Maybe it’s because the holidays are coming and I’m feeling more charitable.
Or perhaps it is because it seems a little rude to criticize them harshly when the Buffalo Bills are 4-1 when they call their games.
But CBS’ unofficial Bills team, play-by-play man Spero Dedes and analyst Solomon Wilcots, weren’t as annoying as usual during the Bills’ 30-21 victory Sunday over the Houston Texans at the Ralph.
Bills fans have had a three-game reprieve from the CBS duo as CBS' Jim Nantz and Phil Simms worked the Thursday Night game against the Jets, ESPN's Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden worked the Monday Night Football game against New England and CBS' Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon worked the loss in Kansas City.
On the duo's return calling their fifth Bills game this season, Wilcots still appears to think he is paid by the word. He doesn’t realize that silence is golden on occasion. But he didn’t say too many baffling things Sunday, delivered praise when warranted and even had one very good line.
Dedes illustrated that he has sharp eyes when offsetting penalties were called on one key play and his excitement level is top-notch on big plays, such as the two long receptions by Bills receiver Sammy Watkins.
Besides, there is no use in complaining about them again since they are scheduled to call this Sunday’s Bills game in Philadelphia.
Now let’s take a quick look at the highs and lows of Sunday’s coverage.
The Rating: The game had a 41.3 rating on Channel 4, which is in line with what the Bills have been getting this season.
Quick Exit: CBS was in such a rush to exit the game that Dedes didn’t have time to note that Marcus Easley is a wide receiver when he intercepted the Texans’ final pass. With all the Bills injuries in the second half, Easley may have to be a cornerback next week.
Silly Math: Before the game started, Wilcots noted that former Clemson teammates Sammy Watkins of the Bills and DeAndre Hopkins of the Texans had a combined 200 targets this season. Since Sammy only had 46 going into the game, that was a plenty misleading statistic.
What’s the Point?: At the end of the game, Wilcots noted it was the first time all year that the Bills won a game after giving up 20 or more points. Actually, they hadn't won if they allowed more than 17 points. But next week, he can say the Bills are undefeated when they give up 21 points or less.
After Further Review: Wilcots thought the Texans were "smart" to call a timeout before a fourth-down play with under two minutes left in the game. However, the play failed and the Texans needed that timeout to get the ball back with more than a minute left. Because of the timeout, they only had about 30 seconds left.
Hands of Clay: Tight end Charles Clay caught the game-winning touchdown after Wilcots correctly bashed him for an earlier third down drop. If Clay had dropped the TD pass, he should have kept running out of the stadium.
Smooth Comment: Wilcots is always good for at least one quotable comment. After a long run by Bills back LeSean McCoy, Wilcots said: "He has enough shake to open his own Smoothie King."
Statue Play: In a nice moment after a commercial, CBS showed some footage of several Bills fans shaking the hand of the statue outside the stadium of the Bills late owner Ralph C. Wilson.
Babbling Brooks: CBS’ cameras saw Bills cornerback Ron Brooks complaining to an official after he was called for holding to negate a long punt return by Marcus Thigpen. After looking at the replay, Wilcots said the Texan “looked like he was going down on his own."
Texans’ Strategy: Houston was called for being illegally downfield on punts so often you almost got the sense they felt the extra five yards added to the returns was worth getting down the field early even with the penalty.
Shifty Analysis: It took a while for CBS to show a replay of the Houston’s first touchdown, but after it did CBS’ officiating expert Mike Carey thought the Texans’ were guilty of “an illegal shift that should have been caught.”
Subbing for Carey: Surprisingly, Carey wasn’t called upon after Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins pushed off Bills corner Ronald Darby before his touchdown catch. A former defensive back, Wilcots said Darby was thinking “he pushed me.” Everyone in WNY watching on TV was thinking the same thing. Fox’s officiating expert Mike Pereira agreed. He wrote on Twitter that offensive pass interference should have been called. In other words, two of the three Texans’ touchdowns were scored on illegal plays that weren’t reviewable.
