David Zurawik

Strong studio shows boost CBS coverage of Ravens

In a game as exciting as the Ravens' 20-17 upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the broadcast team doesn't matter that much as long as it avoids major mistakes.

The crew of Greg Gumbel, Trent Green and Jamie Erdahl mainly stayed out of the way Sunday and let the play on the field speak for itself.


Couple that with very strong studio shows from CBS Sports featuring Bart Scott and injured Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., and the network delivered an afternoon of solid coverage.

I would have liked more analysis during the game from Green – much more. But I can't blame Gumbel's play-by-play call for that. At least twice he teed it up for Green, trying to draw out and showcase explanations from the analyst of the Ravens' surprising success.


"Just what's happening here, Trent," Gumbel said to Green with 1:50 left in the half.

"Well, I think it's been a case where the Ravens defensively came out and said, 'Listen, we don't want to get in a track meet with the Steelers. We don't want a shootout. So we're going to play softer coverage. We're going to put the Steelers in a position where they're going to want to run the ball… ' "

There was nothing wrong about the explanation. In fact, I heard it echoed in the post-game studio show by multiple analysts. And it showed in the success the Steelers had at the start of the game in running the ball. But it was one of those explanations that left me thinking, "That's it? It's as simple as that?"

In the halftime show, though, Scott, a former Ravens linebacker, explained his former team's success by saying: "This is the Ravens' Super Bowl … They are going out and playing with passion. They have nothing to lose."

That took me a cut deeper into the psychology of it, and it felt more satisfying. But taken together, his and Green's, viewers who didn't walk away from the TV set during halftime got both halves of the loaf.

Green regularly did excel at making the right call on controversial or questionable plays.

On the first play of the second quarter Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw what was initially called a touchdown pass to Antonio Brown.

"I don't know," Green said as the first replay rolled, "I don't know if he had full control of that [ball] on the way down" as he went out of bounds in the end zone.


Sure enough, the call of the field was overruled, and the official explanation was exactly as Green predicted in what was his first full look at it.

Good for Green – nice job.

And nice job by CBS of bringing Mike Carey in from New York to further explain the call.

I also enjoyed seeing Smith in the pre-game studio show on CBS. The network showcased the Ravens' injured receiver to the point where if I was his agent, I would already be cashing the checks. It looks to me like Smith has a TV job, should he stick to his announced plan to retire. And it won't be just any TV job, but rather one of the higher paying ones on a studio show.

Smith's insights during a discussion on the suspension of the New York Giants Odell Beckham Jr. were focused and to the point. His chemistry with Scott and former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, two veteran broadcasters, was outstanding.

Scott was superb pre-game, halftime and post-game when he was the only CBS announcer I heard all day who reminded viewers that one of the Ravens' only wins prior to Sunday also came over the hated Steelers.


I suppose I could complain about some of the replays coming up slow and clipping live action or not showing what they were supposed to show. But not today.

Maybe I am just happy with the win. But it was a surprisingly good day for Ravens fans on CBS Sunday.