Not even CBS announcers Spero Dedes or Solomon Wilcots could have ruined Buffalo’s 16-0 victory over the New England Patriots Sunday for Bills fans.
Fortunately, CBS sent its strong No. 2 team, play-by-play man Ian Eagle and analyst Dan Fouts, to cover the game.
“This result has to be the upset of the season,” Fouts said at game’s end.
When watching the Bills surprisingly dominant the Patriots, the late Jack Buck call of a memorable Kirk Gibson home run in the 1988 World Series came to mind: “I don't believe what I just saw.”
News contributor Kathleen Rizzo Young put it another way in a tweet as the Bills took a 13-0 lead in the first half. She referenced a comment made by “Mr. Robot” star Rami Malek after he won an Emmy as best actor in a series.
“In the words of Rami Malek,” she wrote, “please tell me that you guys are seeing this, too.”
If you’re not a “Mr. Robot” fan, Malek plays a delusional guy who sees and imagines things so it is hard to know what is real.
Most Buffalo fans probably couldn’t imagine the Bills’ shutout win over the Patriots, who had never been shutout in Gillette Stadium in their history.
Who were those imposters?
The Bills had a 1-13 record there before Sunday, with their only win even deserving an asterisk because quarterback Tom Brady didn’t play in the second half in a meaningless game for the Patriots before they were headed to the playoffs.
Eagle also put the victory in perspective at game’s end. “The Buffalo Bills two weeks ago hit rock bottom against the Jets,” said Eagle. “They are getting out of Foxborough with a big win.”
Eagle had his typically strong game, documenting the Bills’ upset against a Pats team playing with an injured third string rookie quarterback, Jacoby Brissett.
Eagle was his usual solid self, identifying players, often quickly seeing things like a penalty that negated a 90-yard catch and run by the Pats’ Julian Edelman, and setting up Fouts’ expertise on strategy, rules and the difficulty of a quarterback playing with an injured thumb.
Fouts had a good grasp of the rules on challenges, blocks and sideline hits and praised Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor for being able to throw on the run and, more impressively, in the pocket.
He was a little shaky when he changed his opinions after seeing replays, but that is understandable since plays happen too fast for the officials at times, too.
One replay will make many a Bills fan’s season: The one in which a frustrated Patriots Coach Bill Belichick threw his Microsoft Surface went viral almost instantly and should go directly to the Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame.
Now let’s take a look at more of the broadcast’s high and low points.
Ratings Time: The game had a 39.7 rating on WIVB-TV, making it the highest-rated of the four games this season. The first half had ratings in the 30s, the second half ratings in the 40s. It peaked with a 45.6 rating at game's end as Bills fans apparently wanted to make sure the Bills shutout win was real.
Fouts Rules: While Twitter was abuzz thinking Bills receiver Robert Woods should have been called for an illegal block on the touchdown pass to LeSean Taylor, Fouts played rules judge. He initially questioned the block, but after looking at it on replay claimed it was legal because Woods made the block one-yard from the line of scrimmage.
Two Thumbs Up: Fouts noted early that Brissett wasn’t concerned about his injured thumb when talking to him before the game. “He even challenged me to a thumb war,” said Fouts, adding he declined.
Stranger Things: A Pats quick run for an apparent first down was negated when the play was called off because the officials said they weren’t ready. Fouts said that helped the Bills, which may have been a first for a game in New England. This was a game as strange as a presidential nominee tweeting at 3 a.m.
Fast Exit: CBS' cameras caught Belichick meeting Bills Coach Rex Ryan after the game for the traditional hand shake. Belichick exited faster than Marquise Goodwin runs the 100 meter dash.
Challenging Remark: When Ryan challenged a fourth-down spot, Fouts instantly called it “a wise decision” and added the ball was clearly a yard past where it was marked. He was right.
Quote of the Day: With 13 minutes left and the Bills up 16-0, Eagle said: “This is not New England's day. It is Buffalo's." That was about 13 minutes too early for most Bills fans.
Passing Remark: In the fourth quarter, Fouts noted that the one thing missing from the Patriots offense was "quick passing." Short passes to players like Edelman (one catch), Danny Amendola (zero catches) and ex Bill Chris Hogan (zero catches) have killed the Bills 13 times at Gillette. Of course, one other more important thing was missing: Brady, finishing his four-game suspension.
Was the System Rigged? Fouts seemed reluctant to criticize the officials, especially on a dubious 15-yard roughing the passer call on the Pats’ Chris Long for a shove of Taylor. Pats fans seemed to think – to borrow a phrase from a presidential candidate – the system was rigged against them when a couple of sideline hits by the Bills against Brissett and another Pat weren’t called. Referee Fouts noted the players were still inbounds when they were hit.
Comedy Relief: CBS showed childhood pictures of Rex and Rob Ryan, which I’m sure had some fans saying “Weren’t they so cute?” OK, maybe not.
Double Speak: Fouts first said Taylor overthrew Walter Powell in the end zone, then a few seconds later said it was “a heckuva throw.”
Trending on Twitter: With a Pats penalty negating a 90-yard pass play, Stephen Gostkowski missing a makeable field goal, a play being called off because the officials weren’t ready and those borderline penalty calls not being made against the Bills, the words the “Bills are very lucky” trended for sure.
Calling Dr. Welby: Surprisingly, Fouts didn’t say it was surprising officials didn’t ask Brissett to be checked on whether he should go into concussion protocol after taking a big hit. If they had, Edelman would have been the Pats quarterback.
Halftime Warning: CBS’ Boomer Esiason noted “there is a second half, guys” after the Bills had a 13-0 halftime lead, suggesting he expected a Pats comeback after coaching adjustments. I knew where he was coming from because I always say you never win in the first half. Well, rarely anyway.
Sideline Report: Fouts was calling for the Bills to fair catch a punt before the end of the first half and said it was a “big mistake” by returner Brandon Tate not to do it and give the Bills a chance for a rare free field goal attempt in that situation. Sideline reporter Evan Washburn said after halftime that Ryan was upset about it, too.
Clock Management: Eagle channeled Bills fans when the team didn’t call a timeout on second down with the Pats near their own goal line shortly before the half. But the Bills only had two timeouts and saving them for third and fourth down might have been just about as effective.
Sammy Said He is Always Open: Injured Bills receiver Sammy Watkins said a few weeks ago that Woods is always open, which certainly seemed to be the case as the Bills receiver caught seven passes.
Shocking Comment: In the first half, Eagle said Pats fans "are in a state of shock." Now they know how Bills fans usually feel.
Give Him a Penalty: Fouts kept saying the Bills were fortunate to get a first down on a Patriot penalty when it appeared that Taylor had run for one on the same play anyway.
Eagle-eyed Ian: After a commercial, Eagle praised Bills holder Colton Schmidt for getting a poor field goal snap down before a successful Dan Carpenter kick.
“Stupid" Remark: Fouts called a Richie Incognito penalty “stupid” because it pushed the Bills back offensively. But it would have been better if he commented on whether it was a good or weak call.
The Godfather: That’s what Bills quarterback coach David Lee was called for inventing the wildcat formation that the Bills ran a few times.
Pregame Nonsense: No, I’m not talking about the predictions. I’m talking about the shot that CBS had of the Bills’ Robert Blanton hitting Brissett in pregame activities. His motivation – the Pat players reportedly jogged threw the Bills defensive back warmups - wasn’t explained.
“PTI” Alert: You might want to tune in to ESPN’s "Pardon the Interruption" at 5:30 p.m. today to see if Michael Wilbon is on the show as usual and if Tony Kornheiser reminds him about his prediction that the Pats "would wipe the floor" with the Bills.