The story of the Cowboys' 27-17 victory over the Ravens on Sunday was the focus and energy with which Dallas controlled the game in the second half. That was also the story of another strong telecast from the CBS team of Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts and Evan Washburn.
While the team in the booth was fine in the first half, the production overall was below par. The main problem involved replays that viewers were not being offered.
With 11:18 left in the half, for example, a solid Ravens gain was nullified by a holding call on Jeremy Zuttah. The Ravens center shook his head repeatedly in protest, and I wanted to see if he was right. But CBS failed to offer a replay.
The second half, however, was outstanding. CBS came out every bit as strong as the Cowboys, and didn't miss a beat in chronicling the way they wore the Ravens down.
The camera work and replays were in perfect sync with analyst Fouts – comment for comment, beat for beat as the Cowboys started making key plays.
With 11:59 left in the third quarter, viewers saw Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant catching a first-down pass on third-and-9. It looked like a nice catch – nothing great.
But then, the first replay featuring a tight shot from a sideline camera took viewers deeper inside the game by showing how fast and strong Bryant was in using his hands on the break to create space between him and Ravens defender Tavon Young. And then, viewers saw Bryant simply outreach Young for the ball.
"Watch the hands here, reaching out and just snatching that ball," Fouts said admiringly as the replay started to roll – directing viewers to the specific part of the interplay between receiver and defender that mattered on the play.
Viewers were then instantly offered another replay showing a second key encounter that made the play a successful third-down conversion for Dallas. This one showed the pass rush of Brandon Williams being stopped in its tracks by Dallas guard Ronald Leary.
"Here's Brandon Williams, and the pass protection was pretty good that time as Leary takes him to the ground," Fouts says.
In each replay, you saw the strength and determination of a Cowboys player topping that of their Ravens opponent. The telecast not only took you inside the action, but gave you an understanding of how many things have to go right just to successfully convert a third-and-2 in the NFL.
The very next play showed rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott gaining 14 yards – after being bottled up the entire first half.
"Elliott clears the hole, and Ezekiel Elliott toppled as he crosses the 35," Eagle told viewers as the play unfolded.
"Ronald Leary on the block. Fourteen yards for Elliott," the play-by-play announcer added as Elliott walked back to the huddle.
Using an overhead shot this time, the replay perfectly showed Leary once again crunching Williams to open the hole that finally gave Elliott some running room Sunday.
"You're starting to see the offensive line starting to dominate," he said of the Cowboys.
"This is what the Cowboys do," he said with 11:30 left in the game. "They wear you down in the second half."
I am guessing Fouts upset some Ravens fans near the end of the game when he said, "The dominance of the Cowboys in the second half was wonderful to watch if you were a Cowboys fan."
I am sure some Ravens fans unhappy with the loss will read that as bias in favor of Dallas. I don't.
If you are a fan of good football, it was a pleasure to watch a talented, well-coached team perform so well down the home stretch. I came away impressed with Bryant, for example, in a way I never had before.