Reviews

Coverage of AFC and NFC title games: CBS gets A+ and Fox A-; Romo spot-on and speaks his mind

Joe Buck and Troy Aikman had the call of the early game on Fox, the NFC Championship, Tampa Bay’s win in Green Bay, 31-26.

It took 55 Super Bowls and a bizarre and unprecedented season dominated by Covid. But it finally happened. The Big Game will be hosted by one of the two participants. The Bucs’ home field, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa will be the site of the Super Bowl on February 6th. But don’t count on a full-house, Covid took care of that too.

THE NFC BROADCAST:

  • Aikman is astute and breaks down players’ strengths and weaknesses cogently. He says Green Bay’s standout receiver Davante Adams wins at the line of scrimmage with his footwork, not his hands. Scoring a touchdown, he was able to create separation by making the defender turn right, while Adams deceptively went left. He fooled the defender, not because he used his hands to push off but because his feet made it look like Adams was going right. Throughout the game, it was evident Adams gets open because of his keen footwork.
  • Aikman is generally forgiving when it comes to the quarterback, more often blaming the receiver after an incomplete pass. So when he voiced this, I was surprised: “Whenever you see a quarterback jump in the air before the ball gets to the receiver you know he threw an errant ball and you just hope your guy can make a play.” The former Dallas QB made this comment after Tom Brady overthrew receiver Mike Evans who reached for the ball but could only deflect it with his fingertips. Defender Jaire Alexander intercepted it. It surprised me that Aikman said Brady erred not Evans. Even earlier in the game on a late throw by Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams in the back of the end-zone which resulted in an incompletion, Aikman took issue with Adams, saying that Davante needed to control his body nimbly to stay in bounds. In reality, it was Rodgers who should have released the ball earlier.
  • The biggest and most controversial decision of the game was when Packers head coach Matt LaFleur opted to kick a field goal on fourth and goal with 2:09 left in the game. Green Bay was down by eight. Aikman said the decision surprised him. That’s it! He didn’t elaborate other than saying LaFleur will have to answer questions about his decision after the game. Most fans watching found this decision glaring. If this occurred in the second quarter it would have been one thing. It turned out to effectively end the game.
  • The Fox’ studio programming lacks depth. Curt Menefee is an adept traffic cop and a comfortable host. But guys like Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long added little. After the faulty decision by Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur, Long did nothing but brush over the final couple minutes. How can he not have an opinion? In a situation like that, he needed to be bold.
  • Aikman didn’t review plays with his usual astute commentary, sticking more to what happened versus why and what to expect next. Buck was his reliable self, straight forward and concise. Overall, the Fox duo earn an A- for their broadcast.

THE AFC BROADCAST ON CBS

Jim Nantz and Tony Romo presided over the CBS broadcast of the AFC title game, pitting the Chiefs and Bills in Kansas City. Both teams go back to AFL days in the pre-merger 1960s.

It was the first time ever, Nantz told the audience, that an AFC team hosted the Conference championship three straight years. He added that the only NFC team to parallel this accomplishment was Philadelphia. The Eagles were then coached by Andy Reid who now patrols the KC sidelines. Nantz has a warmth to his call, finds the positive and consistently shares pertinent and memorable factoids.

  • Arguably, the Chiefs have the best pass catching duo in the league with receiver Tyreek Hill and tight-end Travis Kelce. Each had over 100 receiving yards in the win over Cleveland last week. Early in the broadcast, Romo made it clear. The Bills had to neutralize one of the two stars. “You can’t take away both, but you need to take one away.” The Bills defense did neither, letting each player gain over 100 yards again.
  • Late in the game, Romo delved into his suggested strategy for defending Hill and Kelce, referencing Patriots’ coach Bill Belicheck’s game plan. When it was apparent that KC would meet Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl, Romo said the defense needs to put a safety deep over top of Hill in any man coverage situation and should have a defender hit Kelce at the line of scrimmage then blitz the quarterback.
  • Early in the game, Romo pointed out how Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was fantastic disguising his coverage in the regular season meeting with the Bills. He showed plays from early in yesterday’s championship game and in the October game to prove his point. He demonstrated a play that looked like “single high.” But right before the ball was snapped, safety Tyrann Mathieu moved to the middle of the field, the linebacker moved back to cover the deep left side of the field, and the safety who was in the middle moved over to defend the right side. “It’s cover two.” Romo says this can be so confusing especially to a young quarterback like Allen.
  • Romo also pointed out the offensive window-dressing. For every play the Chiefs have, they have five different looks for it. Travis Kelce caught an underhanded toss for a touchdown and Hill caught a flat route for a first down on third and one. Romo and Nantz went through different plays this year where the results were the same but had different looks to them.
  • The ex-Cowboys QB knows how hard it is to defend the KC offense, yet made a suggestion on how the Bills can try to slow them down. Tony said that on first and second downs the Bills should play a soft-zone coverage and force the Chiefs into short completions to the running back.
  • Romo can get quite technical but does so entertainingly. He doesn’t want to sound like a football professor and make the average fan feel like idiots if he’s going over their heads.
  • Per usual Nantz did an excellent job adding little nuggets, nothing too complicated, for example that Tyler Bass owned the record of the longest field goal in Arrowhead Stadium history.
  • On CBS’ post game, host James Brown played back Nate Burleson’s pre-season prediction that Brady and the Bucs would advance to the Super Bowl. The NFL Today generally gets deeper into the trenches and adds beefier opinions. You have to like the entire crew, Boomer Esiason, Bill Cowher and Phil Simms. Burleson makes the NFL Today better than ever.
  • Romo’s strength is his football IQ and how he calls plays before they happen. He isn’t always right but he is bold and confident enough to take the chance of being wrong unlike other broadcasters. After covering the Kansas City win over Tampa Bay in Week #12, 27-24, he said that he believes this would be the Super Bowl matchup. He was right! Overall, the CBS crew did a great job leading up to the Super Bowl and deserve an A+.
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Brian Seitz
Brian Seitz

Brian Seitz is a student at Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism and hopes to pursue a career as a sportswriter.

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Michael Green
1 month ago

Thanks for a great read. Romo is the most entertaining football analyst to come along since John Madden. He may not be the MOST knowledgeable–I’m sure there are others who know as much–but he knows how to convey it to people like me who don’t know the game THAT well.