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Gumbel, Green add to understandable confusion during Bills-Falcons

Veteran CBS play-by-play man Greg Gumbel was confused at some of the key points in the Buffalo Bills' 23-17 upset of the host Atlanta Falcons.

But it was understandable and hard to blame him.

It is a confusing time in the NFL. It remains hard to understand what an incomplete pass or a fumble is these days and it is still challenging to know if challenges will overturn plays.

The Bills got so many controversial calls Sunday you almost wondered if the officials were confused and thought they were the New England Patriots. And that may continue to happen because good teams customarily get more calls and the Bills are in the customary spot of the Patriots atop the AFC East standings.

When CBS showed the standings during the final minutes of the New York Jets overtime win over Jacksonville, former Bills James Lofton, a new CBS analyst, saw through the confusion.

"I remember standings looking like that in the early '90s. Jim Kelly must have had a great CBS day today," cracked Lofton.

Kelly had a better day than Gumbel. I'm generally a fan of the play-by-play man, particularly his excitement level and his feel for the game. But this wasn't one of his better games alongside analyst Trent Green.

However, it is doubtful their occasional confusion ruined anything for Bills fans accustomed to their team's failures since Kelly was tossing passes to Lofton, Andre Reed and running back Thurman Thomas.

Gumbel's worst moment came during the confusing, controversial play in which Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan was ruled to have fumbled on a sequence that resulted in a recovery for a 52-yard touchdown by Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White.

Gumbel initially called the pass incomplete before saying the Bills' Jerry Hughes scored the touchdown when he actually had the strip sack that led to White's score. He quickly corrected himself. White realized you keep playing until the whistle so you'd hope Gumbel would as well. The play-by-play man claimed that referee Terry McAulay was waving his hands on the field, suggesting the pass was incomplete. But there was no CBS replay to show that.

Green was strong on challenges. Even when he was wrong, you could see his point of view. If Channel 2 ran one of its silly unscientific polls like the one that suggested 70 percent of Bills fans were less likely to watch or attend their games because of the protests during the National Anthem before the Bronco game, I bet 90 percent of Bills fans would have thought Ryan was throwing a forward pass and the fumble would have been reversed.

CBS was much better than usual in identifying key injuries to Falcon receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, thanks to sideline reporter Jamie Erdahl.

Here are more highs and lows of a game coverage:

Ratings Time: The game had a 36.8 rating on WIVB-TV (Channel 4), the local CBS affiliate. That was almost identical to the 36.9 rating for the Bills upset of Denver the week earlier. Sunday's game started with a 30.9 rating, grew to a 37.1 shortly after halftime and finished with a 41.5.

The game was so exciting that it certainly would have tested the will of any Bills fans who said they would avoid watching it because of the protests during the National Anthem. The rating Sunday was lower than the 39.7 rating for the Bills' fourth game last year. But that game was a a victory over New England when quarterback Tom Brady was serving a suspension.

Taylor Made: Green said the Bills offense under coordinator Rick Dennison is tailor-made for the Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor because it features roll-outs and tries to get him outside the pocket. The funny thing is some local talk show hosts said in preseason the offense wasn't a good fit for Taylor. Dennison clearly has made some adjustments.

Tyrod's Progress: On the touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews, Green, who played quarterback in the NFL for 15 years and owns a Super Bowl ring, noted that the receiver was Taylor's third progression. You don't hear that often. That was Green's most interesting comment.

Kicking Tyrod: After Tyrod missed a wide open Zay Jones, Green opined "Tyrod will be kicking himself on that one." That's the kind of soft criticism that Green displays. Bills fans most likely were kicking Taylor, too, even though that was one of his few mistakes in the game.

Green also gently criticized Taylor for throwing the ball on the wrong side of Matthews on a catch to the 1-yard line that led to a field goal rather than a TD.

Positively Shocking: Green was "shocked" by the White touchdown and thought Ryan clearly was throwing a forward pass after looking at a slo-motion replay. The NFL saw it differently, perhaps because slo-mo changed the look. NBC's Tony Dungy said before the Sunday Night Football game that the controversial fumble was a good call and added a later Micah Hyde interception had to stand because it was too difficult to overturn.

