CBS announcers Tom McCarthy and Adam Archuleta were probably as well known to many Buffalo Bills fans before Sunday as Lorenzo Alexander and Zach Brown were before the season.
Early in the Bills’ 28-25 loss to Miami, one guy on Twitter called them CBS’ “D Team” of announcers. Actually, they are considered No. 7 out of eight CBS teams, which apparently illustrates what the network thought of the Bills’ four-game winning streak.
But like Alexander and Brown, the announcers performed better than expected.
The voice of the Philadelphia Phillies and a college basketball announcer, McCarthy has a strong voice, studied the Bills and never really got in the way of the game. I’d grade him a B plus.
He also gets points for referencing “Superman” and “Seinfeld” in the same sentence. Noting that the Bills No. 1 rushing offense was stymied by the Dolphins’ 31st rushing defense, McCarthy cracked “it is Bizarro World.” (The expression means that everything is reversed.)
Archuleta, a first-round pick of the St. Louis Rams who played seven seasons in the National Football League, had the usual allotment of obvious analyst comments. However, he did a good job dissecting how the Dolphins offensive line dominated the Bills defensive line in a game in which the score was much closer than the statistics. I’d give him a B minus.
His most absurd statement came when he said the dirty hit by Miami receiver Jarvis Landry on Bills safety Aaron Williams “was a tough play for both players.”
In political coverage, that is referred to as false equivalency. Williams had to leave the game with an injury and he was missed by the Bills. Jarvis stayed in the game and made some big plays after the hit. McCarthy also told viewers that Landry was “visibly upset” on the sideline, which suggested viewers should feel sorry for him.
The Landry hit may have been one of the reasons the game became as nasty as a presidential debate, loaded with personal fouls in the final minutes.
[Related: Tim Graham - "It was a reckless crackback block. That's when I stopped watching"]
By the end of the game, even the most ardent Bills fan would have to admit their team was dominated on both sides of the ball and not even the No. 1 broadcasting team on any of the networks would have made it more palatable.
Now let’s go to the weekly highs and lows of the Bills broadcast.
Ratings Time: The game had a 41.3 rating, which tied the high for the season with the Bills win over the Los Angeles Rams.
Best Smile: After the camera focused on Tannehill when he hit Kenny Still for the touchdown that gave the Dolphins a commanding 28-17 lead, McCarthy said "That was a 66-yard smile." No one in Buffalo was laughing. In fact, some Twitter followers who have heard a presidential candidate claim the media is biased thought the broadcast was more favorable to Miami fans than Bills fans. Not me.
The Fake Out: After Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s 10-yard touchdown run following a faked hand-off to Reggie Bush, Archuleta said “you could see this coming the entire way.” He saw it coming before the play was run. I was faked out. So was CBS’ camera operator.
Honestly, What Does That Mean? McCarthy said he was surprised how honest Miami Coach Adam Gase was in pregame meetings. I guess we will have to rely on WikiLeaks to learn what Gase said that was so honest because McCarthy didn’t give any specifics.
The No Fun League: Landry was penalized for taunting for spinning the ball after a first-down reception. Archuleta didn’t seem to be amused by the penalty. "I don’t know. There is taunting and then there is taunting," said Archuleta. Hard to argue.
Health Report: Archuleta frequently questioned whether Bills back LeSean McCoy was hurt before he was pulled in the second half with 11 yards rushing on eight carries. It was difficult to know whether McCoy was hurt, or if the Dolphins’ defensive line was hurting the Bills offensive line so badly that there was no running room for him to run.
Did You Have to Mention Him? CBS posted a graphic that noted that Dolphins back Jay Ajayi became the fourth player in NFL history to have back-to-back 200-yard rushing games. The previous backs to do it were Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams and a former Bill who was the subject of an Emmy-winning series on FX about his celebrated murder trial.
Quarterly Report: In the fourth quarter, McCarthy noted there was "total domination by the Dolphins in this quarter." CBS backed it up with a stat that showed the Dolphins had 178 yards at the time to six yards for the Bills.
Celebrity Spotting: The cameras found golfing great Jack Nicklaus more often than Taylor found his grandson, Bills tight end Nick O’Leary.
No Debate: McCarthy could have tried to ask Archuleta if he approved of the Dolphins, trailing 17-14, punting on a fourth and six yards to go with about 9 minutes and 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter the way they were dominating the Bills on defense.
And he could have asked Archuleta about the Bills decision to punt on a fourth and long with a less than four minutes left in the game when they trailed, 21-17, and the Buffalo defense wasn’t having much luck stopping Miami’s running game.
The Dolphins proceeded to score the 66-yard touchdown pass on the next series to take a 28-17 lead.
Channeling Doug Whaley: Before Taylor went out on the field with the Bills trailing, 21-17, with about four minutes left, Archuleta said: “These are the moments that franchise quarterbacks are made for.” Given a chance to impress Bills General Manager Doug Whaley, Taylor didn’t provide any magic. However, most of his weapons had disappeared due to injury.
Super Mario Returns: After a sack and another nice Dolphin play by former Bill Mario Williams, Archuleta sent chills in the spines of Bills fans: “We've seen Mario Williams show up today in a big way." Remember, it was Bizarro World.
Best Spin: Noting that Mario's playing time has been reduced, Archuleta looked at the upside. “Maybe playing less reps will make him more productive." Now that spin is better than the Landry spin that was penalized
Double Trouble: Archuleta noticed that Dolphin lineman Jermon Bushrod devastated two Bills on a play that enabled Ajayi to have a long run that got Miami out of a deep hole in its territory.
Best Analysis: Archuleta noted that the Bills were putting Corbin Bryant head up on Dolphins center Mike Pouncey in the second half to prevent him from getting to the next level and block Bills linebackers. It worked -- for a while. Archuleta goes a little too deep in terminology at times – "a TE stunt" anyone? – and should be told to either explain it better or minimize it.
The Hunch: McCarthy and Archuleta did a good job explaining the risk and reward that Miami Coach Adam Gase was considering when he went for two points late in the third quarter with Miami trailing, 17-12.
Archuleta explained coaches usually wait until the fourth quarter to go for two but added they might go for it on a hunch or if they have a play they think will work. A Tannehill to Landry pass worked to bring Miami within 17-14.
Speed Kills: After Miami cornerback Byron Maxwell looked at Taylor too long and was beaten by the Bills’ speedster Marquise Goodwin on a 67-yard touchdown pass, Arch noted: "You have to know your personnel and what you are dealing with."
Mr. Underrated: For second straight week, Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams was called underrated. Archuleta protested: “Everybody knows how good he is."
Access Hollywood: Until a big first down catch and a late Bills touchdown, former USC star Reggie Bush had less playing time lately than Billy Bush.
There Should Be a New Rule: Don't go to a sideline reporter when a team is in the red zone. Sideline reporter Chris Fischer was on camera when the Bills were in the red zone. That’s when sideline reporters should be heard and not seen.
Understatement of the Day: McCarthy said Dolphin returner Jakeem Grant “is not a big fella. He is 5-7."
The only thing more obvious was the Bills were severely outplayed Sunday.