The big TV story of the Ravens’ season so far has been the consistently high quality of the CBS telecasts.
And while I know how much Baltimore fans like to complain about the officiating or TV announcers when the Ravens lose, as they did Sunday to the Raiders, the fact is that CBS turned in its best telecast of the year for a Baltimore game.
Director Jim Cornell and producer Steve McKee gave viewers every shot that mattered. And they followed virtually every one of them with two or three more shots in replay from various angles to further enrich the visuals.
In fact, the visuals were so complete, this is one telecast you could have watched without the audio and still been totally in the flow of the game.
Typical of how McKee and Cornell kept offering viewers multiple looks at the action was a play that came with 2:49 left in the third quarter. It featured Kyle Juszczyk taking a short pass from Joe Flacco on third down and driving toward the goal line.
On a ground level shot from the side, it looked like Juszczyk might have dragged a pile of tacklers just into the end zone. But an overhead shot offered a few seconds later clearly showed that he was about a yard short. It was a big play, and CBS had the overhead shot that instantly gave fans the angle needed to clearly see the play.
What was so impressive throughout the telecast was the clockwork with which Cornell and McKee gave two replay angles after every big play. I counted only two plays that they missed all day.
If you’re not impressed by what you saw Sunday, try to think back a couple of years ago to the kinds of telecasts we were getting from CBS. Remember the Ravens telecast when they missed the opening kickoff? Missed plays were routine, and by the fourth quarter, you had to start wondering whether some of the analysts were still in the booth, their comments were so few and far between. Or, if their lips were moving, they were mixing up players and teams and sounding like they were watching a different game.
There was no shortage of analysis from commentators Steve Beuerlein and Steve Tasker on Sunday. In fact, my biggest complaint about this crew is that they never let the telecast breathe. They almost never stop talking and let the rising crowd noise in the stadium or the drama on the field carry big moments. That can be a problem, especially in as back-and-forth a contest as Sunday’s, when it felt late in the game like there was a playoff level of intensity in the stands and on the field. They should have been more in touch with those rhythms.
And I still can’t tell one Steve from the other once the telecast starts popping and the audio folks crank the stadium noise up to the point where it almost overwhelms the analysts. But I suspect not knowing which Steve is talking is not such a big deal for fans as long as the commentary is spot-on.
And much of it was Sunday. I loved them questioning Ravens coach John Harbaugh on two of his calls. That’s not done nearly enough in Baltimore.
Don’t get me wrong, mistakes were made in the booth – sometimes more than once.
With 1:46 left in the third quarter, Elvis Dumervil and Eric Weddle put a strong pass rush on Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
One of the Steves identified Carr as Flacco – not once, but twice as a replay ran. And no one corrected him.
That’s poor. But every other mistake one of the Steves made in incorrectly identifying or crediting a player was quickly straightened out. Play by play announcer Andrew Catalon is good at cleaning up any small verbal messes – or misses – from the two ex-jocks.
Sideline reporter Chris Fischer also deserves praise for his hustle all day. He caught up with Jack Del Rio for a nice halftime interview in which the Raiders’ coach criticized the officials for not calling holding on the Ravens often enough as its patchwork offensive line tried to slow down Oakland’s pass rush. He was also on the injuries that mattered with quick reports from each bench.
But in the end, it was the images that carried the day. I know it won’t make Ravens fans happy to see me singling out a quick shot of Carr jumping up and butt bumping with Del Rio once he got to the sideline. But I think it’s kind of rare. I just can’t see Flacco and Harbaugh having such a moment.
And I loved the unbridled happiness on the face Del Rio's face once his team locked up the victory. McKee and Cornell kept the cameras on him as the final seconds rolled off the clock, and you couldn’t help but feel the immense sense of accomplishment radiating from the former Ravens’ linebackers coach.
Sorry, Baltimore. I know we felt only pain looking at those images. But the CBS crew wasn’t only doing this telecast for us. The story they told of Raiders’ joy after a playoff-like dogfight was the right one.