Is James Lofton still talking?
A year ago, CBS play-by-play man Andrew Catalon was teamed with former Bill Steve Tasker and Steve Beuerlein as dual analysts.
Now Catalon is teamed with Lofton, who talked as much as two analysts during the Buffalo Bills' 34-14 victory Sunday over the Oakland Raiders.
The Hall of Fame receiver is not going to get into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
His nonstop commentary belabored the obvious and almost made me long for the Wisdom of Solomon Wilcots, who was let go after last season.
It is a good thing for CBS that it doesn't pay Lofton by the word.
Lofton gets a pass from some armchair fans because he is a former Bill. Besides, no analyst could have ruined this victory for Bills fans. But Lofton rarely passes on any opportunity to talk even when he has very little to say.
At one point Sunday, I tweeted "I will stop tweeting if Lofton stops talking."
I reached my limit well before Lofton actually said this about the Raiders chances with the Bills holding a 34-14 lead with about 3 minutes left in the game. "Improbable, but not impossible."
That was actually my thinking about the chance that Lofton would just go quiet for a little while.
If Lofton cuts down on the unnecessary and obvious commentary in future games, it would be easier to appreciate his sense of humor. He does get credit for trying to be clever and entertaining, even if some of his comments leave you shaking your head.
At one point, he noted that Bills back LeSean McCoy found a running hole because the Raider defense reacted to movement elsewhere: "They were like kids going around for Halloween. Any house that has a porch light on, they are going to go up."
That may have been the highlight of his commentary.
Noting several Raider fumbles, Lofton also cracked: “Maybe there’s a spill on aisle 5 and they need a cleanup crew.”
Nice try, but I didn't exactly get it.
Fun aside, it was hard to think of more than one Lofton insight that furthered a viewer's understanding of the game.
Catalon, who does the Bills preseason games, has a good excitement level on big plays and had a decent game. He didn't instantly realize that Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor had jumped for a touchdown that gave the Bills a 27-7 lead before he fumbled, but that was somewhat understandable since it was a bang-bang play. Viewers could clearly see Taylor pointing to an official who ruled it a touchdown as Catalon saw a Raiders stop.
Catalon also mistook Bills receiver Jordan Matthews for Logan Thomas on one key reception, but otherwise kept mistakes to a minimum. He also made the most astute comment of the day when he said Taylor's touchdown "would not have been possible" without an earlier encroachment penalty against the Raiders that brought the Bills inside the Raiders' half-yard line.
As one of my Twitter followers noted in a criticism, I was complaining almost as much as Lofton was talking. So here are some of my complaints, along with some positive thoughts about the coverage.
Trading Places: At game's end, Lofton asked Catalon how good the Bills are. Normally, the play-by-play man asks the analyst that question. "I think they are legit, James," said Catalon. They are 5-2, winning football at home, not turning the ball over and their turnover differential is plus-14."
Where is Khalil? It took a while for CBS to address how the Bills were preventing former University at Buffalo star Khalil Mack from having much of a defensive impact for the Raiders. But it eventually showed replays of Mack being unable to get past Jordan Mills, which may eventually get the Bills' tackle a raise.
"It has been a quiet return to Buffalo for Mack," said Catalon in an understatement. Lofton suggested the rain made it harder for speedier guys like Mack to beat a bigger offensive lineman. I'm not sure if he is right, but at least it was an interesting take. It would have been nice if CBS had also showed some shots of how Bills rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White prevented Oakland star receiver Amari Cooper from having a big game.
Best Line: After CBS posted the collective weak numbers of Bills receivers, Lofton cracked: (Pittsburgh receiver) “Antonio Brown would be mad with those numbers.” So would have Andre Reed, Don Beebe and Lofton back in the day.
Buy or Sell: At halftime with the Bills up by a touchdown, CBS' Boomer Esiason said: "This is the Bills of the '90s. A defense that is flying around. They are making plays. The Buffalo fan base is buying into what Sean McDermott is building up there." I'm not buying yet. Boomer must have a poor memory. The Bills went to four Super Bowls in the 1990s.
Tyrod Love: After Bill Cowher praised Taylor for his poise on the halftime show, Phil Simms accurately said: "I know you like him, but he gets no love." He was referring to what he hears on radio. "Nobody appreciates what he does up in Buffalo," added Simms. "People don't get this guy plays the right way for that football team."
Challenging Remark: Lofton really confused me when he thought Oakland back Jamize Olawale had gotten a first down after fumbling on a fourth-down play but added Bills coaches were wise to alert coach Sean McDermott to challenge the result even if it was going to stand. It might have been good to explain the same player who fumbles can advance a ball on fourth down after he recovers the ball.
Dirty Remark: As CBS showed a Bills sign outside their locker room, "Defend Our Dirt," Catalon noted that McDermott put some dirt into the locker of every Bills to emphasize the team's motto.
It Wasn't Clear as Day: When a Bill might have been out-of-bounds when he recovered a fumble near the sideline, Lofton was coaxed by Catalon to say: "The issue is you can’t see clearly."
Best Commercial: Mack's favorite restaurant, Elmo's, got thousands of dollars of free advertising via a Mack feature on "The NFL Today" and a shout-out by Catalon during the game. I saw Catalon at the Bar Bill in East Aurora last year. The Anchor Bar must be jealous for a change.
Most Frightening Commercial: CBS showed brief clips of Bills players taking some youngsters to Frightworld, which led Catalon to say: "It looked like the players were a little bit more scared than the kids." Noting costumed Raider fans at New Era, Lofton cleverly added: "Every day is Halloween if you are a Raiders fan." It certainly was Sunday.
Miller Time: Didn't the late Van Miller sound great when CBS showed Lofton scoring two touchdowns in the Bills 51-3 victory over the Raiders before their first Super Bowl appearance?
Pregame Report: Someone should tell Esiason that the capacity at New Era Field hasn't been 80,000 in years. It is now under 72,000. Esiason keeps using the figure when he played. Someone should tell Cowher that the Bills running game hadn't been that strong until the last two games. He said it was a strength, which it was in 2016.
And someone should tell the self-deprecating Simms that you don’t have to be a star to be on "Dancing With the Stars." He joked that he wasn't on it because he wasn't a star. I usually only know a few of the supposed stars on that program.
Postgame Report: CBS carried the moving moment that McDermott presented the game ball to Logan Thomas and noted that Thomas and his wife Brandie were grieving the loss of their daughter, who died last week shortly after birth.
Best Summary: After Lofton’s long-winded way of addressing a questionable offensive pass interference call against the Bills' Matthews, Catalon simply said of Oakland cornerback T.J. Carrie: “He slipped.”
Define Short: I doubt all NFL players would agree with this Lofton comment: “Thursday night is not a short week when you win on Sunday.” It is a short week made easier by a victory.
Thursday Preview: On the postgame show, Esiason previewed the Bills next game on Thursday Night Football with the New York Jets by saying: "It is a bigger game than anyone thought it would be. Both teams were supposed to be tanking. Can (the Bills) get to 10 wins? Can they get to 11 wins? I don't want to overreact but you got to love what you are seeing."
Sorry, Boomer. Too late to worry about overreacting, Simms tried to put things in perspective for Bills fans. "Not many easy wins on that schedule," said Simms.
CBS' top team of Jim Nantz and Tony Romo work the Thursday night game, which will be carried by WIVB-TV and the NFL Network. If Bills win and to go 6-2, Bills fans might get to see them again before the year ends. But anyone speculating about whether a Bills late-season game will be flexed on NBC's "Sunday Night Football" schedule may be overreacting. NBC's schedule down the stretch is very strong.