Fox: Los Angeles Rams @ New Orleans Saints
Joe Buck and Troy Aikman
- Both voices were on their games early; jumping right on concussion protocol exit of Saints tight-end Josh Hill.
- Crew right on the deafening noise in the Superdome, disrupting Rams’ calls in the huddle and on the line of scrimmage.
- The duo pointed out that the visitors were using hand signals to minimize crowd’s overwhelming noise and effectively communicate.
- Buck and Aikman focused on Todd Gurley being uninvolved early and running back C.J. Anderson getting lots of touches; albeit Gurley scored late to cut New Orleans’ lead to 13-10. (Asked later, Sean McVay, LA’s head coach, said that Anderson was used more “because of the flow of the game.” Gurley had indeed been battling inflammation of the knee in recent weeks. He led the NFL in scoring during the regular season with 17 touchdowns.)
- Aikman fervently let audience know that using Taysom Hill at QB hurt Saints. He says he wouldn’t take ball out of Brees’ hands in goal-line situations. When play involving Taysom at QB doesn’t work, Saints immediately put Brees back under center. Brees throws touchdown to Taysom Hill. (Twist on names: Taysom and Josh Hill are unrelated. Both have Idaho roots. Pats’ Jason and Devin McCourtney are twins. Fall article said Bill Belichick can’t tell the two apart. Funny!)
- As for defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Buck and Aikman didn’t talk much about him. He’s potentially the Defensive Player of the Year. Would have been nice to know what the Saints were doing to bottle him up. Deserved some elaboration.
- Facing a major decision late in game, Coach McVay went for the tying field goal instead of the touchdown attempt. Aikman explained that crowd noise was one reason why. It was a reversal in thinking by the Rams coach because a week earlier, McVay went for it in Rams win over Cowboys in LA.
- Both, especially Buck, agonized over a major storyline the big no-call late when an interference penalty wasn’t called on the Rams. A key pass by Saints QB Brees for Tommylee Lewis was incomplete. All of America saw Rams defender Nickell Robey-Coleman wrap up Lewis before the ball arrived.
CBS: New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs
Jim Nantz and Tony Romo
- The network’s lead crew got off to a stimulating start. The ex-Dallas quarterback pointed out the systematic nature of the Patriots offense regardless of down and distance. Aptly, Jim Nantz mentioned that Rob Gronkowski has more catches early in game than he did all last week.
- The CBS veteran play-by-play announcer did an excellent job articulating just how much the Chiefs offense which was number one in scoring offense is struggling. Going into the halftime break, Nantz underscores the Chiefs lack of offense by sharing a simple and striking number. Kansas City had only 32 yards at the half.
- As has been the case since he took the lead commentating role at CBS, Romo’s enthusiasm is natural, pulsating and infectious.
- Romo did a good job comparing the Kansas City Chiefs to the Golden State Warriors, drawing an offensive parallel of both teams capable of putting up points in a hurry. It showed, as such, that Tony has a stream of consciousness that’s refreshing, something to which viewers can relate.
- As game progresses, he also points out that New England wasn’t going to be able to rush the way it did earlier because of adjustments KC made in the interior. Specifically, Patriots wouldn’t be able to rush on 3rd down situations the way it had done earlier.
- Gene Steratore, the former NFL referee and college basketball official was excellent, correctly projecting and assessing three tough reviews in the 4th quarter.
- Romo was spot-on twice, predicting a pass to Gronkowski, split wide left late in 4th quarter and a throw to Julian Edelman in overtime in the middle of the field. Both were huge catches.
- Nantz quickly pointed out the historical going into the overtime session. It was the second extra session game in AFC championship history. The earlier one was in 1986, Denver against Cleveland.
- Romo was simply outstanding and Nantz gave Romo all the leash he needed. Romo astutely stressed the importance of the Patriots having to score a touchdown in the overtime drive because he felt Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City would score if they had ball.
- Funny, one of Romo’s most prescient comments was how critical it was to win the coin toss heading into overtime.
I give the Nantz-Romo team the slight edge over Fox’s Buck-Aikman because Romo is just the best there is right now. Buck was also kind of matter of fact on the 57-yard game winner by the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein .
Halby’s dozen extra points:
- Joe Buck with 1:45 to go in regulation giving the audience food for thought, providing some basic numbers on the range and success rate of the LA kicker, Zuerlein.
- Fox production was Johnny on the spot, providing highlights of the NFC championship overtime game, Minnesota vs. New Orleans in 2009.
- Buck brought in rules expert Mike Pereira unhesitatingly when needed and the league’s ex head of officials kept things simple when clarifying rule interpretations or breaking down replays.
- Romo has gotten Nantz to loosen up, similar in some ways to what John Madden did decades ago with Pat Summerall. Jim can be a bit stiff. With Tony, Jim spices things up with his own one-liners. In the second half when Kansas City’s offense erupted, he openly said that at halftime, he didn’t see it coming. Nantz usually keeps those personal feelings to himself.
- Nantz and Romo work symbiotically. And because of a multitude of play reviews, Gene Steratore felt like a third man in the crew. Both engaged Gene freely. After Romo drew a basketball analogy, “The ball doesn’t lie,” Steratore said something like none of the difficult field reviews was a layup.
- Romo juxtaposed the two quarterbacks; saying that young Patrick Mahomes doesn’t have the experience to change the plays at the line of scrimmage while Romo of course does.
- With all the arctic weather forecast for Kansas City, Nantz told the audience that the temperature was 19 degrees at kickoff but that the weather was not a factor.
- At halftime, on NFL Today, with Kansas City down 14-0, Bill Cowher, the former Steelers coach, said the Chiefs QB should go no-huddle, Boomer Esiason lambasted the NFL for poor officiating in the NFC title game and Nate Burleson criticized Saints sideline head Sean Peyton for coaching a poor game.
- On Fox after game one, former Giant Michael Strahan said “I hated playing here,” referencing the Superdome and the deafening noise there.
- Buck vs. Nantz: Although both were excellent, Joe is more of a guy who lets the game come to him, Nantz is a bit more scripted, sprinkling in prepared notes, generally of an historic and human profile nature.
- On Julian Edelman’s muffed punt when the review overturned the call on the field, the video indicating that the ball never touched the Patriot’s finger, missing it by a nail, Nantz quipped, “I’ll bet Julian is happy he had a manicure the other day.”
- CBS put up a convenient graphic that Chiefs kicker, Harrison Butker was 21 of 21 at home, just as he tied the game in regulation.
A memorable afternoon and evening!