xml:space="preserve">

Thursday night games might be considered the NFL’s least important prime-time telecast of the week, but Fox and the NFL Network delivered a top-of-line production from pregame to postgame with the Ravens’ 42-21 victory over the New York Jets.

One of the best TV moments of the night came when Fox sideline reporter Erin Andrews handed Ravens running back Mark Ingram II the microphone at the end of a postgame interview she was doing with him and Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and told him to take over the Q&A with his teammate. He not only got Jackson to loosen up a little, but it also gave viewers a sense of the affection for each other and fun these players seem to be having this year as they pile up victories.

Advertisement

Both the NFL Network and Fox pregame shows were overloaded with Jackson content, but, seriously, why not? There is no bigger story in the NFL this year. And Jackson turned out to again be phenomenal, breaking Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record by a quarterback and throwing for five touchdowns.

While the NFL Network’s pregame show relied mostly on high spirits, high energy and hype, it’s a lot easier to like the hype when much of it is for your hometown team and its MVP candidate.

Representative of the show’s tone, was host Colleen Wolfe saying, “Lamar has so many more highlights than any other player, I don’t know how you pick one.”

The Fox pregame show was more polished, particularly a taped interview Andrews did with Jackson and Ingram. It wasn’t so much the questions Andrews asked as the overall production of the interview, which included video excerpts from Ravens games and bits of interviews with others involving Ravens coach John Harbaugh. The selection and editing was superb. A snippet of only a couple of seconds in length, for example, showing sheets of rain coming down across the stadium lights and stanchions instantly re-created the feeling of a big Jackson-led Ravens victory in the rain. The producers struck gold in pairing the ebullient Ingram with the far more restrained Jackson before and after the game.

As for the game itself, the Fox team led by play-by-play announcer Joe Buck and analyst Troy Aikman was as good as any prime-time telecast I have seen all year. In fact, I again liked Buck and Aikman a lot more than Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, the two in the NBC booth for what is considered by many to be the best prime-time telecast. As keen as their analysis can be, I can’t stand hearing them kiss up to owners and the NFL brass. I heard none of that from the Fox team Thursday.

Aikman and Buck are the most laid-back No. 1 booth team on any network ― and I mean that in a good way. There is no false emotion, just steady play by play from Buck that rises and falls with the rhythm of play on the field, and informed analysis from Aikman.

This is probably more a credit to the producers in the truck than Aikman, but the replays and Aikman’s analysis were in near-perfect sync all night.

On the Ravens’ first possession, Jackson ripped off a 20-yard run, and the play had barely ended when the replay was up with the camera showing and Aikman explaining how the blocking created the lane that allowed Jackson to accelerate into the open field.

After the slow and often missing-in-action replay work Sunday from CBS in the Ravens’ victory over the Buffalo Bills, the Fox replay made me want to hug the screen. And on every questionable play, like Marquise Brown’s TD catch at the back of the end zone in the second half, Fox instantly offered multiple camera shots showing exactly how the play went down.

The only replay Fox didn’t give me was on a missed extra-point attempt in the first half by Justin Tucker. I wanted to see what was going on with Tucker missing extra points this year. But maybe there was nothing important to show ― it was just a miss.

I love all the field-level shots Fox gave me during the game. No network makes you feel closer to the action both on the sidelines and on the field than Fox.

There wasn’t a lot of Baltimore in the production; parts of Fox’s pregame and halftime shows were done out of New York.

But the city has been getting nothing but good publicity and looks in connection with the Ravens’ tremendous success this season. And there should be much more before the playoffs end ― especially if the road to the Super Bowl comes through Baltimore.

,

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement