The Ravens beat the Browns 24-10, but lose all-pro guard Marshal Yanda for the season with a fractured ankle. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
CBS Sports analyst James Lofton won me over with 8:29 left in the 4th quarter.
The Ravens were ahead 24-10, and they had just completed a running play trying to eat up some clock. It was a nothing play that lost 2 yards.
This is the kind of situation where a lot of former players go to sleep in the booth or start to get punchy and say really stupid stuff.
Not Lofton, who was sharp all day.
"You hear quarterbacks talked about as game managers sometimes, and it's situational football you have to be aware of," he said. "That time, Joe Flacco snapped that play with one second left on the 40-second play clock. That's how you extend your drive a little bit. You give your defense a chance to rest off the field. But your offensive line has to execute."
Lofton was paying attention to something I wasn't at a point in the game when it seemed like the contest was over. And he made me appreciate an aspect of Flacco's performance that I never would have otherwise thought about.
That's how you enrich the game for the average fan, which is what being an analyst should be all about.
Lofton was stellar from the opening kickoff. I charted only one mistake by him all day. With 1:53 left in the third quarter, he called one of the Ravens running backs Javorius West.
With 7:28 left in the first half, he explained why a short Flacco pass over the middle resulted in a big gain for the Ravens.
Flacco saw a "soft spot" in the middle of the field just beyond the "linebackers stepping up," Lofton explained. And the spot was open, he added, because rookie safety Jabrill Peppers was playing way too deep.
"Back out in the Inner Harbor" is the way Lofton described the positioning of Peppers, adding a little local flavor and humor to his description without being a hot dog about it.
Lofton talked a lot about vision for runners and receivers as well as quarterbacks during the game.
On West's touchdown run in the first quarter, he praised the running back's vision in looking for a crease as he approached the line and then hurtling himself through it into the end zone.
"Vision, vision," he said. "He was patient to the hole, and then fast through it."
Lofton started the game questioning all the talk about Flacco being injured or somehow not himself after last week's game. He said Flacco looked sharp enough to him last week for a guy who had not played in any preseason games.
In keeping with that storyline, he repeatedly emphasized Flacco's mobility as the Ravens moved the pocket to give Flacco clearer sightlines.
"When you move the pocket, no one is in front of him, so it's an easier throw," he said with 11:35 left in the first quarter. "It's kind of like the throw you do at the company picnic."
Lofton and play-by-play announcer Andrew Catalon worked well together all day. Catalon never lost enthusiasm or focus either.
With 3:56 left in the 1st quarter, the duo talked about rookie Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer being "well aware" of the need to get rid of the ball faster. Catalon shared what both Kizer and Browns coaches had told him in interviews over the weekend about the hurdles the young quarterback had to overcome to be effective — especially with someone like Terrell Suggs coming after him.
My favorite statistic from the booth: Kizer was in 1st grade when Suggs was starting his NFL career.
On the downside, I thought the telecast did a poor job of capturing the feel of being in the stadium on a beautiful, sunny, opening day.
There were a few good crowd shots at the very opening, but it seemed as if the folks in the truck lost interest in the stands way too early. The guys in the booth talked about how rough it could be for a rookie quarterback to come into a raucous M&T Bank Stadium, but the folks with the cameras and microphone failed to capture that.
In that sense, I thought it was lazy broadcast. I'm talking ambience, not just fans decked out in crazy-looking outfits.
There was one ground-level shot late in the game of Suggs kneeling on the sideline. The point of view was from the ground up, with Suggs in the foreground and the stands and the sky at the top of the frame. I could have used a lot more like that.
More importantly, though, from a fan's viewpoint, the telecast had all the replays and did not seem to miss anything major. It was a little odd near the end of the first half when they split the screen during timeouts and ran ads. I think they were afraid of missing a fast return to live play while they were slamming in ads and even more promotions for "Young Sheldon."
No, I'm not going to kvetch about CBS promos cluttering the telecast until my head is about to explode. The Ravens are 2-0, and the guys in the booth gave us a good day's work. That's good enough for me today.