I was having a few wings and a roast beef sandwich at Bar Bill Tavern in East Aurora Saturday afternoon when Steve Tasker came in with his CBS teammates, play-by-play man Andrew Catalon and analyst Steve Beuerlein.
My daughter asked me if I knew Tasker well enough to say hello to him.
I said yes. But told her I wouldn’t say hello.
“Why?” she asked.
I explained that I had to critique the trio’s performance Sunday during the Bills game with the Jacksonville Jaguars in New Era Field and didn’t want to appear too friendly in case they were awful.
It was an unwarranted concern. The trio works well together and had such a solid game overall that they didn't leave much to beef about.
Catalon, who worked three Bills preseason games on Channel 7 with Tasker and is one of CBS’ under-rated play-by-play men, was very good in the Bills’ 28-21 victory over the Jags. He was armed with tons of interesting statistics, asked the right questions of the two analysts, was sharp seeing things on the field and had a good excitement level on key plays.
Beuerlein, who played one of his 14 seasons as a NFL quarterback in Jacksonville, was excellent at spotting missed coverages, had strong opinions about the Bills play-calling in the first half when they were making the Sabres offense seem potent and sharply questioned some coaching decisions.
Even Tasker’s best friend in East Aurora would have to admit he won’t be sending this game to the Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
He made the announcing team’s most embarrassing mistake when he actually was making a good point. We’ll get to that later.
The good news is if Beuerlein hadn’t mentioned Tasker lives here, Jacksonville viewers might not have known it. The former special teams Bills star wasn’t a homer; he noted when the Bills got some breaks from the officials.
And they got so many breaks you almost wonder if the officials were making up for the phantom interference call last year that cost the Bills the game against Jacksonville in London.
Tasker also exhibited a good understanding of the rules. After I praised him for that on Twitter, Tasker made his mind-boggling error involving an area that he is an expert – special teams.
He mistakenly thought the Bills had the option of having the Jags re-kick late in the first half after a running into the kicker penalty against Buffalo. Tasker made the great point that it was a good idea to make the Jags punt again because it is so hard to cover kicks back to back.
Catalon then explained to Tasker that it was the Jags decision to re-kick, which led Tasker to say they were making a mistake even though the Bills’ Brandon Tate had a decent return to about the Bills 40-yard line on the first punt. Tasker’s prediction that it could hurt Jacksonville immediately proved to be accurate. On the re-kick, Tate had a 43-yard return to the Jags’ 27-yard line that essentially changed the game. And five yards were tacked on because of a Jags penalty.
But I suppose we can still cut Tasker some slack because he protected Western New York’s honor when Catalon asked him how the area felt about former Bills Head Coach Doug Marrone’s decision to exit the area as a CBS camera focused on Marrone on the Jacksonville sideline as an assistant coach.
After Beuerlein said he had never seen a coach walking out of his contract, Tasker added that the attitude of people in Buffalo was "you don't want to be here, we don't want you."
I could almost hear “bravo” being shouted across living rooms across Western New York.
Here are more highs and lows from the broadcast:
Marrone Would Have Punted: That’s what I tweeted when Bills Coach Rex Ryan decided against kicking a field goal with a fourth down and one yard to go at the Jags’ 13-yard line rather than kick a field goal. I was joking about Marrone’s well-documented conservatism exemplified by how often he kicked inside an opponent’s territory. The Bills got the first down and McCoy scored a touchdown on a seven-yard run a few plays later.
Gimme a Break: The Bills were fortunate that a holding call wasn’t made against cornerback Stephon Gilmore on a key third down with about three and a half minutes left in the game as he defended Jags receiver Allen Robinson: “That was a penalty on Gilmore and they didn’t call it,” said Tasker. Catalon ended the game by saying that non-call would be a big part of post-game discussions.
Gimme Another Break: The announcers agreed that the Bills appeared to get another break with about three minutes left when the officials ruled McCoy didn’t go out of bounds, which cost Jacksonville its final timeout.
I Spy: Catalon noted that Bills Coach Rex Ryan said he was scared about the running ability of Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles. If Ryan was so scared, you had to wonder why he didn’t put a spy on Bortles before several of his long runs.
