Z on TV Critic David Zurawik writes about the business and culture of TV

CBS brings more energy, but still too many mistakes in Ravens telecast

Greg Gumbel and Trent Green brought more energy to the CBS Ravens telecast Sunday than they did two weeks ago for the Ravens game in Oakland.

Let’s be grateful for that given the sorry play of the Ravens in the 24-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

But they still make too many careless mistakes that often go uncorrected.

With 9:28 left in the first quarter, Gumbel laid out the woeful lack of receivers quarterback Joe Flacco has because of injuries. He named Breshad Perriman, Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace, who had just been injured.

But then, in listing the receivers available to Flacco, he included Chris Matthews.

Wrong. Matthews also was unavailable Sunday because of injury.

The mistake undercuts the very point Gumbel was making, and I did not hear it corrected at any point in the game. Don’t they listen to the play-by-play guy in the truck, or maybe they don’t have researchers who have done enough homework to feed Gumbel correct information? I don’t know, but it’s maddening.

Green stumbled, too. With 7:48 left in the half, he mixed up two of the three wide receivers Flacco did have available, confusing Griff Whalen and Michael Campanaro after Whalen caught a pass and was stopped short of a first down.

There were other mistakes, but let’s look at what was better about this telecast, because overall CBS was a lot better at its job of telecasting the game, than the Ravens were at playing it.

As a team, CBS was all over the Wallace concussion during the last 12 minutes of the first quarter. That coverage included excellent replays showing the catch, impact and Wallace’s head hitting the ground. Viewers were also given perspective on how hard the loss of another receiver would be to the Ravens, an explanation of how dangerous a player’s head hitting the turf can be and sideline reporter Jamie Erdahl announcing that Wallace was in the concussion protocol.

The cameras were all over Wallace on the sideline becoming upset when he couldn’t find his helmet, which team officials had taken away to keep him out of the game. As cameras tracked Wallace, Erdahl reported “a lot of heated conversation” going on as the injured receiver appeared to be trying to talk his way back into the game.

“If they take your helmet and say you’re not going back in the game, you’re not going back in the game,” Green said definitively, adding that Wallace’s actions were probably convincing anyone on the Ravens sideline who had supported his return to the field that it would indeed be a mistake.

The CBS crew did an excellent job of bringing everything it had to covering that sequence of events. Good work.

Green did some good analysis as well.

With 9:13 left in the first half, Gumbel said, “Talking to Coach Harbaugh last night, he said, ‘You know, Ben Watson, my tight end, is the guy who’s been catching the ball and catching it well this year.’ And yet, he has only one catch for 1 yard today.”

After the next play, Green explained what was happening: With no wide receivers to provide any kind of vertical threat, the Vikings were double teaming Watson all day.

“After talking about Watson, I kept my eye on him, and I maybe understand why they’re not targeting him more today,” Green said. “He was double-teamed that time with a guy in trail coverage and a safety over the top. The Vikings know who their main guy is, so they’re going to try and make some of these lesser guys beat them in the passing game.”

Green and Gumbel did beat the narrative of no-receivers-for-the-Ravens to death. But it might have been the narrative of the day. Did that analysis go deep enough, though?

Yes, the injury situation is very bad. But is it all the result of injuries? Is our misery all the result of bad luck or football gods still being angry at the Ravens for the way they treated Anquan Boldin?

Of course it’s not.

The Baltimore Sun’s Mike Preston wrote last week about the failure of Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens general manager, to successfully draft wide receivers. That seems like a good place to start the discussion that needs to be had if the Ravens are going to get better.

But you are not hearing that from Green and Gumbel with all their talk of Saturday conversations with “Coach Harbaugh.”

They almost never call out anyone with power at a team or in the NFL that way even if the situation calls for them to do so. And it is not just Gumbel and Green. It’s the nature of the limited analysis provided by networks that have lucrative contracts with the league.

CBS did give us a better telecast Sunday. And give Gumbel, Green, Erdahl and the rest of the crew some credit for doing a decent job for a full four quarters.

But as viewers and fans, we are still a long way from getting what we deserve given the amount of money teams and the league are making off our eyeballs.

david.zurawik@baltsun.com

twitter.com/davidzurawik

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