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Ravens get tougher scrutiny, better coverage from Fox

Television IndustryBaltimore RavensHigh School FootballJohn HarbaughFootballJoe Flacco

The Fox telecast of the Baltimore Ravens’ loss Sunday was far from perfect, but what a vast improvement over any coverage provided this season by CBS Sports.

I am sure some fans are going to insist Fox analyst Daryl Johnston doesn’t like the Ravens, or somehow “has it in” for them. But what a relief it was to hear someone call out Ravens coach John Harbaugh for his bad decisions Sunday.

Johnston, who seemed about 10,000 times more focused in his thinking and crisp in his analysis than Dan Fouts or Dan Dierdorf has even been for CBS, laid the wood to Harbaugh’s first-half miscues both at the time they were made and at the end of the game. And then, the Fox production team brought up the images to visually illustrate what Johnston was saying about the six points he believes Harbaugh cost the team in its 19-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Following the Ravens’ hey-there's-still-hope touchdown with 2 minutes, 04 seconds left in the game, Johnston said, “All right, now let’s take everyone back [to the first half] ... The Ravens are fourth-and-1 on the 1-yard line… John Harbaugh elects to go for it, they miss. That’s three points right there.

“Then, at the end of the first half, the Ravens take an extra shot down the field,” Johnston continued, “which allows the Packers to get a field goal with two seconds left… In either case, you take three of those points away, and it’s a 20-19 game right now … And everybody is going to second guess John Harbaugh in both of those situations… “

Yes, they are. And thanks for aiding and abetting that much-needed procedure, Daryl.

Harbaugh tries to bully the local press into not questioning him on such matters. Some still do, and all credit to them. But many don’t.

In the Denver game, when Harbaugh failed to challenge a drop by Wes Welker that was ruled a catch, the Ravens coach tried to blame his mistake on NBC for allegedly not showing the replay. But, as I reported in a second-by-second analysis, NBC had shown it — clearly and quickly with commentary — saying Harbaugh should challenge it.

Harbaugh and his staff are the ones who missed it. But somehow, the matter was forgotten, and Harbaugh was allowed to skate.

But not Sunday, thanks in part to Fox calling him out.

There was a lot to like in the Fox broadcast beyond Johnston’s hard-nosed analysis.

First of all, Fox gave viewers a three-person team instead of two, as nickel-and-dime CBS does. The third member of the Fox broadcast team was former Ravens defensive lineman Tony Siragusa, who was down on the field with an open mike that allowed him to add commentary and reporting whenever he wanted.

Siragusa was relatively quiet in the first half, but with 10:53 left in the third quarter, Siragusa made me want to jump up and kiss the screen when he called out what at the time was a lifeless Ravens offense.

“Down here on the field, Daryl, I’m about 20 yards behind that offensive line, that whole offense, and it seems to me they just don’t have any sense of urgency,” Siragusa said. “I’ve seen that same play with Ray Rice up the middle three or four times, and it just hasn’t been successful… They need to start playing with some sense of urgency, and that’s just something I’m not seeing at all.”

With 11:52 left in the game following Joe Flacco’s touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones. Johnston said, “You can’t let it get to this point before you develop a sense of urgency.”

He was right, and again, that comes down to the coach and his staff.

Kenny Albert wasn’t anything special on play-by-play, but I didn’t catch him calling the Ravens the Colts or any of the other brain-dead stuff that routinely happens late in the games when the CBS announcers lose focus.

And to his credit, Albert was right there with Johnston and the producers throughout the game keeping viewers on top of the injury situation.

Sunday, the Packers were hit by more injuries than the Ravens, but it was still great to see the announcers and cameras all over the situation each time someone went down — showing them leaving the field, giving viewers a status update in a timely fashion and, in the case of the two Packer receivers who were hurt, showing their return to the sidelines out of uniform.

Last week, I criticized Marv Albert for not giving viewers any sense of the rhythm of the game in his call. Kenny Albert was no better this week.

But the director for this Fox telecast did create a rhythm to the telecast through the repetition of certain images, camera angles, sounds and commentary. One element that was used expertly in the mix was a ground-level end zone shot that was shown intermittently to anchor the viewer in a sense of what it felt like to be on the field at M&T Bank Stadium. Great shot and great use of it throughout the game. I think having Siragusa on the field added to the sense Fox communicated of taking you to the heart of the action.

One of the biggest failings of the Fox crew involved its lack of coverage of Eugene Monroe, the Ravens new left tackle who started his first game. The shift to Monroe and the benching on Bryant McKinnie is a big, big story with all kinds of implications for the Ravens. Johnston and Albert mentioned the move at the start of the game, but then, it was as if they and the producers forgot all about it.

I assumed Monroe was playing very well, because for the first time in weeks, Flacco wasn’t getting hammered from his left side. But I had to go to Twitter and get some real information on that from the Sun’s beat writers and columnists who were at the game. Doing so little with this story line was a serious flaw in Fox’s coverage.

But compared to CBS with Fouts, who says he doesn’t like to criticize players and coaches in public, he’d rather do it private, I’ll take Fox, Johnston and Sunday’s telecast 10,000 out of a 10,000 times — even with the Ravens losing.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Television IndustryBaltimore RavensHigh School FootballJohn HarbaughFootballJoe Flacco
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