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CBS' Gannon is impressive in long, entertaining Bills victory

CBS analyst Rich Gannon was as good in the first half as New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith was bad during the Buffalo Bills' 43-23 victory over their AFC nemesis.

After Smith’s second interception in the first quarter, Gannon speculated he would be benched if the Jets quarterback made another bad decision.

Seconds later, Smith threw his third pick and Michael Vick was behind center for the Jets on the next possession.

“Geno just didn’t look prepared,” snapped Gannon.

After Bills quarterback Kyle Orton missed an open Sammy Watkins on a long pass, Gannon played offensive coordinator and suggested the Bills keep taking shots down the field. Two plays later they did, resulting in an 84-yard pass completion that would have been a touchdown if Watkins hadn’t celebrated prematurely before he was caught from behind. The Bills scored two plays later to take a 21-7 lead.

After Watkins was caught from behind because he was showboating, Gannon said he’d soon hear from Bills Coach Doug Marrone.

A few seconds later after the Bills scored a rushing touchdown anyway, CBS’ cameras caught Marrone and Orton talking to Watkins.

Gannon, who played quarterback in the NFL for years, was very prepared throughout the game working alongside Kevin Harlan, who has a first string play-by-play voice.

Here are some highs and lows of an entertaining telecast in which the announcers left almost all the turnovers to the Jets.

Sportscenter Play of the Game: Watkins probably earned a Top 10 and a Not Top 10 ranking on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” on the same play --  his 84-yard catch and his embarrassing premature showboating that cost him a touchdown.

Watkins Wasn’t the Only One Celebrating Early: Harlan said Bills safety Aaron Williams “will take it in” for a touchdown on an interception before he went out of bounds trying to hit the pylon. After an inconclusive replay, the ball was placed on the Jets 1-yard line.

Best Shot:The picture of the sorry Jet fan wearing a shirt that read Just Endure The Suffering (JETS) was posted on Twitter almost instantly. Runner-up: Smith congratulating Vick after the backup led the Jets to their first touchdown and would seemingly mean that Smith would be the backup next week.

What’s the Frequency? The announcers noticed that Smith was having trouble hearing the play being called through the Jets’ communication system through his helmet. Eventually, Gannon was imagining what Jets Coach Rex Ryan wanted to communicate to his quarterbacks: “Guys you are killing us, you are killing me. Do me a favor. Someone take care of the football.”

Gannon was feeling sorry for Ryan again late in the game when he asked “what kind of coach would Rex Ryan be if he had a really good quarterback?” Several Bills coaches have been asking that question for 14 years.

Best Cheerleader: CBS sideline reporter Otis Livingston, who is the sports anchor at WCBS in New York, seemed to be trying to give Jets fans some optimism when he noted at halftime with the Jets only down, 24-17, that tackle D’Bricakshaw Ferguson said “we are right there, we are right there.”

Buffalove: No telecast this season would be without a shout out to new owners Terry and Kim Pegula and Harlan mentioned them near the end of the game. He also said just before signing off “the terrific Bills fans are thrilled behind the bench.”

Howard Cosell Firm Grasp of the Obvious Award: Gannon said NFL teams like the Jets can’t win when they commit so many turnovers.

The New Math: Down 43-23 late in the fourth quarter, the Jets inexplicably went for two points. Neither Gannon or Harlan questioned the baffling decision, which would have kept the Jets three scores from victory even if it had succeeded. It didn’t.

Best C.J. Imitation: A few seconds after Gannon likened Bills running back Bryce Brown to C.J. Spiller, Brown went outside and was tackled for a two-yard loss.

Paging Stan Gelbaugh: A moment of levity occurred when Harlan noted the last time two quarterbacks on the same team had three turnovers each (as Smith and Vick did Sunday) Stan Gelbaugh and Chris Chandler did it. Gelbaugh is a former Bill who played on several other NFL teams.

 Weirdest Call: For once, it didn’t go against the Bills. The penalty that Vick got for taunting when he dropped the ball on the Bills sideline after a long scramble run confused Gannon. “Is that a penalty?” Gannon asked. “He didn’t look at the bench or gesture toward the bench.”

