Z on TV: Ravens victory gets telecast worthy of a bigger-market game

TV critic David Zurawik had a mostly favorable opinion of the broadcast CBS put on for the Ravens game.

Let’s give CBS Sports some credit for its coverage of the Ravens' 19-17 victory Sunday over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

I have not been shy about ripping them, so I should not be reticent about giving them their due.

The announcers, Tom McCarthy and Adam Archuleta, kept their focus primarily on the game, and the producers gave us two replay angles on every play that mattered. And the replays were almost always up within the space of one live play. They didn’t have all the camera angles, but they made good with the ones they had.

Translation: I am a mostly happy camper.

There was a stretch of four turnovers in the fourth quarter that defined the quality of this telecast.  Fourth quarters are usually a time when bad broadcasting teams start to drift and lose focus. Remember Dan Dierdorf’s last couple of years?

Granted it is kind of hard to lose focus when the ball is changing hands as often as it did following a fumbled punt by Devin Hester with 9:01 left in the game, but this crew was never better than during the wild stretch that followed.

The best moment during that sequence came with 4:10 left in the game, when Timmy Jernigan tipped a pass that led to a Ravens interception.

I could not tell who was responsible for the tip as it happened live, but Archuleta said, “I think that’s Timmy Jernigan again.”

It was hard to see who it was in the crush of Ravens surging toward Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles on the play, and Jernigan had an offensive lineman trying to drive him into the ground, so his number was partially obscured. But, sure enough, the first replay showed Jernigan’s right arm came up at the last second to deflect the ball. And the second play angle made it even easier to see, thanks to Archuleta telling me where to look.

“Unbelievable play by Jernigan,” Archuleta said, as that replay ran.

And less than a minute later, with 3:20 left in the game, Archuleta nailed the explanation for an interception of Joe Flacco by linebacker Paul Posluszny.

“This is all about the outside pass rush,” he said just before the first replay ran.

As he directed viewer's attention to defensive end Dante Fowler, the replay showed the Jacksonville pass rusher hitting Flacco's right arm just as the Ravens quarterback released the ball, resulting in the wounded duck that hung in the air for Posluszny to grab.

Archuleta wasn’t perfect. In fact, a few of his earlier play predictions were off.

With 40 seconds left in the first half and the Ravens at midfield, he told viewers the Ravens were “going to work the middle of the field, downfield, to try and get a big play.”

On the next play, Flacco threw a short sideline pass.

But his pre-game predictions were dead-on, especially the one that told viewers to pay attention to Jernigan and Terrell Suggs vs. offensive linemen Luke Joeckel and Christopher Reed. Suggs came to life in that wild fourth quarter and made some big plays, as well.

McCarthy brought energy, emotion and focus to his play-by-play,     even during the early stretches of the contest when it seemed like two mediocre teams playing without much intensity. Best of all, his focus was totally on the field. There was no silly chit-chat in the booth, thanks to the tone he set. There was no hot dog with this guy Sunday.

And, hey, let’s hear it for sideline reporter Chris Fischer who actually managed to get an interview (off-camera) with John "I’m-too-important-to-talk-to-a-peasant-like-you" Harbaugh.

It appears Harbaugh actually told him something that seemed to be true: that the Ravens were going to try and get the ground game going in the second half by running between the tackles.

Listen, Baltimore and Jacksonville are two small market teams that have not generated much national interest so far. If there was any game on which CBS Sports could have saved a few bucks in production costs, this was it.

But CBS Sports didn’t. We got a solid crew and a telecast worthy of a much bigger market.

I know. I am kind of shocked, too.

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