A-Team from CBS delivers a B-plus Ravens telecast

Peyton Manning's glove.

Those were practically the first words out of Phil Simms' mouth in his pre-game analysis of the Ravens-Broncos game Sunday, and when I heard them I wanted to cut off both of my ears.


I remembered how obsessively caught up Simms could get in whether or not Manning wore the glove and how it affected his throwing. And I didn't know if I could listen to three hours of that micro-focused Manning-worship without going insane on the first Sunday of the NFL season.

But though his story-line orientation in the first half was overly skewed on Manning, Simms ultimately let his analysis go to the action on the field, and both he and play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz turned in a solid performance in the Broncos' 19-13 victory over the Ravens on CBS.

In fact, down the stretch during the nail-biting last 2 minutes of the game, Nantz was a lot better than solid. His announcing was as good as it gets in the NFL, with him kicking his game into a higher gear that matched the intensity of play on the field.

"Can Flacco come into this building again and break their hearts?" Nantz said, with 2:10 left in the game and the Ravens trying to drive for a touchdown.

Excellent mini-storyline for the last 2 minutes. Nice reference to the miracle Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco pulled off in beating the Broncos on the way to Baltimore's last Super Bowl. Talk about setting the stage with a few deft words.

And as the telecast came out of the break for the 2-minute warning, the screen was filled with the faces of screaming Broncos fans, which upped the ante on excitement even higher.

At 1:56, Simms smoothly synthesized one of the previously unstated storylines of the game following an incomplete pass over the middle from Flacco.

"Every throw that I've seen Joe Flacco throw, it has a common denominator: that he knows the pressure is coming and he can't get comfortable enough to give it that extra beat to see it and then throw it between everybody," Simms said.


That's what an analyst is paid to do. A lot of them might have noticed Flacco having trouble getting totally comfortable in the pocket, but Simms took us inside it a little to explain that it's an "extra beat" that lets the quarterback see the window to the receiver for the split second it opens amid all those bodies downfield.

With 1:49 left and the Ravens facing a do-or-die 4th and 9, Simms noticed Steve Smith was not on the field.

"Smith just hobbled off the field. He's not available for this play, and he's their best wideout," Nantz said as the Ravens came up on the ball.

Most play-by-play announcers would be so focused on the impending snap, they would have missed that.

(Flacco apparently found that extra "beat" and came up with a first down completion to tight end Crockett Gillmore on the play, and the drive continued.)

Then on 3rd and 2 with 1:10 left in the game, the Ravens caught Denver in a blitz and got into the red zone on a pitchout to Justin Forsett.


Nantz's best moment might have come when Simms labeled the pitchout to Forsett "the call of the game" by the Ravens.

"That and the 4th and 9 play without Steve Smith on the field," Nantz said gently correcting his partner.

"Yeah, what am I talking about?" Simms said. "The 4th down play."

Simms was uneven that way all day. But he and Nantz are so comfortable with each other that the veteran play-by-play announcer could gently smooth over any mistakes.

On that pitchout, by the way, Nantz credited Steve Smith, who had come back into the game, with the block that allowed Forsett to get outside. But in replay, it looked to me like it was Crockett who made the block.

Still, this was a strong overall production by CBS that mainly enhanced the viewing experience for fans.

The synchronicity between the broadcast booth and the control room was excellent. Instant replays really were instantly available, and viewers had multiple camera angles on every important play. The audio level made me feel the rise and fall of emotion in the stadium without being so overwhelming that it muddied the voices in the booth.

Sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson ran down injuries and quickly reported updates on them. And the producers found airtime for her.

The only criticism I have here is that I wish she had been able to tell Ravens fans if Terrell Suggs injured his Achilles tendon. She said he injured his foot, but it looked like he grabbed the tendon. Given his past tendon injury, it would have been nice to know one way or the other. But, in fairness, that is probably too much to ask on an instant basis.

(Suggs did tear his left achilles tendon and will be out for the season, coach John Harbaugh said after the game. That's a huge story. Read it here.)

Baltimore finally got the A-Team from CBS Sunday. Let's hope we see more of it this season, and the next time we catch them, Simms is playing at the same level A-level as Nantz and the rest of the production team.