Green was pretty good predicting the outcome of challenges, smartly noting that there is a difference between confirming them and allowing them to stand.

Gumbel on the Money: The announcer noted the Bills offensive line "is pretty much having its way" against the Falcons before a field goal led to a Bills 17-10 lead. The line was dominating so much you wonder why Bills Coach Sean McDermott didn't go for it on a fourth and goal from the Falcon 1-yard line rather than take a penalty and kick a short field goal.

Vic Carucci's Take Five: Bills beat Falcons by not trying to play beat the clock

"The Bold One": Gumbel called McDermott's decision to try a 55-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka to get a six-point lead in the fourth quarter was a "bold" one. It was -- if you're a conservative coach. That was probably the only time McDermott would have been called bold after previously playing it so conservatively on a fourth down at the Falcons 1-yard line and kicking a field goal and after getting the ball back in good field position with a 20-17 lead.

And how bold was it really when Hauschka had been 10 for 10 beyond the 50-yard line? Gumbel said he would have punted the ball inside the Falcons' 10-yard line and have Atlanta need to drive 90 yards. The only problem with that was the Falcons didn't need to go 90 yards to get a touchdown if the Bills didn't kick the field goal to go up six points. They probably needed 55-60 yards to get a tying field goal.

Three up, three down following Buffalo's upset victory in Atlanta

The Boring One: In talking to Erdahl as the first half ended, McDermott showed he is the Top 5 or 10 of worst halftime interviews. The boring, brief interview was a waste of time. But Bills fans can appreciate boring with a 3-1 record.

Debatable Moment: Gumbel also was late in realizing the Bills were going to try a 56-yard field by Hauschka that gave them a 20-17 lead. CBS was so slow to tell viewers the Bills were trying the field goal that there was no time for Gumbel to ask Green his thoughts. It was worthy of debate.

The Julio Effect: Gumbel did a good job getting Green involved, asking what the loss of Jones would mean to the Falcons offense. Green explained that when Jones plays, it opens up the field for other receivers. On a subsequent Bills interception, Green noted that Ryan is used to throwing to 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-4 receivers and a later intercepted Ryan pass was to a 5-foot-9 receiver who was outjumped for the ball.

Wisdom of the Promo: Anyone who is on Twitter learned that a Falcon fumble was overturned while CBS was running a promo for its new tech series, "Wisdom of the Crowd." Now that's funny.

Wisdom of the Coach: Green noted that McDermott was closer to a 39-yard Falcon catch on the sideline than the official was before the coach decided to challenge the catch. Green thought it was inconclusive and the catch would stand. He was right.

Graphic Mistake: At one point, a CBS graphic showed Jabrill Peppers playing safety for the Bills. He is on the Cleveland Browns.

After Further Review: With Carolina beating New England and the Jets beating Jacksonville, the Bills season-opening win over the Jets and their second-week loss to Carolina look a lot better today.

Error Jordan: Green isn't a very critical analyst, but he noted that Bills tackle Jordan Mills had two terrible plays on the Bills' first drive of the second half when he was beaten for a sack and on a subsequent running play.

Scenes from before the Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons football game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017.

Follow Thurman on Twitter: Former Bill Thurman Thomas noticed that Julio Jones was injured well before CBS did.

Stadium Fascination: CBS seemed even more obsessed with the Falcons shiny new stadium than it is about the Anchor Bar when the Bills play in Buffalo.

Playing It Safe: When the Bills decided to punt rather than try a 57-yard field, call, Green said "interesting call." That's an example of the analyst generally playing it pretty safe. The call was more interesting after Hauschka boomed 56 and 55 yard field goals. Apparently McDermott knew his range up to the yard.

Anthem Report: CBS played the National Anthem during the pregame program, with the cameras focusing on players on both teams who stood, the six Bills who kneeled, crowd shots of fans with their hands over their hearts and a very brief shot of the American flag on a huge scoreboard as some fans were milling around a concourse rather than stand at attention.

Early on, Erdahl noted that Bills back McCoy was not one of six Bills kneeling, but didn't say why that was relevant. More amazingly, at game's end, the Bills seemed relevant in the NFL conversation for one of the few times since Jim Kelly played.


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