The camerawork was outstanding and the announcing was more than good enough to earn CBS a solid grade for its telecast of Super Bowl 50 on Sunday.
I can’t count the number of Super Bowls I’ve reviewed in which all those extra cameras did little to take viewers deeper inside the game. But that wasn’t the case in the Denver Broncos’ 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
You couldn’t help but laugh at the overkill of giving almost every camera on the field a name, and at some having a sponsor attached as well — like the Bud Light Skycam, which became the Budweiser Skycam in the second half. My favorite was the Pylon Cam. It’s a pity that CBS and the NFL couldn’t find a sponsor for that one.
Maybe it’s my skeptical nature, but I have to note that the shots that play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz was attributing to the Bud Light/Budweiser Skycam looked much like the shots fans have been getting for years from Spidercam.
On the other hand, there was a higher-elevation overhead shot that was stunning. With 13:51 left in the third quarter, Cam Newton hit Ted Ginn Jr. on a crossing pattern, and when they showed it on replay from an overhead camera, it looked like poetry — or at least the geometric beauty of a perfectly executed play.
If that was the Budweiser Skycam, I loved it. And I hate beer almost as much as I hate the overcommercialization and excess of almost all things Super Bowl.
By the way, my marching orders here are to review only the CBS telecast. Others are writing about the halftime show and the commercials. You’ll have to go elsewhere to read that.
I even liked the EyeVision 360 camera, with its "Matrix"-like look at goal-line plays. The replays it offered of Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart’s leap into the end zone were spectacular. It was pretty much a bust on later replays of other goal-line moments, but on that one, it defined a new and definitive look for “breaking the plane.”
The most pleasant surprise of the telecast was the work of analyst Phil Simms. He was terrible in the Ravens’ overtime victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers in October. You had to wonder whether his career was on a downslide and now sinking into Dan Dierdorf territory.
But while Simms was definitely tight and somewhat tentative in the first half, he came out strong at the start of the second half, predicting what Carolina was going to try to do to get going offensively. He explained that the Panthers needed to keep extra blockers in to try to buy Newton an extra moment or two, so that he might have time to find receivers downfield.
He also predicted that the Panthers would try some new formations to try to get receivers open against a standout Denver secondary.
Sure enough, both things happened, and Carolina finally started to move the move the ball. Ginn was the receiver finally getting some separation, and by the end of the third quarter, he had 74 yards. At the start of the quarter, he had none.
Simms found his legs in the second half, and Nantz no longer had to carry the load for them both. I have to say that Nantz can get on my nerves with the worshipful way he regularly talks about the NFL and almost every owner, no matter how badly some of them behave. But, hey, NBC’s Al Michaels is no better.
Remember Michaels and Cris Collinsworth in last year’s playoffs, singing the praises of Roger Goodell’s handling of the Ray Rice affair? Don’t get me started. I am trying to be positive here.
Nantz was rock-solid in anchoring the broadcast, and his focus never seemed to waver. It's a huge challenge for the play-by-play announcer to keep any sense of narrative or rhythm going with what appeared to be two minutes of commercials for every one of action.
Bottom line: CBS did a good job Sunday night. Super Bowls are such crazed spectacles, and social media is so snark-infested these days, any broadcast team that gets through one without becoming the story in a bad way should consider itself a winner.
By that standard, CBS did A-OK.