Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton threw a potential game-winning pass to the end zone Sunday afternoon on the final play of the game with the Buffalo Bills when the picture on some television sets across Western New York briefly froze.
The picture returned in time to see the jump ball fall incomplete.
However, the frozen picture was the final annoyance of a Fox telecast that was loaded with them in the Bills’ 16-12 victory.
To say the telecast was as messy as the game would be an understatement.
Western New Yorkers don’t get to see many Bills games telecast by Fox. On Thanksgiving, they can be thankful for that. This game was on the local Fox affiliate, WUTV, as a crossover game the NFL uses to balance the network schedules of its partners.
From start to frozen finish, this was one of the worst Bills broadcasts of the season.
Local viewers also saw a commercial instead of a punt before the start of the second quarter and the sound during the game was muted for parts of a second at times.
Twitter followers who subscribe to cable and satellite said their picture froze on the last pass and at least one local station ran a replay that was frozen as well, indicating it was a widespread issue. I will try to discover if it was the fault of local cable, satellite services or the local Fox affiliate, WUTV.
Play-by-play man Thom Brennaman also was off his game. He asked questions when he was supposed to answer them. Was that pass caught? Was that punt touched by a Bill? He also was slow to see things that viewers could see, like Dalton fumbled shortly AFTER he ran for a touchdown.
It also took me almost a half to distinguish between the voices of analysts Charles Davis and ex Bill Chris Spielman. By the time, I also realized that much of what the analysts said wasn’t that important or interesting.
They did work well together at times, correcting each other’s mistakes and praising each other when they agreed on strategy. But mostly they proved you don’t need a three-person booth, especially when two sound and think alike.
I was a fan of Spielman when he called college games for ESPN and played linebacker for the Bills so I was rooting for him.
I expected more out of him. However, he redeemed himself by providing the most entertaining comment of the game when he gave Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams the new nickname of “Football Player.” He also cleverly compared the elusive running style of Bills running back LeSean McCoy with Detroit’s Barry Sanders, one of Spielman’s former teammates. And he was quick to note that the early injury to Bengal receiver A.J. Green changed everything, allowing the Bills to cover receivers more tightly without their opponents’ home run threat.
Sideline reporter Holly Sonders didn’t add much, except to say to reveal the clichés said by Bills Coach Rex Ryan and Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis at halftime.
Here are some more highs and mostly lows from the broadcast.
Errors of Omission: The announcers failed to note that if the Bills had run rather than throw an incomplete pass on a third down with more than two minutes left, they could have wasted 37 more seconds before the Bengals got the ball for the last time. Dalton used those extra seconds to get the Bengals in position to win the game. Brennaman did note that the Bengals would have been in the position to kick a tying or game-winning field goal if Bengals kicker Mike Nugent had made his two extra points. But the play-by-play man should have realized that the Bills might have played the last few minutes differently if they only had a two or three-point lead.
Best Prediction: As the Bills drove for a touchdown on their first drive, Brennaman noted the Bengals give up a lot of points on opening drives. The Bills didn’t score another touchdown in the game.
Bills Fans Are Used to Wincing: Brennaman said viewers might wince as they watched a replay of the injury to Bills receiver Robert Woods. I did.
The Bills Fans Motto: After looking at the grotesque replay of the play of Woods’ injury, Spielman said: "Any time you have a knee injury, you think the worst." Expect the Worst is the motto of a Bills fan.
Buffalove: While discussing the effort of Kyle Williams, Spielman gave some love to his former Bills teammate, defensive end Phil Hansen, another Football Player.
College Thinking: Davis suggested the Bengals were in four-down territory with four or five minutes left in the game on their own 28-yard line. College coaches – or Bill Belichick might do that – but not the majority of NFL coaches, Bengals Coach Lewis kicked the ball away and got it back in time for a possible winning touchdown anyway.
Stunning Decision: Brennaman was stunned when Bills Coach Rex Ryan went for it on fourth-down around the Bengals’ 20-yard line early in the fourth quarter holding a 13-12 lead. Bills fans were probably more stunned they made a first down and less stunned when the drive ended with a field goal anyway. Spielman (it sounded like him) said he believed Ryan went for it because he felt the Bengals defense was tired and his offensive line was dominating.
Everything Is Hard: After the Bills offense was penalized for failing to be set on a key third down, Spielman said: “No. 1 goal. Line up. Not that hard.” He apparently hasn’t seen the Bills much since he played in Buffalo.
The Bills Don’t Have Ribbons: When the Bills got the ball back with about six minutes left with a four-point lead, Brennaman said: "The Bills have a chance to tie a ribbon around this one." He calls games for Fox, which means he hasn’t seen the Bills much, either.
Now That Was Funny: After cornerback Ronald Darby made a good play on third down, Spielman compared the Bills to the Bengal secondary: “They (the Bills) don't have communication problems in their secondary." Good thing he didn’t see the second New England game.
Bad Timing: As Davis suggested it would be a good time for Bills receiver Percy Harvin to make a play, the Fox cameras showed that was impossible because Harvin was heading to the sidelines.
Wrong Question: On a fourth and two at the Bengal 36-yard line, Brennaman asked the analysts if the Bills should go for it. He didn’t ask if Dan Carpenter should kick a 54-yard field goal to give the Bills a 13-12 lead. He did. It was a risky move, too, since the Bengals would have had great field position if he had missed.
Shady Talk: At halftime, Fox studio analyst Jimmy Johnson praised McCoy and said: "Shady needs to be in the lineup” (in the second half). He wasn’t. Johnson gets paid well for those pearls of wisdom.
Tough Hit: Spielman, a consummate team player, isn’t afraid of ripping players. After Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor was intercepted before halftime, he pinned some of the blame on Bills receiver Marquise Goodwin: "Goodwin didn't fight or compete for the football." Good point.
Looks Can Be Deceiving: Brennaman said of a Brandon Tate catch for the Bills before halftime: "It looked like it was short-hopped." It wasn’t.
Cut, But Still Blamed: Spielman (it sounded like him) thought Duke Williams made a bad play in coverage before being told that he was cut and replaced by a new Bill wearing No 27. Davis also thought a false start penalty had been called against the Bengals when it was actually called on the Bills’ Jerry Hughes. In fairness, Davis appeared to have been right, the officials wrong.
Playing Referee: After looking at the replay of a holding call against the Bills Richie Incognito that negated a Taylor touchdown run, Spielman said: “That's a little touchy to me." The call probably cost the Bills four points. Near the game’s end, Spielman found another ticky-tack holding call on the Bengals.
Huggable But Still Roasted on Twitter: After the first of his two interceptions, beleaguered Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore was hugged by Rex Ryan. Meanwhile, Twitter followers were questioning why Gilmore was stopped at the three-yard line rather than scoring.
Best Description: Davis noted Cincinnati defensive coordinator Paul Guenther calls the Bills offense "Navy with better athletes." It looked like UB’s offense at times, too.
Reggie Who? After Bills back Reggie Bush had a decent run and catch, Brennaman said: "Not heard his name much this year." Bills fans everywhere agreed. He wasn’t heard from much the rest of the game.
Skip the Promos: Fox repeatedly ran promos for a new, little-watched FS1 talk show promo that features incredibly annoying Skip Bayless. That’s another one of the prices you pay for watching Bills games on Fox.
Tie a Ribbon On It: In the Fox pregame show, Michael Strahan picked the Bills to win in an upset. He had to wait until the frozen pass fell incomplete to tie a ribbon on that prediction.