Give the CBS broadcast team credit for this: Even though the Baltimore Ravens game was a blowout, they never totally lost their focus.
Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots tried to generate some enthusiasm at the microphone right up until the end of the broadcast, and that's not easy in a game that was never in doubt after the first Ravens offensive series.
Overall, Harlan is a steady play-by-play announcer, and Wilcots generally knows his stuff, particularly when it comes to the passing game and defensive backfield play. The CBS analyst consistently explained mistakes made by young receivers Sunday, like a Rams tight end continuing to run through his pattern instead of finding an open spot and "settling down" into it against the zone defense that the Ravens were playing on a particular down.
But it was far from all good news with this team that telecast the Ravens 37-7 victory over the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis Sunday.
As with CBS broadcast teams the last two weeks, Baltimore viewers were again offered a false sense of insider/backstage pre-game analysis that turned out to miss the real story of the game by a mile.
Throughout the game, Wilcots and Harlan told viewers repeatedly how they talked to Ravens players and coaches over the weekend, suggesting they had all kinds of exclusive inside information on what the Ravens were going to do.
But their pre-game analysis was all about running back Ray Rice.
Watch Rice, viewers were told. As he goes, so goes the Ravens. And if he doesn't go, neither do the Ravens.
"So, he's the catalyst who will make this team go today," Wilcots said in summarizing his pre-game prognostication. There was no mention of wide receiver Lee Evans not playing -- and University of Maryland rookie Torrey Smith taking his place.
Rice did wind up having a good game. But the Ravens were up 21-0 before Ray Rice had 20 yards on the ground.
As those who watched the game know, it was all Joe Flacco and Smith for those historic first three TDs that put the game away.
And the first explanation as to how Evans being out contributed to Smith being on the field didn't come until there were 6 minutes and 50 seconds left in the first quarter.
After three weeks of listening to wrongheaded and hyped pre-game analysis, I am convinced the smarter coaches and players in the league, give the CBS announcers nothing but blue smoke and mirrors in these so-called big exclusive interviews and team meetings they attend on the day and night before the game.
If you want a real sense of what's going to happen in a game, read or listen to the beat reporters who spend all week watching the team in practice. According to coach John Harbaugh's post-game press conference nothing happened on the field Sunday that they hadn't been working on all week -- but the CBS Sports crew once again seemed totally blindsided by it.
And it is annoying that these guys are so willing to act like they know when they haven't put in the work to actually know anything except what the team is willing to hand them on a silver platter. I am amazed each fall when I add these sports duties to my regular TV/media beat how much sports announcers and analysts get away with and never get called out on by the folks who are supposed to be covering them.
If I keep writing, I am probably going to wind up taking back everything nice that I said about Wilcots, but another aspect of empty-headed, hot-air analysis involves the comments made Sunday about Joe Flacco in the CBS booth.
Prior to Flacco's second TD pass to Smith, Baltimore's oft-criticized quarterback missed the rookie receiver on the same play. Smith was open, but Flacco overthrew him in the end zone.
"You have to be able to hit on that one if you're Joe Flacco," Wilcots said, suggesting Flacco was underperforming as an NFL quarterback.
But when Flacco came back two plays later and threw a strike, Wilcots and Harlan started singing his praises -- as if they had never questioned his ability moments earlier.
And just as was the case with last week's CBS team, there was more act-like-you-know revisionism as the story line of Flacco-Torrey-Smith became impossible to miss.
"They're starting to flourish," Wilcots said of the Ravens wide receivers. "It's been a point of emphasis the last couple of weeks, and now it's starting to pay off."
Again, if the wide receivers and the passing game were a "point of emphasis the last couple of weeks," why was the pre-game analysis all Ray Rice?
Memo to CBS Sports announcers: Do more legwork, blow less hot air our way. Really, with the money CBS Sports is making on the games, we deserve better than the empty-headed blah, blah, blah being sold as analysis.
One last note: Last week, I wrote about CBS clipping the action on the field for promos. It continued Sunday.
"There was a face-mask penalty while we were away; it will go against St. Louis," Harlan told viewers after a promotional break with 13:16 left in the fourth quarter.
I can only guess what else I didn't see or what I saw on tape that was made to look live.
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