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It wasn't great, but CBS did better than the Ravens

Just as you can often tell a lot about a team's character by how it performs in games that no longer matter in the standings, so it is with broadcast crews and network sports divisions.

By that standard, you have to say that the crew CBS Sports sent to Cincinnati Sunday to cover the Ravens' 27-10 loss to the Bengals at least showed up and brought a little enthusiasm to the game. They performed a lot better than the Ravens did, anyway.

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Don't get me wrong, there was nothing truly exceptional about the telecast with Carter Blackburn on play-by-play and Chris Simms on analysis. If you want a grade, make it a C or C-minus. But, again, at least they showed up and delivered an adequate performance – something the Ravens never achieved in the game I saw on my screen.

Here's what a just-passing performance looks like in the case of Simms.

With five minutes left in the game, Joe Flacco throws one of those maddening little crossing-route completions over the middle.

"The frustrating thing for me watching this Ravens team," Simms said, "is how many times are we going to see a ball thrown in a shallow cross over the middle for 4 yards?"

Exactly, Chris. Totally on the money. Except you should have got that from watching film of the Ravens during the week and offered that observation pregame, because Baltimore fans have been pulling their hair out game after game at that losing offensive strategy.

In fairness, Simms did mention the "dink-and-dunk" nature of the offense halfway through the first quarter, but he didn't rip it the way he did late in the game. And conscientious film preparation should have had him breathing fire over it as soon as the camera light came on.

Furthermore, he kept praising Flacco early in the game – praise that was in no way deserved.

Give Simms credit, though, for acknowledging he and Blackburn were wrong in their pre-game thinking.

"I think both of us are shocked," he said at halftime. We thought Baltimore was the team that was ready to go today and Cincinnati might be the other team. But, no, Cincinnati has come out driven, playing hard and just being more physical than the Baltimore Ravens right now."

He stopped well short of calling out the Ravens, to the extent an analyst with more authority would have, but he did at least note their lackluster performance and lackadaisical attitude.

After saying the first half showed there's no need to question the Bengals' "pride," he offered a different take on the Ravens.

"I am going to question the Ravens a little," he said as the second half started. "Do they want to come out here and play football right now and get in a physical match with the Bengals? Or, have they kind of chalked it up to the offseason and it's time to go home?"

As he said that, the cameras showed us John Harbaugh on the sideline, the man ultimately responsible for the kind of lame performance Baltimore fans saw Sunday.

That was one of the better moments for the folks in the truck, using images to enhance and extend what the analyst was saying.

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Overall, viewers did get good looks at many of the important plays. Give the production team credit for that. But it took them a while to get there.

In the first quarter, the Bengals ripped off back-to-back big plays – one a run around the end and another a pass. I wanted to know at that point why the Ravens couldn't set the edge. Who was screwing up? But there were no replays or analysis to show it.

And then, I wanted to know who was messing up in the secondary on the pass, and again, I got no replay or analysis showing it.

Credit sideline reporter Jenny Dell with the best effort of the day.

Near the end of the game when Ravens linebacker C. J. Mosley was carted off the field, she reported what he said to a fan who asked about the injury: that it was his calf. I don't know if that will turn out to be correct, but at the end of the game, she was still hustling to get Ravens fans information that mattered back in Baltimore.

And, finally, she got the post-game interview with Steve Smith Sr. in what he said was his last game. And it was good work – asking him if it was really was the end, and then giving him the space to share his emotions without getting in the way with too many questions.

I'm scrambling to find something to cheer about today, and she's it.

twitter.com/davidzurawik

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