Let's be honest, I expected one of the worst Ravens' broadcasts of the year Sunday. It was bad enough that CBS Sports, which has gone three-for-three in seriously flawed Ravens telecasts this season, was covering the game. But worse yet, it was the CBS team of Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf calling it.
There is no sports broadcaster more reviled in these parts than Dierdorf. In fact, last season, I had to elevate my review rhetoric to a new high (or low) and invoke the word "gasbag" to describe him. (It has since been used at this blog for several CBS sportscasters who act like they know and get it oh-so-wrong way too often for the salaries they are being paid.)
But fair is fair, and Dierorf and Gumbel did OK in Sunday's 29-14 win over the Houston Texans. I wouldn't go so far as to say they did just fine -- Dierdorf still fills the airwaves with way too much phony bluster, and everything he knows he learned in last night's meeting with the coach of the team he likes best. But he was a lot less annoying Sunday because the team he liked best was the Ravens.
Gumbel and Dierdorf made mistakes. But they were either relatively minor or quickly corrected.
After the Ravens' first touchdown, Gumbel told us "Matt Schaub goes 7 for 8" on the drive.
But in the time it takes for a producer to say," Hey Greg, Schaub's the Texans' quarterback, not the Ravens," Gumbel corrected himself with, "Joe Flacco, excuse me."
And when Flacco managed to get a pass off to Ray Rice with two Texans hanging on him, I am pretty sure Dierdorf was trying to pay a compliment in saying of the Ravens quarterback, "He's doing a Ben Roethlisberger."
But for a Baltimore audience, even invoking the hated Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback can ruin a telecast. OK, I'm kidding about that. But it does raise a larger issue about Dierdorf: One of the reasons he is so despised by Ravens fans is his worship of "Big Ben" Rosethlisberger. And the comparison just reminds some Baltimore viewers of games we had to sit through with Dierdorf going on and on about the Steelers quarterback.
But the good outweighed the bad Sunday.
Dierdorf did an excellent job of explaining how the Texans offensive line worked a "stretch play" to block in one direction so as to create a "back gate" for the runner to cut and go in the other. And, as he explained it, the producers showed us a replay that clearly illustrated the way it was supposed to work.
And then there was this exchange in which Gumbel, unlike many play-by-play announcers, showed he was actually listening to his analyst. And not only listening, but willing and able to gently correct him.
"Boy, who knew Ray Rice was going to turn out to be this kind of player?" Dierdorf said after another outstanding effort by the running back.
"You know what?" Gumbel said. "He knew."
As for the production itself, the CBS crew offered a skillfully produced, tasteful video tribute to Pat Modell, who died last week, as Gumbel and Dierdorf explained that the letters the Ravens wore on their uniforms Sunday, PBM, were the initials of the wife of former Ravens owner Art Modell.
And don't ask me why, but Dierdorf and Gumbel suddenly seem to have fallen in love with Baltimore. I counted at least three times that Gumbel mentioned how loud the fans at M & T Bank Stadium were -- loud in a good way.
And Dierdorf was positively gushing at times: "This stadium on the Inner Habor, it's just such a picturesque setting," he said. "And Camden Yards right next door -- this is quite a sports complex."
Hey, we'll take it.
We'll even overlook the gasbag (I'm sorry, I mean, slightly inflated and false) tone of authority Dierdorf invoked all too often Sunday when he said stuff like, "A field goal now is not acceptable," as he did in the first half during a Ravens drive.
Not acceptable to whom? To fans, to coaches, to players? And how does he know what any of those three groups really think is or isn't acceptable? He just makes it up whether he knows or not, and ...
Ok, I'm going to stop now, before I take back all the nice stuff I said about Gumbel, Dierdorf and CBS Sports. We won, and he only mentioned Roethlisberger once. Let's leave it right there.