after the Super Bowl in Minneapolis two weeks later. In advance of that, Berman chatted with the Star Tribune's Michael Rand.
Q It's been about a year since your new role at ESPN was announced. How have you adjusted to a much different schedule?
A I enjoy it. As you know, both me and ESPN all agreed to the things I'm doing. Mentally, I was certainly ready for this. … I wasn't around a lot of Sundays. Not that I was trying to avoid it, but there were times where I wasn't in position to watch 'Countdown.' I stay in touch and I'm more encouraging to our producers. Not that you should do this instead of that, but they ask questions and I tell them if I think they should move things around. [New host] Sam Ponder did fine. It's a different show, but it had to be. I thought everybody had a good year. As far as watching football, it was different. I bought Sunday Ticket, I was a consumer for a change. … I miss the action and the camaraderie, but I'm just as much a fan of football and our shows. I just didn't have to sleep four hours a night to do it. So that was OK, right?
Q I assume you were watching the divisional round last week both out of interest and because you'll be on the air this weekend talking about these teams. What was going through your head with the Stefon Diggs catch?
A I wondered if they were going to be able to get a play to get out of bounds to try a long field goal. They can't go to the middle of the field. When the ball was up and just before it was caught, I said to myself he could catch that and get out of bounds. They actually could pull that play off. Look where it was. And then for the end of it — 'You mean nobody is going to knock him out at the 10?' Then 10 minutes later, I figured someone would ask what I would call it. The Minnesota Miracle is a layup. But it was unbelievable. … The ball was perfect, the route was perfect. It shows, as [ESPN colleague] Tommy Jackson texted me later, that's why you play to the last whistle. … Bigger picture, outside of Minnesota and the Vikings: That's why we love football. I heard from everybody, whether they root for anybody, that's why they love football. After the year the NFL had, to have this in January, this is great. I wish we were doing last week's show. I hope the Vikings and Eagles have anything close to what they did last week. Maybe we'll put a smile on people's faces. I hope we're part of a memorable Sunday for people.
Q How do you see the Vikings vs. Eagles game unfolding given what we know about both teams?
A This Vikings defense is not only statistically what you've seen all year, but they work as a unit and I like watching them play. I think Philadelphia will have a tough time scoring, but then again they won a game in the teens last time [against Atlanta]. I think if it gets to 20, other than bizarre things, Minnesota wins. If it's a clean game, Minnesota has a little better team. I think it's a strict toss-up. … It would be pretty cool for Minnesota to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Then comes the next part — if they play New England, and I'm not supposing, but the team that hasn't won one against the team that wins all the time. But we'll worry about that two weeks from now.