CBS’ play-by-play man Ian Eagle and analyst Dan Fouts had such a strong game Sunday in the Buffalo Bills’ 38-24 loss to the Oakland Raiders that the most annoying thing I can criticize is the exaggerated way they pronounced the first name of Raiders star Khalil Mack.
But as it turns out, Eagle reportedly was told by Mack and the Raiders public relations staff to pronounce his first name KAH-leel.
By game’s end, Fouts had a different pronunciation: “A-W-E-S-O-M-E.”
“That word gets tossed around a lot,” Fouts said after Mack’s strip sack and fumble recovery ended the Bills chances in the final four minutes. “But he is awesome.”
The second most annoying thing that CBS’ second team of announcers said also concerned Mack. Eagle said Mack starred at the University of Buffalo, when the school is called the University at Buffalo.
But I’m being nitpicky.
Working their second Bills game this season, Eagle and Fouts were pretty awesome themselves working what became The Khalil Mack Show in the final quarter.
Fouts notices just about everything as an analyst, just as he did as a Hall of Fame quarterback for the San Diego Chargers. He instantly sees penalties before they are called that negate big plays, spots missed open receivers and even notices when a guy dressed as Beetlejuice is scaring people in the stands.
His sense of humor also is an asset, especially for Bills fans who couldn’t quite understand how a surprising 24-9 lead could quickly turn into a devastating 38-24 loss that was far scarier than “Beetlejuice.”
Eagles is as “eagle-eyed” as Fouts said, has a great excitement level on big plays and at game’s end even tried to soothe the hurt many Bills fans may have been feeling.
As the camera focused on a young Bills fan sleeping in the final two minutes, Eagle said: “It’s all right. You’ve earned the nap time. This is a tough one.”
Shortly after that, Eagle noted the Bills “were still alive but probably need to run to run the table (by winning the next four games) to make it happen.”
Playoffs? You’re talking playoffs? I’m sorry. The sleeping kid seemed to be a metaphor for the team’s chances.
Here are more highs and lows from the broadcast:
Most Enthusiastic Call: After Mack’s forced fumble, recovery and sack of Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor early in the fourth quarter, Eagle said: “He is a one-man wrecking crew. He is everywhere.” Fouts added that is considered a hat trick in football. Since Mack earlier hit Taylor's arm to force an interception, I suppose you could say he had the equivalent of a four-goal game.
Mack Was Lee Than Awesome on Bills TD: Fouts noted that the UB star was suckered inside, looking for back Mike Gillislee, on Taylor’s 12-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. And after one of Mack’s big plays, Fouts noted that Bills tackle Jordan Mills had actually done a pretty job on him until then. Taylor’s tendency to hold the ball allowed Mack time to hit the quarterback on the arm in the end zone on the interception.
The Two-Point Solution: Eagle noted when the Raiders closed to within 24-16 by kicking an extra point that many coaches don’t want to go for two points too early. But you might have thought he would have asked Fouts whether the Raiders should have gone for two when they went ahead, 29-24. They went for one point then and two points when they went up 36-24.
Since the Bills didn’t score again, it really didn’t matter when the Raiders went for two. They scored so easily on their two-point try you wonder why they don’t do it all the time.
[Photos: Bills' report card from loss to Raiders]
What’s in a Name? After I tweeted about the pronunciation of Khalil, Paul Peck, UB’s play-by-play man, tweeted: “What’s up with the over-pronunciation of Mack’s first name? Did it change from the way we’ve said it the last 8 years.” In a follow-up tweet, Peck wrote: “He never corrected me after 4 years of saying Ka-leel.” Peck was told by Eagle today that Mack and the team's PR staff advised him of the different pronunciation.
Dr. Fouts: Before the game started, Fouts speculated that Raider quarterback Derek Carr would play the entire game in the shotgun to protect his injured hand because it is easier than going under center. He was right. Fouts also was sharp to see Carr hurt his other hand when he was tackled on a rollout. Carr ultimately made the Bills defense hurt big time anyway.
