It doesn’t happen often, but in Sunday's game, the guys in the CBS broadcast booth got it mostly right in their "keys to the game" talking points just before kickoff. Give them credit for that in their call of the Ravens' 26-23 victory over the Miami Dolphins.
“Gone are Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and other key members of the Ravens defensive unit,” play-by-play announcer Marv Albert said. “The question is: what can Baltimore do against a Miami offensive line that has really struggled ... allowing 18 sacks ... a league high?”
CBS analyst Rich Gannon responded: “Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs are really excited after watching film. They have been licking their chops to get after this Miami line. They’ve had four straight games where they gave up four or more sacks. And when you consider Dumervil and Suggs have 154 career sacks, certainly the Dolphins will have their hands full.”
Later, as the two teams took the field for the first series by the Dolphins, Gannon hit the theme again, saying of Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill: “He’s going to have to step up in the pocket with Suggs and Dumervil coming. He can’t allow those two to take over the game.”
That was exactly the major story line of the game as far as I was concerned -- especially in the fourth quarter when Suggs and Dumervil took their play to a higher level and crushed the Dolphins quarterback in successive series.
Not to get carried away here with praise for Gannon.
Seeing a weak offensive line versus a great pass rush and calling it a key to the game does not make him a genius -- or even an original thinker. In fact, he could have come up with his pregame analysis by reading Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson, who also made it one of his keys to the game long before Gannon hit the airwaves at 1 p.m.
And the last time Gannon did a Ravens game, I suggested in my review that he’d sound like he knew a lot more about what was actually going on with the team by reading The Sun’s extensive daily coverage. Still, original or not, at least he got it right. And after last season, when it felt like we had Dan Dierdorf getting the Ravens wrong week in and week out, that’s a cause for some celebration in my book.
On the other hand, this is what drives me crazy about Albert as a play-by-play announcer: he has absolutely no feel for the rhythm of the game.
For me as a viewer, there is nothing more exciting than to feel connected to that momentum or power surge on the field -- especially when a big star or stars are putting the team on their back and willing it to victory down the stretch. For the master model, think Michael Jordan in basketball. But to a lesser degree, Ray Rice, Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin did it at times for the Ravens last year.
But for all of Gannon’s prognostication about the potential of Suggs and Dumervil to have their way with the Miami line, when it actually started to happen with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, Albert seemed oblivious until Suggs had multiple sacks.
How many times have you heard NBC’s Al Michaels tell you he could feel the momentum shifting before you did? And sure enough, you dialed in the aspect of play he highlighted, and you could feel it.
Forget Michaels, WBAL’s Gerry Sandusky does an outstanding job of noticing such surges, shifts and movements in a game. Really, CBS should let some of its play-by-play guys listen to his calls and learn something about this aspect of the call.
Give some credit to the director, producers, camera operators and people in the trucks as well. Again, they had most of the key images -- and they got them up quickly. The out-of-bounds “interception” by safety James Ihedigbo is an example of CBS Sports doing what these folks are supposed to do -- getting the contested image in focus and showing it to us as fast as they can.
In this case, viewers saw Ihedigbo land with his hand out of bounds seconds after the play ended, and there was no question that the interception was going to be overturned despite all of coach John Harbaugh’s gesticulations.
That’s enough with the nice-nice.
I am mad as ever about the lack of information on injuries and substitutions. Albert and Gannon told me guard Kelechi Osemele was out of the game, but they had no real information beyond that.
I had to go online to The Sun to find out he was sitting on the bench during the game, but he was being held out because of back spasms that started before the game. Backup center A.Q. Shipley replaced him and won praise from Harbaugh for his play.
Also, I saw Rick Wagner, an offensive tackle, on the field for a few plays, but they never mentioned his presence or explained his role. (Wilson later told me via email that Wagner plays in some situations that involve an extra lineman. Maybe CBS should email Wilson.)
How hard is this? Injuries and substitutions are big deals to fans who follow the game closely. They can answer questions that the local press has been asking all week. Why can’t the guys in the booth pay some attention?
I am not going to go into a full-blown rant, but for the 10,000th time, having a sideline reporter would make all the difference in the world. But CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus is either too cheap or just plain unwilling to admit he was wrong in saying sideline reporters are not needed.
Come on, CBS. I found a way to say something nice about one of your telecasts. Now, why don’t you go nuts and spend a few pennies of the millions of dollars you are making off these NFL games and give us a sideline reporter?