The New Math -- 1 is better than 3: After Bills kicker Dan Carpenter missed an extra point, Beuerlein noted the increased pressure on kickers now that it is a 33-yard kick has led to so many misses this season. Tasker agreed and added there is more pressure on missing extra points worth one point than field goals worth three because there could be “harsher” consequences for missing the extra point. Carpenter likely would have been booed if he missed a 33-yard field goal, too. But I think I know what Tasker was trying to say, even though three points obviously is two more points than one. For a while, Carpenter’s missed kick looked like it could have been decisive. But it ended up having no impact.
Rex Should Take a Timeout in the Corner: Beuerlein and Tasker agreed that Rex should have taken a five-yard penalty rather than use one of three precious timeouts when backup quarterback EJ Manuel tried to draw the Jags offside late in the game. It was good of Catalon to ask the analysts. However, Rex’s decision didn’t hurt. The Bills finished the game with two timeouts left anyway because they didn’t need a comeback.
Where’s Marcell? I was asking on Twitter where Bills defensive lineman Marcell Dareus was well before CBS cameras spotted him on the sidelines during key moments near game’s end. Catalon said the Bills said they were using their normal rotation, but it sure didn’t seem plausible. And Ryan said after the game that Dareus had an abdominal issue in the fourth quarter.
More Overheard Shots Would Have Been Nice: Several reporters at the game were noting on Twitter that Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor was missing open receivers. It would have been nice to see more replays of that. Someone should tell Taylor that he is allowed to throw incomplete passes.
Two Thumbs Up: Catalon noted that the 75-yard run by McCoy -- who had thumb surgery last week -- at the start of the third quarter was the longest in his eight-year career. Beuerlein did a good job explaining how the Jaguars secondary overran the play. He also did a good job explaining how Bills safety Jonathan Meeks blew a coverage on a Jags touchdown pass to Marqise Lee.
The Best Surprise: Tasker said he would he would be shocked if the Bills put the ball in the air on third and seven yards to go with more than three minutes left. “Well, you are shocked,” said Catalon as Taylor threw a first down completion to tight end Charles Clay. It didn’t mean Tasker was wrong to be shocked. He explained he made his comment because Ryan has more faith in his defense than his offense.
That’s Not Official Progress: After Beuerlein noted the Bills caught a first half break when officials incorrectly said McCoy’s forward progress was stopped before an obvious fumble, Tasker said "that ball was out." It wasn’t a play that could be challenged.
The Next Bills Offensive Coordinator? As run after run was stopped, you could tell Beuerlein thought the Bills should be throwing on first down. The Bills finally threw on two consecutive first downs with success.
Challenging Remarks: After -- but not before -- Ryan lost a challenge of a third down spot, Beuerlein thought Ryan made a mistake to challenge it because it wasn’t a significant play and wasn’t a guaranteed win. He and Tasker applauded Ryan’s successful challenge of a long Jags completion shortly after that, but Beuerelin added that Ryan was out of challenges with more than half the game left, magnifying the mistaken first challenge. The rule that you lose the right to challenge even if you win one of two is unfair, especially considering all the mistakes officials made these days. But Ryan was fortunate that he didn’t need to challenge anything after that.
Great Replay: CBS had a great angle of the knee to the head that Bills cornerback Ronald Darby received from Jaguars back Chris Ivory.
25th Drive is the Charm: After Catalon noted the Jags hadn’t scored a touchdown in their first drive in 24 straight games, they proceeded to take the opening kickoff and go on a 75-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead, raising their anemic third-down percentage in the process.
Best Graphic: Before the game, a CBS graphic showed that the the Bills average 26 points when McCoy and Watkins both play, 18.6 when they don’t. They exceeded the average by McCoy’s two-point conversion. During the game, CBS also had a good graphic that showed how much better the Bills defense usually plays in the second half.
And Chicken Wings Taste Good: Tasker said the Jags “are still in this football game" early in the third quarter, behind by six points. That’s as obvious as saying Bar Bill has great chicken wings. The game wasn’t decided until the final minute.