Flag Football: The announcers didn’t seem to notice that the Bills didn’t have their usual number of flags. They only had five penalties, including the phantom call on Brooks.
Another Misleading Stat: On the post-game radio show, WGR’s Chris (Bulldog Parker) and Mike Schopp noted that Taylor’s passing percentage was lower than usual because he completed only 11 of 21 passes. Robert Woods stepped out of bounds on one catch and slipped in the end zone on another accurate pass and Clay dropped a big gainer. If those three very catchable passes had been caught, Taylor would been right around his usual average.
Head-Shaking Timing: Not too long after CBS ran a commercial for the upcoming controversial movie “Concussion,” Bills back LeSean McCoy went into concussion protocol. He looked alert on the sideline, which didn’t make his return that surprising.
Head-Shaking Comment: After the Bills blitzed Houston quarterback Brian Hoyer on the fourth-down play the Texans ran after the supposedly "smart" timeout in the final two minutes, Wilcots said: "Rex Ryan is not going to allow a quarterback sit in the pocket to beat him." Apparently, Wilcots didn't watch film of the Bills game against Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith a week earlier.
Great Scott: I’m sure many Bills fans turned away at halftime when CBS showed Scott Norwood’s wide right field goal as part of its Super Bowl Memories feature. Bills defensive great Bruce Smith says on ESPN’s upcoming “30 for 30” movie on the Bills four Super Bowl losses that he thinks the kick will be good when he watches replays. Me, too. I will review the “30 for 30” movie shortly. It is narrated by actor William Fichtner, a Bills fan from Cheektowaga. Perfect choice.
The Play’s the Thing: On a third down near the goal line, Wilcots suggested the Bills “think players and not plays.” Then he mentioned Watkins, McCoy and Clay as player options. When Taylor threw the TD to Woods, Wilcots said the Bills went to the play where the receiver was covered one-on-one. In another words, they went with the play, not the player.
Double Talk: Wilcots said teams should know they can't single cover Sammy after he beat double coverage on a 53- yard completion.
Nailing Carpenter’s Problem: Wilcots noted that the laces on the football were pointed the wrong way by holder Colton Schmidt on Bills kicker Dan Carpenter’s missed extra point. When Carpenter nailed the clinching field goal, Wilcots noted that the laces were properly located away. Notably, Carpenter didn't use the laces excuse in a brief post-game interview with Buffalo News sportswriter Tim Graham.
Barefoot in the Park: In an amusing moment, CBS gave viewers a shot of Houston center Ben Jones barefoot on the field in in his pregame ritual.
A Coach to Root For: CBS showed entertaining footage of Houston Coach Bill O’Brien at his fiery best, even yelling at New England quarterback Tom Brady when O’Brien was the Patriots’ offensive coordinator. If yelling at Brady didn’t make a Bills fan a big O’Brien fan, then watching last season’s installment of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” would have. It would be easy for Bills fan to root for O’Brien -- except against Bills.
Déjà vu All Over Again: A pass completion to a Texan on a play that was awfully similar to one ruled an incompletion a week before when the Bills’ Chris Hogan took four steps before the ball touched the ground had Bills fans shaking their heads. It was the right call. But in a fair world, the Bills deserved to see it ruled an incompletion so the Texans would have at least had to challenge it.
Watt Me Worry? CBS showed a brief highlight package to show how the Bills were controlling Houston’s great J.J. Watt. But it would have been nice to see more replays to know who deserved the credit of making him a non-factor. Near game's end, Wilcots praised the Bills offensive line and signaled out backups Jordan Mills and Kraig Urbik. He also had praise for defensive back Bacarri Rambo and the Bills rushing game.
Best Stat: Before the game, Dedes told a nationwide audience that it was the first time in 116 years there had been no snow in Buffalo by Dec. 7. In other words, about 100 years before the Bills were last in the playoffs. You can’t beat that stat this year.