By David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun
9:05 PM EDT, September 15, 2013
This is the kind of thing that all too often makes it so aggravating to watch the Baltimore Ravens when CBS is doing the telecast.
It was late in the third quarter Sunday and a ferocious pass rush by the Ravens resulted in a sack of Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden.
As the linemen were unpiling with 29 seconds left in the quarter, a graphic flashed on the bottom of the screen that read, “Ravens: 4 sacks for 28 yards.”
Two seconds later, play-by-play announcer Marv Albert told viewers, “A total of three sacks now for the Ravens.”
Come on, Marv. How did you get three when the producers had four?
And to the producers, don't you think you might have had Marv straighten out the discrepancy between what you were showing viewers and what they were hearing?
And you know what, when it comes to sacks and the Ravens' pass rush, that kind of gaffe isn't even what bothered me most about Sunday's telecast. What made me really nuts was the lack of any kind of in-depth analysis from Albert’s partner, Rich Gannon, about the pass rush.
Listening to him is like eating airline food; it’s flat, tasteless and absolutely unfulfilling. He offers nothing but the most superficial, obvious analysis — and even that is sometimes wrong.
One of the most powerful storylines of the day had been the way the Ravens defense seemed to kick into a higher gear midway through the second quarter on passing downs with Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs bringing tremendous pressure from the edges.
And then the guys up front started pushing their blockers around — just totally collapsing the pocket. The defense, particularly on passing downs, was keeping the Ravens and the fans in the game as the offense struggled to find any kind of success, let alone consistency.
But Albert and Gannon seemed all but oblivious to what was happening with the pass rush in the early going, particularly with Dumervil. When Suggs got through, they failed to note how Dumervil’s charge helped by drawing blockers to him — the blockers who last year would have been double and triple teaming Suggs.
And it wasn’t until the start of the second half that Gannon and Albert started to talk about rookie safety Matt Elam, the Ravens’ first-round draft choice.
It was as if the two had no idea what the big questions were this year when it came to the Ravens — the questions fans were hoping to get some data on, if not answers to, in this game.
One of the biggest: Will the Ravens really be younger, faster and stronger with the replacements they have brought in for Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, as the team claims? Or, will they be younger, dumber and more often out of position — as they often were against the Denver Broncos last week?
The strength or weakness of the pass rush and the performances of the safeties in the first half were crucial — except to the two guys at the CBS microphones.
Here’s what it comes down to: Gannon kept telling viewers about all the “great conversations” he had the night before with various players and coaches on both teams. He used what they allegedly told him as support for his analysis.
But that’s the easy research. That’s the sit-on-your-butt, chat-em-up, blah-blah-blah research. And I am using the word “research” loosely, because a lot of what they are being told is spin and hype.
But once you get past Phil Simms, the CBS analysts never seem to do any deeper research. You seldom hear them talking about looking at film or talking to the hometown beat writers or getting into town early in the week and going out to the practice field.
Instead, here is the kind of analysis we got Sunday from Albert and Gannon:
With 31 seconds left in the first half, Justin Tucker missed his second field goal attempt (he missed just three all of last year). This is a big deal. This is something that screams for some analysis as in, “What the heck is going on here?”
“It’s all that talk about the bobblehead,” Gannon said.
Of course (at least, I hope it’s of course), he had to be joking. But I didn’t need a joke out of nowhere at that point. I needed some football expertise.
Albert, trying to give the audience some context for the joke, followed by saying, “You mentioned the bobblehead … coming off his rookie season, Justin, achieving a highly coveted honor, saw his own bobblehead — actually a bobble leg. He was honored by the Boise, Maryland, Baysox, a Double-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.”
Of course, it’s the Bowie (Boo-wee) Baysox — that’s the team in Maryland that’s affiliated with the Orioles. Boise is in Idaho.
Come on, Marv.
The producers — who showed viewers the Tucker bobblehead as Albert botched the team name — did make an effort Sunday to give Baltimore fans a better telecast than we usually received last year from CBS.
I thought the image of the football and the first down marker that CBS gave fans when the Browns failed to make a crucial fourth down was impressive in its clarity.
I also liked the camera shot of Ray Rice struggling down a flight of stairs as he left the field after sustaining a hip injury. A cameraperson had to hustle to get it, and the image viewers saw as a result of that hustle was that of a player who looked to be in more pain than the one shown a few seconds earlier walking off the field. It was backstage vs. onstage.
But that sort of production effort hardly starts to redeem the telecast from the failings of Albert and Gannon.
I can hardly wait for next Sunday when we get another CBS backup broadcast team with Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf in the booth.
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