A Missing P: Gannon noted the Jets’ offensive failure to abide by the five P’s – proper preparation prevents poor performance. Former Bills Coach Chuck Knox always added a sixth P, which I can’t print in a family newspaper. But you can google it.

The Longest Game: After all the Jet turnovers extended the game, Harlan noted the game “could be one of the longest 1 p.m. kickoffs.”

Calling Las Vegas: All of the experts on WGR’s pregame show – Mark Kelso, Chris Brown, Joe Buscaglia and Howard Simon -- picked the Jets. That either proved they forgot Geno plays for the Jets or they aren’t homers. Notably, The New York Times picked the Bills.

Obvious Omissions: There weren’t many, besides the failure to address the two-point decision by the Jets. The announcers also didn’t deal with why Bills kicker Dan Carpenter missed an extra point, which is a rarity in the NFL. I imagine they would have dealt with both issues if it had been a close game. It also would have been nice to see some replays to see how the Bills newest starting guard, Kraig Urbik, was doing. CBS also could have done a better job giving out statistics verbally.

 Not Again: Gannon jokingly suggested that “this might be another week when they carry (Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz) off the field” after his unit created six turnovers. He should have known that Schwartz actually was criticized after it happened when the Bills defeated the team he used to coach, the Detroit Lions.

Fill in Your Own Answer: Gannon showed up Vick on two plays when he said that the quarterback missed two open receivers that should have been his first read. CBS’ overhead cameras confirmed the analysis. “You have to ask yourself what is Michael Vick looking at?” asked Gannon. He’s probably looking at several more losses.

Alfred E. Neumann What Me Worry Award? Gannon channeled the feeling of many a Bills fans by repeatedly noting how often the Bills failed to capitalize on good field position and kept the Jets in the game for a half. By the fourth quarter, Gannon realized “it won’t matter because the Bills are playing lights out on defense.”

Best Criticism: Gannon was really rough on Smith, saying “I can’t remember a quarterback starting so poorly.” The criticism was warranted and it was a pleasure to hear an announcer stating what every Jet fan was probably thinking. He also said of the Jets’ newest acquisition, Percy Harvin, “he’s never been a good route runner.”

 Worst Criticism: Gannon mentioned he knew Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett had to be disappointed in the team’s inability to score after some of the Jets turnovers, but he sure was gentle on Hackett’s conservative play-calling in those situations.

It’s T-Shirt Time: At halftime, CBS’ Bart Scott seemed to be referring to Watkins when he said “tune that Ferrari up, tune that Ferrari up.” Sounds like it would make a good T-shirt for a Bills fan.

 Leodis’ Agent: That could be Gannon’s next job. He said that McKelvin was having a Pro Bowl year, which probably surprised some Bills fans who remember how often he was burned in some earlier games. Gannon couldn’t be accused of disrespecting the Bills in the way other so-called experts were doing. He was effusive in his praise of the Bills, especially of their defense. “It is almost as if the Bills are running the routes for the Jets,” Gannon said of the secondary. He also was impressed by the defense’s ability to eventually make Vick a pocket passer and by Schwartz’s game plan.

The Bills Best Offense: It was the Jets offense. The Bills were better off when the Jets had the ball and gave it to the Bills than they were when their own offense had the ball. On the other hand, Gannon might have offered a clue as to why the Bills didn’t pass more when he said Marrone told him Saturday “the one thing we cannot do is let Kyle Orton get hit.” Orton couldn’t get hit if the Bills called running plays.

Optimist of the Year Award: Near the end of the game after he said the Bills have a chance to make the playoffs, Gannon looked at the next four Bills games and declared they could be 9-3. That’s a nice thought for Bills fans now that they have the bye week to tune up that Ferrari before games with Kansas City, Miami, the Jets again and Cleveland that look easier on paper than on the field. The statement was the analyst equivalent of Watkins’ celebrating five yards before hitting the end zone. Anyone who looks at Twitter during games knows that fans around here usually are much more comfortable being pessimists than optimists.

 

apergament@buffnews.com

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