Strong CBS telecast of Ravens win marred by Simms call in overtime

I have seen analysts reverse themselves plenty of times. But never in quite as confusing a fashion as Phil Simms seemed to do in overtime Thursday night in the Ravens' 23-20 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

There was 9:55 left in overtime and the Pittsburgh Steelers were in position to try a 50-yard field goal to win the game. Kicking seemed like the way to go despite two previous missed kicks by Josh Scobee.

“They’re not going to kick it here,” play by play announcer Jim Nantz said excitedly.

“Why would they?” Simms asked rhetorically. “His confidence is shattered after the other two misses, and Mike Tomlin is not going to put the game on the foot of his kicker.”

But despite the gasbag certainty of Simms’ tone, Nantz demurred, saying, “The guy’s been in the league 12 years. He’s the all-time scorer at Jacksonville. He missed the last two by a fraction to the left.”

Timeout was then called right after those words from Nantz with 9:45 left in the overtime period, and Simms came back out of nowhere saying, “Let’s go into this. You know I like to coach from time to time. I’d kick it. I'd kick it. … The ball’s traveling. The distance is not a factor. He’s got some experience. He knows the wind – what it is. … I would definitely kick this football.”

You would definitely kick it, Phil? What happened to what you said 10 seconds ago when you asked  why Tomlin would kick it given the two missed field goals earlier in the game and the guy’s “shattered” confidence?

That moment, of course, came to be the call of the game, and the first-string analyst from CBS brought only confusion to it for me.

Like Nantz, I also thought the Steelers should kick. But I replayed the sequence five times right after the game and I still have no idea what Simms really thought or how he could go from asking why they would kick to saying they should definitely do so in the space of 10 seconds.

I think that’s all I need to say about his performance on “Thursday Night Football” this week.

Otherwise, CBS Sports delivered a very strong telecast. I’ll even forgive the 10,000 close-up sideline shots of an injured Ben Roethlisberger cheering for his team. The Steelers quarterback doesn’t even have to suit up and the CBS cameras still can’t get enough of him.

But that’s OK. For every controversial play, viewers were given several angles until a clear and decisive call could be made. And I do not have one instance in my notes where I wanted a replay and didn’t get it from CBS.

The cones and boxes of light they used to highlight, break down and explain what was working and what wasn’t were excellent. In fact, I would have liked more of that as gimmicky and razzle-dazzle as some fans might find it to be. And in fairness to Simms, one of the reasons that technology worked was his explanation of what viewers were seeing in those cones and boxes.

Reporter Tracy Wolfson worked the sidelines hard all night getting interviews and trying to keep viewers apprised of the injuries to Steve Smith and Michael Campanaro.

Based on the games I saw, overall, Simms is not having a great year. And that’s too bad, because I used to think NBC was in league by itself when it comes to prime-time NFL football. But I think CBS has raised its total game, and is right there with NBC, which looks to have slipped a bit.  

Get Simms to cut back on the act-like-you know tone of some of his comments when he clearly doesn't know, and I think we might be seeing a new leader in quality prime-time NFL telecasts this season.


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