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MNF crew shines bright in thriller

With about five minutes left and the Buffalo Bills holding a 24-13 lead over the heavily favored New England Patriots, Monday Night Football play-by-play man Mike Tirico tried to put the surprising circumstances in perspective.
"This is why sports is cool," said Tirico. "You don't know what script is going to play out."
Bills fans have seen this script before. Many fans probably were thinking of a MNF loss to Dallas in 2007 before Tirico noted the Bills eerily blew that one in the last minute by the same score as Monday's loss, 25-24.

Tirico and analysts Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden were a pleasure to listen to during the Bills' opener and not just because the game was surprisingly a pleasure to watch until the disastrous end.
What started out like Tom Brady Night on ESPN almost ended up being Trent Edwards Night as the trio of announcers sang the praises of the formerly beleaguered quarterback and inexperienced offensive line before the Bills fell apart.
If he would cut down on his identification mistakes, Tirico could be the NFL's best play-by-play man. He sees just about everything, involves his analysts and instinctively says numerous clever and funny things.
Talking about Bills success in the 1990s, Tirico spoke for all Bills fans "it seems like a long time ago, doesn't it?"
Early on, he cracked "the Bills offense doesn't huddle and in the preseason doesn't score."
After a Terrell Owens drop, Tirico said "he has great stats but few have ever said he has great hands."
He also had a terrific call on the interception and touchdown by defensive end Aaron Schobel.
Jaworski questioned the Bills' use of the no-huddle offense before backtracking when it worked. He was on the Tom Brady watch, saying the Pats star looked a little skittish in the first half before becoming Tom Brady again in the second half. And Jaws predicted that Brady would go down the middle for a late touchdown to TE Benjamin Watson.
But the star of the game was Gruden, who explained that the Patriots were leaving backs and tight ends open to double cover Bills receivers Terrell Owens and Lee Evans.
Gruden sees things that viewers don't see. He noted the Pats' frequent use of quick counts on offense and explained that all the zone coverages by the Bills led the Pats to go with a no-back package with five different receivers.
Offensively, Gruden noted that the Bills were running plays "that look the same that are different."
The Bills' inspired play ended the pre-game threat that the game was going to be a New England lovefest.
Tirico said before a ball was snapped that "this is the night New England has been waiting a year for" because of Brady's return.
"I was at [the Pats] practice and I was emotional," added Gruden.
But perhaps the must telling pre-game remark came from studio analyst Matt Millen, who predicted the Pats would win but tried to give Bills fans some hope for the season.
"It is not how you start, it is how you finish, Buffalo," said Millen.
Bills fans know that only too well -- again.

e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com

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