The New Math? Sideline reporter Evan Washburn said Bills Coach Rex Ryan told him at halftime that “if we keep them to nine points we are going to win.” It was a safe bet since the Bills led, 10-9 at halftime. If Ryan meant if the Bills kept the Raiders to another nine points in the second half, the Bills defense was only off by 20 points.
Soft Coverage: Eagle and Fouts let Bills coaches off the hook and didn’t have any opinion on the soft coverage by the Bills defense before the end of the first half that ended with an Oakland field goal.
Later in the game, Fouts showed that Bills corner Kevon Seymour was beaten on the 37-yard touchdown by Amari Cooper to give the Raiders their first lead because he didn’t realize he had inside linebacker help. But it would have been nice if the analyst had further explained how the Raiders so easily shredded the Bills pass defense in the second half.
The Grass is Greener: Fouts and Eagle spent a lot of time talking about the new sod planted in the middle of the field because it was chewed up the previous week when Oakland defeated Carolina. I’ve never heard so much talk about dirt. But at least Fouts said something funny after he saw that the end zone wasn’t re-sodded.
“They either ran out of money re-sodding or decided 100 yards was enough,” said Fouts. An NFL team running out of money? He added the failure to sod the end zone may have hurt the Raiders’ goal line defense before the Bills scored.
Great Teamwork: After Fouts wondered if Bills receiver Sammy Watkins put his hand up after a third down incompletion to go out of the game, Eagle suggested that Watkins was blaming himself for running the wrong route. That seemed to be accurate. But later in the game after a Taylor overthrow when Watkins was wide open, Eagle noted that the receiver’s body language suggested he seemed frustrated. Who could blame him?
If Only Tyrod Had His Vision: Fouts quickly saw that a holding call on Bills guard Richie Incognito would negate a 20-yard Taylor run and that a 51-yard reception by the Raiders would be negated by an illegal formation.
Judge Fouts: After an Oakland linebacker talked his way out of an obvious late hit on a tackle of Taylor, Fouts cracked: “He may have a future as a lawyer.”
You Don’t Say: After a replay showed that Taylor missed a briefly open Bills receiver Marquise Goodwin in the middle of the end zone, Fouts said: “He does not see a lot of receivers over the middle.” Later in the game, he made a point to note that Taylor had a “rare completion” over the middle to Brandon Tate.
When Taylor didn’t see a wide open Watkins for a potential touchdown, Fouts said: “For some reason, his read took him to the weak side.” It is hard to see any reason to ignore Watkins.
Stranger Things: For comedy relief, a camera spotted a couple of fans wearing shirts with the images of Eagle and Fouts on the front. “That’s a first,” said Eagle. “We’re surrounded by strange people,” replied Fouts.
He is No Longer Underrated: After the 12th straight game that Bills defensive lineman Kyle Williams has been called underrated, it is time for that talk to end.
You Can Say That Again: When the Bills took a 24-9 loss, Eagle noted there “is plenty of time left.”
Maybe He Could Bowl a 300 Game: After Fouts noted that Taylor had completed 9 of 10 passes for 110 yards early in the second quarter, he speculated that the quarterback could hit 300 yards passing for the first time. He was only off by 109 yards.
Michael Jackson Might Have Punted Better: When an official tried to spot one of the poor punts by the Bills’ Colton Schmidt and then retreated backwards to generously give him more yards, Fouts cracked: “He was moonwalking, wasn’t he?”
Bobby Darin Reference: When Eagle noted that Mack knifed through to make a tackle for a loss, Fouts said: “I get it. Mack the Knife.” Bills fans under 40 were undoubtedly shaking their heads.
Jewelry Report: When Eagle noted that Raider receiver Michael Crabtree lost his helmet but kept his earring, Fouts said he “never quite understood wearing jewelry” before smartly adding “I am an old guy.”
Great Scott: CBS pregame analyst Bart Scott, who played for Rex Ryan’s Jets, predicted a Bills win.
Who Would You Rather Have? During the pregame show’s fictional game, “Who Would You Rather Have?” CBS’ Jim Rome picked Raider Coach Jack Del Rio over Rex. I would rather have Derek Carr or Khalil Mack over any Bill and imagine Rex would be a lot better coach if he had them, too. I'd rather have Eagle and Fouts work every Bills game than any CBS team, too.