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Ravens vs. Titans, fourth-string CBS crew not a formula for glory

We had a fourth- or fifth-string CBS broadcast team working a game between the maddeningly inconsistent Ravens and the terrible (not in a good way) Tennessee Titans.

Is there any part of this that sounds like it was going to make for a great Sunday afternoon of TV?

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So, let's not get cosmic about what we saw on our screens as the Ravens beat the hapless Titans 21-7 after being just as hapless themselves in the first half.

As a reviewer, it was initially interesting to me to see what a CBS telecast would be like with a three-person booth. For the first time this season, we had the team of Andrew Catalon on play by play, with two analysts, Steve Tasker and Steve Beuerlein. The usual lineup has been two in the booth and a sideline reporter this year.

I hoped with two analysts we'd get more insight into the game.  I was wrong.

I'm OK with both Tasker and Beuerlein – neither is a hotdog, gasbag or motormouth. They just seem like two ex-jocks trying to make a living on the low end of the TV depth chart.

But if there is nothing egregiously wrong with them, there is also nothing in particular to recommend them. And they totally failed viewers in the one big job of analysis that they had Sunday: To tell us how the Titans fell apart in the second half, and how the Ravens put some of their game back together.

Was it an adjustment the Ravens made at halftime? Did the Ravens'  coaching staff finally outcoach someone after getting taken to school by the Pittsburgh Steelers coaches? That would be something I'd like to know.

Was it that once rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger felt a few hits, he lost the confidence and even the poise he was showing in the first quarter when he drove his team up and down the field? And what were the Ravens doing to get inside his head? And, by the way, how bad or surprisingly decent was the play by the Ravens' walk-on cornerbacks this week?

Lots of questions, almost no answers.  And that's inexcusable. CBS is paying twice as much for analysis from this team, and its viewers get nothing but low-grade blah, blah, blah filler.

Representative of the failure in analysis was the Telestrater moment from Beuerlein at the start of the second half. He was trying to explain why the Ravens were struggling in the first half, and so, he showed a replay of a pass in which Flacco tried to thread the needle to a heavily-covered Steve Smith about 30 yards downfield when he had Torrey Smith wide open at 15 yards.

"I'm just showing this to show there have been opportunities to make plays," he said.

And presumably Flacco has been missing them. How about showing the half dozen times Flacco was hit or forced to hurry a throw in the first half? That seems to have happened a lot more, no?

But that's all the broadcast crew could come up with after having the entire halftime to find a play that illustrated a larger storyline of failure for the Ravens or success for the Titans? That replay showed me nothing except how slow this crew was on replay and lacking in explaining the inner dynamics of the game.

NBC does that kind of turnaround virtually every set of downs on "Sunday Night Football" – finds a play that illustrates a larger story line and has Cris Collinsworth take us inside the execution or missed execution as instant replay rolls.

And worse, having Tasker in the booth instead of the sidelines made for some of the worse injury reporting I have seen all season. I did not know who was in and who was out – and who was hurt. They caught up with some of the Titans injuries at halftime, but they were way behind Twitter.

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On the plus side, I'm told Catalon is considered a comer in the next generation of play-by-play announcers, and he does show promise. Hell, compared to Justin Kutcher, who did play by play for Fox a few weeks ago on the Ravens, he's Al Michaels. Catalon didn't once ask his analysts what they wore for Halloween or where they were going for Thanksgiving.

The best thing Catalon did Sunday: kept his focus throughout the game even as his analysts started to drift mentally in the fourth quarter to the point where one of the Steves thought Michael Oher was still playing tackle for the Ravens.

I also liked what the producers did with Mike Carey, the former NFL official who is brought in from New York on remote to explain controversial plays. Carey was on four times by my count and came through on each occasion with clear, authoritative calls that illuminated confusing rules or rule changes.

Listen, on a Sunday with the Ravens and the Titans and a fourth- or fifth-string crew, I'll take any mercy I can get.

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