Thank goodness Fox sent a decent broadcast crew to Baltimore to telecast the 35-6 pounding of the Ravens by the Seattle Seahawks.
It was painful enough to make it past the third quarter in what felt like one of the longest Ravens telecasts I was ever forced to watch. I don't even want to think what kind of TV misery it would have been with a really bad CBS crew Sunday.
Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis and Tony Siragusa were more than a pleasant surprise.
I've had praise for Brennaman in the past, but I was no fan of Siragusa, the former Ravens defensive standout.
I liked his personality as a player, but I thought he was a grandstanding hotdog of an announcer who bordered on being a clown show when he stood on the sideline strutting around and trying to be funny. It was all about him – a common disease of many ex-NFL stars who become broadcasters.
But, man, has he come of age. Almost all the hotdog stuff is gone, and now when he talks, he sounds as if he is trying to help viewers understand the game. He actually seems like someone who is working for the fan sitting in front of his or her TV rather his own promotion and self-aggrandizement.
His analyses Sunday were on the money.
With 4:45 left in the first half and Ravens quarterback Jimmy Clausen moving the ball much more effectively in the air than anyone expected, Siragusa said, "I'm really surprised that the Seattle defense isn't bringing more pressure on Clausen."
The next play, Seattle brought six instead of four pass rushers, and they flattened the Ravens third-string quarterback as he threw a flutterball up for grabs.
"That's exactly what I'm talking about, guys," Siragusa said.
He was right, and the Ravens passing game headed south as the defensive pressure on Clausen mounted in the second half.
Being on the sidelines instead of in the booth, Siragusa also had injury responsibilities, and he was on the first big one of the game, an ankle issue for running back Thomas Rawls, as fast as anyone on social media. He reported Rawls being out of the game on-air as fast as The Baltimore Sun team did – and that's fast. I can't remember any other sideline reporter doing that this year. (ESPN reported after the game that Rawls broke his ankle and will be out for the season.)
Fox is smart to use Siragusa in this double role, and to keep his microphone open on the sidelines so that he can chip in with commentary seemingly any time he wants. He and Davis, the booth analyst, worked well together focusing on different aspects of the game and not stepping on each other's words.
Of course, that kind of coordination is only possible if you have a strong play-by-play announcer who can create space for both analysts even as he sets and maintains the rhythm of the telecast with his steady stream of play by play. Brennaman again did it so well, he seemed almost invisible.
What pleased me most about the production values of the telecast was the intimacy the cameras and direction created. I felt much closer to the players than I have with any CBS telecast from its third or fourth strings.
And that intimacy makes a difference.
Late in the third quarter, viewers were given a close-up of the Ravens bench with a focus on the offensive lineman. They looked blank, unengaged and even emotionless. The images went against the hometown narrative of how deeply engaged the team still was despite its record and what a great job coach John Harbaugh was doing of keeping them allegedly so highly motivated.
Close-ups on the Seahawks sideline, meanwhile, showed defensive back Richard Sherman clapping his hands and screaming encouragement to his teammates on the field as they drove for another touchdown.
What pleased me least about the production were all the replays I didn't get immediately. It was annoying that they missed so many.
But, in the end, I was won over by one replay that came with 13:36 left in the game.
Earlier in the game Davis had questioned a hands-to-the-face call on Lane. He described it as a "phantom" call.
But now, a replay of the earlier sequence showed that indeed Lane's hands had touched the facemask of a Ravens receiver as he came off the line.
"I missed that," Davis said. "I apologize to our great officials out there. I blew that call."
What class. Many journalists who cover hard news aren't that professional and honest any more. They call their correction an "update" and act like they weren't really wrong.
One last moment of honesty came with 1:49 left in the game when viewers were given a field level shot up into what were by then mainly empty stands.
Usually, the networks and cable channels stay away from shots that tell you most of the folks in the stadium have given up on the game. They don't want you to tune out.
Thanks, Fox. The telecast wasn't perfect. But it was good enough that you made watching this drubbing bearable.