By David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun
7:32 PM EST, December 9, 2012
Baltimore Ravens fans can’t help but feel frustrated, angry and maybe even sick about what they saw on their TV screens Sunday during a 31-28 loss to the Washington Redskins. But let’s be fair, you can’t blame most of that on lousy coverage by CBS Sports this week.
The production team missed part of one play, and the broadcast crew of Marv Albert and Rich Gannon kept calling Dennis Pitta “Dennis Peeta.” And right at the start of overtime, Albert said one of the most obvious and, yes, dumbest things I have heard an announcer say all year: “The word on Robert Griffin III is that he appeared to suffer a right knee injury.”
This came after viewers had seen Griffin: injure his knee once live and three times in a bone-jarring replay, limp off the field with the help of trainers, come back on the field limping worse, throw a pass and almost fall over from the pain, go down on all fours on the field and come limping off the field again as a second string quarterback went into the game for the final minutes to throw a touchdown pass and run for two points to tie the score in regulation.
Did I mention the 10 million shots of Griffin on the sideline being attended to by doctors and trainers after he came out of the game for the second time?
And now, Albert’s going to give us “the word” on this situation — and that inside dope is that Griffin “appeared to suffer a right knee injury.” Thanks for the scoop, Marv. But we would have to have been in a coma for the last 10 minutes of real time at the end of the game not to know as much or more than you told us.
I didn’t hear anything from CBS Sports about the hip pointer Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in his postgame interview that Ray Rice suffered. Or, what about the neck injury to Jameel McClain? But that would have taken some actual sideline reporting.
That said, I now come to praise the coverage — especially the work by the director, producer and camera operators.
On a cold, gray and wet day, the images were outstanding. As fog started to shroud the field late in the game, it felt as if the cameras were moving closer and closer to the action. Viewers were given the kind of tight, field levels shots that made you feel as if you could almost reach out and touch the white plumes of breath emanating from the mouths of the exhausted players on the field.
During the last Redskins game-tying drive, it was all mud, blood, torn up chunks of turf and bodies being slammed into each other with the cameras seeming as if they were right in the middle of it. Someone on the production team had the wisdom to get a us ground-level, back-of-the-end zone shot of Redskins backup quarterback Kirk Cousins scoring the final two points of regulation play that tied the game. And for those few seconds, CBS Sports was in a league with the NFL Network and NFL Films.
The direction at the end of the game and into overtime kept getting better as the drama heightened. As the two teams went out for the overtime coin toss, viewers were given another field level shot through a rain-speckled lens — past the players, up into the stands and beyond to the kind of low-hanging, gray clouds that NFL Films has taught viewers to associate with epic moments in NFL history.
In fact, the photography and direction at the end were so good they made up for all that Albert and Gannon weren’t seeing or weren’t reacting quickly enough to comment on. As Albert talked about Redskins coach Mike Shanahan not giving up on the team, viewers were shown Griffin on the sideline emotionally embracing various teammates. Those were the money shots — at least for Redskins fans — between plays, and the director was going to give them to fans whether or not Albert and Gannon were on board.
My biggest complaint about Albert’s play-by-play call Sunday was that he lost his focus a couple of times. With 14 minutes and 8 seconds left in the game, for example, the Ravens were thrown for a 3-yard loss on a first-and-10 running play.
“That’s a 2-yard pickup,” Albert told viewers, as the graphic on the screen announced that it was now second-and-13.
Clearly someone in the truck told him he was wrong in reporting it as a gain of 2 yards, and Albert then said, “That ends up as a loss of two.”
Wrong again. It’s a loss of three; that’s why it is second-and-13.
Really, I wonder if older announcers don’t have the stamina or what to go a whole game. I’m serious. Or, do they eat too much at halftime or something?
CBS analysts like Dan Dierdorf and Dan Fouts start losing focus right after halftime on most games, and what follows isn’t pretty.
Overall, Gannon’s analysis wasn’t anything to get excited about, but it was solid. His best moment in the booth came on the Ravens second touchdown when he explained during the first replay that Joe Flacco made it happen by looking to his left and pump faking to draw the safety in that direction before throwing the ball to Anquan Boldin down the right seam.
It was just the kind of analysis that helps viewers understand and savor big plays. I had to smile at all the local radio and TV types who put out tweets within the next five minutes saying just what Gannon had said, but not crediting him. I guess I should be impressed that they were willing to take their hands out of the potato chip bags long enough to steal and tweet the analyst’s insight.
Gannon was mostly right in his pre-game analysis as well. In focusing on the Ravens quarterback, he said, “Flacco’s a hard guy to figure out… But, in order for the Ravens to get where they want to go, he’s going to have to elevate his game.”
Amen to that on both counts.
@davidzurawik on Twitter
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