Dierdorf makes points while Ravens fail to

The Baltimore Sun

CBS was carrying a football game, not a history lesson.

Around here, the buildup to yesterday's Ravens-Indianapolis Colts game was heavy on remembrances and regrets related to the Baltimore version of the Colts, but CBS gave the past just a nod or two. And it wasn't until the post-game that someone -- studio host James Brown -- stumbled and called the current team the Baltimore Colts.

Was it a bad omen that, just before kickoff, CBS showed clips from the last playoff game for the Baltimore Colts at Memorial Stadium, with the Raiders' Dave Casper scoring in Oakland's victory?

Or maybe a worse omen was that all three studio analysts -- Dan "Get Over It" Marino, Shannon Sharpe and Boomer Esiason -- picked the Ravens to win. Could it have been Esiason's purple tie?

In any case, as the Colts' victory developed, game analyst Dan Dierdorf clearly was surprised, particularly with another stout effort by Indianapolis' defense.

Early in the game, Dierdorf explained how the Colts' defense was set up to work.

When Mark Clayton was stopped short of a first down after making a catch on one of the Ravens' many failed third-down attempts, Dierdorf said: "That is precisely what the cover-2 is supposed to do," not allow long gains.

Dierdorf also pointed out a less successful piece of Colts strategy -- how the hurry-up-and-snap scheme on third downs was messing up the offense much more than it was catching the Ravens' defense off-guard. "They might want to rethink that because they're not catching Baltimore flat-footed," Dierdorf said.

However, though he also noted during the first quarter the way Colts quarterback Peyton Manning wasn't doing his customary routine of getting to the line and gesticulating and shouting out a call, Dierdorf didn't explain why.

In the third quarter, he and play-by-play partner Greg Gumbel sounded more prescient when mentioning the absence of Ravens receiver Derrick Mason, followed shortly thereafter by a pass Mason's way. (Possible explanations for Mason's disappearance would have been welcome.)

Then, right after Dierdorf spoke of how the Colts' defense leaves holes for passes downfield, Ravens quarterback Steve McNair hit tight end Todd Heap for a long completion down the middle.

The analyst also was spot-on in saying Ravens defenders were about to start going after the ball when the Colts began a drive with about 7 1/2 minutes left in the game. When Dominic Rhodes moved a pile 3 or 4 yards after initial contact, Dierdorf said: "That's what happens when you try to tackle the ball and not the man."

Still, if you were wondering why the Ravens rushed the ball only six times in the second half -- Dierdorf had said the running game could end up wearing down the Colts -- you heard no explanation.

And given how the passer rating has come to signify performance, it would have been instructive to hear the numbers for Manning (39.6) and McNair (49.9).

Then again, Esiason's post-game assessment of the Ravens quarterback was succinct and numbers-free: "McNair was just awful."

Some other items of note:

Super-slow-motion replays perfectly caught how tips by Ray Lewis ended up preventing Ravens defensive backs from making interceptions.

Marino said one of Adam Vinatieri's field goals hit the upright. No, it hit the crossbar.

No sideline reporters. Did you miss them? I didn't think so.


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