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Harlan and Gannon have strong game, don't add to misery of Bills fans


I joked last week that I had “the chore” of watching the Buffalo Bills’ 27-14 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the season opener at the Ralph over again on my television’s DVR when I got home from the game.

I imagine many Bills fans would have watched it twice, especially if they got paid to do it the second time.

But watching the Bills’ 40-32 loss to the New England Patriots Sunday in game two for the second time really was a chore.

The two teams seemed to be trying to enter the Guinness World Records list for the longest regulation game and for combined penalties.

The game took 3 hours and 41 minutes to complete, which was a lot of time for CBS announcers Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon to annoy Bills fans.

Thankfully, they turned in a much better performance than the Bills.

Harlan, the play-by-play man, almost was error-free, save for mangling the first name of Bills back LeSean McCoy at the end of the game and suggesting that backup quarterback Matt Cassel was warming up on the sideline to possibly replace Tyrod Taylor.

Gannon, the analyst, quickly corrected Harlan by saying that Cassel was just warming up Taylor, who hadn’t been on the field in awhile.

A former Pro Bowler at quarterback, Gannon did a strong job explaining how Patriots quarterback Tom Brady dissected the supposedly strong Bills defense and the analyst even took one deserved shot at Coach Rex Ryan.

It might have been a miserable, deflating day for Bills fans, but thankfully CBS’ announcers didn’t add to the misery.

The telecast provided some amusing moments. Let’s take our Monday morning quarterback look at some of them, as well as the game’s rating.

The Rating: It was huge again. Ryan was criticized for giving the second game of the season the importance of a Super Bowl. But Bills fans bought it. The game had a 45.2 rating on Channel 4, peaking at the end with a 48.7. The opener had a 43.8 rating. Super Bowls generally get ratings in the low 50s here. To put the rating in more perspective, the Emmys on Fox Sunday night had a 4.5 local rating. The awards show finished second in the time slot to the 15.3 rating in prime time for Green Bay’s 27-17 victory over Seattle on the Sunday Night Football carried by Channel 2.

The Handshake: The end of the game did provide a laugh as Ryan and Patriot Coach Bill Belichick had a perfunctory handshake that was over in two seconds – or as quickly as Brady released many of his passes. “Short and sweet,” described Harlan. “Not a lot said there,” added Gannon.

The Early Noise: Harlan was impressed by Bills fans as they tried for the Guinness noise record during the Pats’ first offensive series. “How in the world can (Brady) communicate with this noise?” asked Harlan. “Unbelievable.” More unbelievably, it didn’t turn out to be a problem for the Pats.

The $250 Million Question: Late in the game, Harlan noted that the Bills had $250 million tied up in contracts with their defensive line. When Gannon noted late in the game that Brady had thrown 54 passes and only been sacked once, Bills fans probably were wondering if the money was worth it. It would have been nice if CBS’ cameras had showed some more of the Patriots offensive line play to see how they negated the Bills strength in other ways besides Brady’s quick release.

The Great Non-Debates: There was plenty of opportunity to question strategy by both coaches, but the announcers took a pass. Belichick tried to help the Bills by going for it on fourth down and short at about the Bills 40-yard line twice and there was no debate about whether it was a good idea. The Pats failed both times and gave the Bills good field position on two touchdown drives. The announcers also didn’t debate Ryan’s decision to punt in a similar situation. And there could have been more debate on whether the Bills should have gone for two points twice and why they didn’t go for two the third time after cutting the lead to 37-31 in the fourth quarter.

Say What? When Belichick went for it on fourth down the first time, Harlan inexplicably said he was “forcing Rex Ryan to make a decision.”

The Acronym of the Day: Last week, analyst Solomon Wilcots coined the term 3D to explain the Bills defense was designed to “disguise, deceive and disrupt.” This week, Gannon noted that Belichick hired Ph.Ds as his hard-working assistants who are “Poor, Hungry and Driven.”

The Annoying Crawl: Several times during the game, Channel 4 warned DirectTV viewers that they could lose the station and sister channel CW 23 on Oct. 1 if a new deal with the satellite provider isn’t reached. Actually, you just need a digital TV set and perhaps a tuner or antenna to get those stations over-the-air without satellite or cable.

The September Song: Harlan and Gannon teamed up for some levity discussing the Patriots success over the years. First, Harlan told viewers that the Pats had the best record in September among NFL teams in the last 10 years. “They’ve been pretty good in October, November and December and January, too,” said Gannon. Bills fans didn’t need the reminder.

Best Replay: CBS cameras had a great replay of the Pats’ Julian Edelman eluding double coverage on the goal line to catch the first touchdown pass from Brady.

The Missed Replays: However, CBS missed several key replays, including a holding call on Bills’ cornerback Ronald Darby that had Ryan fuming and continued a New England scoring drive.

Mike Carey’s Weekly Appearance: The ex-referee was brought in to explain why Ryan’s silly challenge -- when Taylor went out of bounds as he belatedly tried to throw a pass -- was disallowed. Carey said an out-of-bounds play can’t be challenged. Even if it had been, it only would have saved the Bills a few yards. It would have been nice to hear more from Carey on some questionable calls.

Stats of the Day: Gannon supplied them. Besides noting that the Bills only got to Brady once out of his first 54 pass attempts, he noted that only four of Taylor’s first 19 pass attempts went beyond 10 yards. Taylor’s success on longer plays late in the game suggest the Bills coaches should have trusted him more when New England played eight men on the line.

The Block: A couple of times, CBS’ cameras caught Pats tight end Rob Gronkowski effectively blocking Bills end Mario Williams one-on-one. The Gronk can do more than just destroy teams downfield.

The Criticism: Gannon was shocked that the Bills tried to cover Gronkowski at one point with linebacker Nigel Bradham. “I don’t know what Rex Ryan is thinking,” said Gannon. “How can you expect a linebacker to cover that guy down the seam?” You didn't have to have a Ph.D to realize it was a bad idea.

The Positive Spin: Gannon noted that Taylor was high on some passes during the game. But at game’s end, Gannon gave Taylor some love, saying he is going to be “a quarterback to watch this season.”

Nose-y Cameras: CBS’ cameras caught Brady using a towel to give his nose the business before someone at the network realized that wasn’t the best look and cut away. It was one of the few times that Brady didn’t look good on Sunday.

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