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CBS DRAWS THE LINE ON TECHNOLOGY IN SMALLER MARKETS

CBS analyst Steve Tasker made some strong comments during the Bills-Colts game.

If the Buffalo Bills continue to flounder, Buffalo television viewers will be suffering through more than just the losses. They also will suffer through some games in which CBS doesn't appear to be trying its hardest to provide quality telecasts.

During the Indianapolis Colts' 42-26 demolition of the Bills on Sunday, CBS didn't use the technology that helps viewers see where teams have to go to make first downs. In the Bills' opener two weeks earlier against the Saints, Fox also didn't use the technology.

The networks reportedly save $20,000 to $25,000 per game by dropping the technology in smaller markets like Buffalo, New Orleans and Indianapolis.

For years, Bills fans have enjoyed top-flight broadcasts because the team has been so competitive and has had big-name players with a national following. But more than the yellow line was missing Sunday. CBS, which uses fewer cameras on telecasts of smaller market games, also failed to get replays of several key plays and penalties.

It is a good thing there weren't any calls challenged by the coaches because CBS might not have had the proper angle, or any angle. There weren't any replays of a holding penalty on Antoine Winfield that negated an end zone interception by Nate Clements that preceded a touchdown. While CBS' cameras caught a block in the back against a Colt on a kickoff that wasn't called, there wasn't a replay of the Bills penalty that negated a long return by Tony Driver. A holding call on center Bill Conaty that negated a long run by Rob Johnson also was never caught on replay, so we couldn't see if Conaty's protests were valid.

Admittedly, the Bills committed so many penalties -- tying a team record with 19 -- that it would have been hard to show them all. But the missing replays came on plays that might have cost the Bills 14 points.

Steve Tasker, the former Bill who was the game analyst alongside Kenmore's Don Criqui, wisely speculated that several calls probably wouldn't have been made by the replacement officials who worked the games two weeks ago. It was one of Tasker's best moments. He also was sharp in noting which team committed a penalty, an asset when long plays or touchdowns are in jeopardy.

Now in his fourth season, Tasker speaks smoothly, explains coverages well and is more opinionated than he used to be. After former Bill Thomas Smith dropped a potential interception, Tasker noted that that was Smith's problem as a Bill.

When Eric Moulds tipped a Johnson pass that was slightly behind him into the arms of a Colt, Tasker said, "You expect Eric Moulds to make that catch."

And you expect an announcer to make that call.

Tasker probably surprised former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly -- and maybe even himself -- by saying that the Colts' Peyton Manning runs the hurry-up offense better than the Bills did in the 1990s.

Just as big a surprise was what Tasker didn't say -- that the Bills' defense wasn't getting any pressure on Manning. And no one mentioned the second-half injury loss of Moulds, something you expect to learn from a team that has a sideline reporter.

If Tasker is going to advance up the CBS announcing ladder, he has to avoid making closing statements that insult the intelligence of fans. In Tasker's defense, the Colts-Bills game almost lasted four hours and he might have been too tired at the end to think clearly when he said we watched a good game between two good teams. One wag speculated that the two teams Tasker was talking about were the Colts' offense and defense.

Tasker still lives in Western New York and does radio and television work here. Undoubtedly, he was trying to be nice. But in the announcing game, nice guys finish last. Tasker needs to develop more of an edge.

Criqui, who has been at this a long time, seemed more critical of the Bills than Tasker did. Noting all the Bills penalties, Criqui said all the talk of the organizational skills of Bills coach Gregg Williams were belied by the penalty statistic. Criqui wasn't being harsh, he was just being honest. That's what you expect from a top announcer.

Around the dial

Sunday, CBS sends the new team of Ian Eagle and Solomon Wilcots to cover the Bills-Pittsburgh game. Its No. 3 team, play-by-play man Kevin Harlan and his new analyst, Craig James, is scheduled to work the Bills- Jets game Oct. 7. Last Sunday, Harlan and James worked San Diego's victory in Dallas in which Charger quarterback Doug Flutie had a terrific game. At the close of the game, Harlan said: "Doug Flutie basically played flawless for (coach) Mike Riley."

Channel 4 called an audible that got CBS to allow it to carry Sunday's game between the Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals. Most of the country gets the Denver-Baltimore game at 4 p.m. because it involves two of the best teams. But Channel 4 decided local fans would be more interested in watching Buffalo West (the Chargers).

Meanwhile, Flutie will be featured on Saturday's episode of "NFL Under the Helmet" (noon, Ch. 29). He will be interviewed by a high school quarterback in San Diego, Richard Kovalcheck, considered to be the country's leading high school passer.

CBS' Dick Enberg and Dan Dierdorf were rightly confused and suspicious Sunday when told by the New England Patriots that Tom Brady was quarterbacking instead of Drew Bledsoe on a final drive when they needed a touchdown to tie because the Pats felt playing Brady and benching Bledsoe gave them their best chance. On Monday, the extent of an injury to Bledsoe -- as well as the Pats' deception -- was revealed.

Buffalo has always been a popular Monday Night Football town, but the first two games this season haven't even reached a 12 rating on WKBW-TV. The opener between Denver and the New York Giants had a lower rating here than it did nationally. The national rating for the first game was a 13.2, down 14 percent from the 2000 opener. The 2000 opener received heightened interest because it was Dennis Miller's debut. Miller isn't keeping Buffalo viewers up late. Green Bay's 37-0 rout of Washington on Monday received only an 11.3 rating here, with the rating going into single digits after 11 p.m.

Channel 29 is carrying the Atlanta-Arizona game at 4 p.m. Sunday because it is the only game at that time available to the Fox affiliate.

e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com

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