For a game that was supposed to be meaningless to Buffalo, the Bills’ 22-17 victory over the New York Jets Sunday sure was entertaining.
Part of the reason was because CBS sent its excellent second announcing team, play-by-play man Ian Eagle and analyst Dan Fouts, to the Ralph to call the game.
One expert wrote after the game that it is too bad the Bills can't play the Jets every Sunday. That would be fine with me because that would mean Bills fans would hear Eagle and Fouts more often because a game involving the Jets goes into the nation's No.1 TV market.
They made my job easy as they almost had a mistake-free game.
Eagle was on the ball throughout, noting the Bills “creativity” on offense and that Bills Coach Rex Ryan was going for it more than usual on fourth down because it was the Bills' last game. The play-by-play man also sees things instantly as they occur.
Some Bills fans might have thought Eagle was too sympathetic to the Jets for blowing their playoff chances, but it was an important story line. Eagle also was having a good time with Fouts when warranted.
A Hall of Fame quarterback, Fouts saw blitzes and coverage instantly and noted that Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor “is the fastest quarterback in the NFL.”
He also frequently illustrated a sense of humor that may have qualified him for a guest spot on Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”
After all, Seinfeld stretched the rules to have President Obama on the Crackle series because the president has had a couple of good lines at Correspondents’ Dinners.
At one point Sunday, Eagle narrated footage of Jet receiver Brandon Marshall consoling punter Ryan Quigley after his short kick set up the Bills first touchdown. When Marshall dropped a pass soon afterwards, Fout cracked: “Maybe Quigley should go over and console Marshall now.”
After Fouts counted seven Bills offensive lineman lined up on the same play, Eagle praised his math skills.
“Don’t make me take off my shoes,” said Fouts, suggesting his fingers weren’t enough. “It is too cold to do that.”
When Bills Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retrieved the ball after a Jet punt went out of bounds, Fouts cracked: “Did he fair catch it?”
Fouts also did a strong job illustrating that with everything on the line, the Jets had as many self-inflicted wounds – including dumb penalties – as the Bills had in their 8-8 season.
As entertainment, the game exceeded expectations. The only thing that would have made it better was if the Bills had more riding on it than ruining the Jets’ postseason hopes.
Even without much riding on the game for the Bills, the CBS broadcast had a 42.0 rating on Channel 4, which made it the fourth-highest rated game of the season.
Let’s go to the videotape for the final time this season:
We Can’t Call Them Homers: Everyone on WGR’s pregame crew picked the Jets to win. Even game analyst Mark Kelso, who had picked the Bills to win every game this season. Everyone on the CBS crew except Bill Cowher also had the Jets winning. I would have picked the Jets, too. But as I said before the game: "Crazy things happen at home" in this league.
Spin of the Day: Eagle noted the cynical suggestion that IK Enemkpali’s preseason punch of Jet quarterback Geno Smith made him the Jets' most valuable player because it forced the Jets to turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick as their quarterback. However, Eagle added that the sense inside the Jets organization was the team probably was going to turn to Fitzpatrick over Smith anyway. As WGR's Jeremy White noted on Twitter, that may be the first time that has been suggested.
On the Nose Replay: After CBS ran comical footage of Dan Carpenter throwing his helmet to the ground and it bouncing up and hitting him after missing an extra point, Fouts noted the helmet “hit him in the schnoz.” “Extra point no good and the helmet toss no good,” said Eagle. Carpenter’s miss was deflating but it didn’t cost the Bills anything and his three field goals were keys to the win. He hit 23 of 27 field goals this season, an accuracy rate of more than 85 percent and people think he had a bad year because of the six missed extra points.
Almost a Magical Ending for Fitz: Fitzpatrick’s three interceptions in the fourth quarter deserve some perspective. Fouts quickly noted that Bills defensive back Leodis McKelvin read the pass he intercepted in the end zone perfectly and the analyst added he had no idea what Fitzpatrick saw. But the second one came as he was hit by the Bills’ Marcel Dareus while looking for Marshall. The third one was a desperation pass with 11 seconds left and probably would have ended the game if a Jet caught it. Fitzpatrick just was trying to make any play. It came after he almost hit Jet receiver Kenbrell Thompkins down the sideline for what would have been a game-winning touchdown if Mario Butler hadn’t made a great last-second pass breakup.
The Sting: After the third interception sealed the Jets loss, Eagle found the right words: "A painful ending to the Jets season in Orchard Park… This result will really sting."
Recount? Bills receiver Sammy Watkins toasted Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis so badly that Fouts wondered aloud why the Jets weren’t double-covering Sammy. If the Pro Bowl vote was held now, Watkins might be in and Revis Island might be out. Bills General Manager Doug Whaley certainly looks a lot smarter these days for giving up so much to draft Watkins.
Déjà vu All Over Again: That was what Bills fans were thinking about Fitzpatrick’s fourth-quarter performance. Eagle also noted the Bills beat the Jets by the same score in November.
Calling Bill Polian Again: Fouts constantly praised the Bills offensive line that Polian bashed by noting how much time it gave quarterback Tyrod Taylor to find receivers. “Look at how clear this pocket was,” praised Fouts at one point. “No pressure at all.”
Understatement of the Day: After the end zone pick by McKelvin, Eagle noted: "Fitzpatrick has avoided (interceptions like that ) this season. This one came at the wrong time."
Homer of the Day: At halftime with the Jets trailing, 16-7, ex Jets quarterback Boomer Esiason said he expects Jets “to overcome in the second half” as they have done this season.
EJ Blows Up Twitter: When Manuel drew the Jets offside on his one play – well actually, it wasn’t even a play – he was given a lot of run on Twitter. The Bills may have been setting up that play for weeks since every time before Sunday that Manuel was in they actually ran a play. “Buffalo is playing some mind games with the Jets,” assessed Eagle. “They are opening up their entire play book," added Fouts. "No holding back.”
This Is Really Hell: Jets fans may think they went through hell Sunday. But watching the entire episode of the upcoming CBS comedy “Angel from Hell” starring Jane Lynch, which was promoted during the game, is really hell. It is awful.
Buffalove: Early in the game, Fouts noted the Ralph “is a rough place to play. Great fans. Very knowledgeable, making a lot of noise.”
But He Said He was Going to Stop Promising: In the third quarter, Fouts said: “Rex Ryan promised his team would play hard. His team has delivered on that promise.” The Bills’ Mike Gillislee fumbled a play or two later.
Best Stat: In the second quarter, CBS noted that the Bills held the ball for nine minutes and 16 seconds while they were playing offense against the wind. The announcers also noted the unusually high success rate on third down by the Bills and the unusual high number of opportunities. They finished the game 9 of 20 on third down.
Errors of Omission: The announcers didn’t really address the disappointment of Ryan’s season in a meaningful way. They also never addressed the effort given by Mario Williams, who was even greeted with sarcasm on Twitter after he recorded an early sack.
Saddest Picture: After game’s end, CBS caught a guy in Bills clothing hugging a distraught Fitzpatrick. You certainly had to feel for Fitzpatrick, whose popularity here when he was the Bills quarterback was referenced by Eagle during the game.
Sad Statement of the Day: In the third quarter as the Jets trailed, Eagle said: “This was either going to be one of the best days in Jets history or it could turn into one of the worst." It turned into one of the worst. But you can forgive Bills fans for not having too much sympathy. Compared to Bills fans, Jet fans don’t know what real pain is.