The most positive thing a Buffalo Bills fan can take from the team’s 37-31 loss to the New York Jets on Thursday Night Football was it was a heckuva lot more fun to watch from start to finish than the season opener at Baltimore.
Who didn’t love the filmed opening featuring Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and his daughters hunting and engaging in trash talk with Jets Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath and his daughters. The bit was so well-acted I actually could see Erin Kelly with a career as an actress.
The opening might have gone on about 30 seconds too long, but it sure was a clever and entertaining way to start the telecast.
Who expected the game that followed was going to see Ryan Fitzpatrick, the former Bills quarterback now in the same position for the Jets, look like he belonged in the Hall of Fame with Kelly and Namath?
CBS play-by-play man Jim Nantz and Twitter-maligned analyst Phil Simms almost had as strong a game as Fitzpatrick.
That added to the enjoyment of a high-scoring game that was about as unexpected as Fitzpatrick turning into Tom Brady for one night. Bills radio play-by-play John Murphy and his afternoon program co-host Donald Jones predicted a low-scoring game.
Simms saw just about everything Fitzpatrick did, questioned a Bills offensive mismatch which had tight end Nick O’Leary blocking Jet defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson after O'Leary was called for holding, and questioned a defensive mismatch that had Bills safety Aaron Williams defending Jet receiver Eric Decker one on-one before a long Jets completion.
Simms also was on the money when he noted Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis was looking at Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor “and needs to know who he is going up against” when Bills speed receiver Marquise Goodwin beat him on an 84-yard touchdown pass.
Now let’s look at more highs and lows of the broadcast carried by CBS and The NFL Network:
Ratings Time: The game had a 36.0 rating on WIVB-TV and an additional 2.9 rating points from The NFL Network simulcast for a combined 38.9 rating until 11:30 p.m. That is a very strong rating, but not record-setting. However, there were 70,000 potential viewers at New Era Field.
Best Quote: After the game ended, Nantz said of Fitzpatrick: “On this night, he is on the top of the world. One of his best games ever.” No Bills fan would dispute that.
Bills Fans Say Amen to That: After the Bills failed to get a play off before the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter, Simms said: "It is a problem this offense has had for a long time." Probably since Kelly played.
Safety Remark: Decker caught another long pass from Fitzpatrick after Simms noted Rex and Rob Ryan put so much pressure on their cornerbacks by having them play receivers one on one. "You are allowed to let safeties go back (and help)," said Simms. He added even the Bills' terrific secondary can't defend forever without a pass rush, which was non-existent Thursday night.
After Further Review: Simms turned into Mike Carey at one point, suggesting that Rex Ryan’s challenge of a Jets completion would fail before Ryan won the challenge. But like Carey, the referee who was fired from his CBS job as a rules expert, Simms seemed to be right as the rule of what is a catch remains cloudy. The replay on Mike Gillislee’s touchdown in the final minute was very clear that he scored.
Say What? Of course, Simms gave his Twitter trolls some ammunition when he said that Jets running back Matt Forte was a lot like a quarterback when he runs. He didn’t explain that one too well.
Great Timing: Shortly before Bills quarterback Tyrod Tyrod got out of the pocket to throw a touchdown to Greg Salas, Simms said the Jets have to keep him in the pocket like the Ravens did.
Local Shout-outs: At one point, CBS used a Goo Goo Dolls song as bumper music as it headed to commercial. Nantz also gave a plug to New Era, noting that it is a fourth generation company that does business internationally. That free commercial was worth some of the money the company paid in naming rights for New Era Field.
The Deplorables: That would be the Bills defense on this night.
Best Caption: After a shot of a Jets fan without a helmet head-butting Fitzpatrick in celebration of a touchdown, Simms said: "Beer is a wonderful thing." Even Simms’ Twitter trolls can agree on that.
Paging Dr. Oz: Many members of the media thought Jet receiver Brandon Marshall was done for the night after apparently injuring his knee on a face mask tackle by Stephon Gilmore. Simms may have shocked some people by accurately noting that using the face mask was the only way Gilmore could bring someone as strong as Marshall down. It didn’t take long for Marshall to get back on the field, proving it is never a good idea for journalists to play doctor.
Where’s Sammy? You could have asked that while Sammy Watkins was playing since the Bills receiver had such little impact on the game. But in the final two minutes, Nantz noted that Watkins wasn’t on the field during the Bills’ desperation final drive. I’m not going to play doctor and guess what that means.
Unfair Statistics: CBS showed the declining stats of Bills running back LeSean McCoy last season without noting he missed several games with injuries and also played hurt.
Give Them Credit: All five broadcasters who work for CBS and The NFL Network picked the Jets to win.
A Warning: After the Bills 0-2 start, don’t expect to see much more of Nantz and Simms this season. Expect a steady diet of Spero Dedes and Solomon Wilcots. But you should remember “beer is a wonderful thing” that can get you through pain in your ears and head.