As predicted, the Buffalo Bills’ 26-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Fox affiliate WUTV was the highest-rated 2018 preseason game and the highest-rated TV event of the summer.
The game, which featured rookie quarterback Josh Allen’s first start, had a preliminary rating of 25.7, almost two points higher than the Bills win over Cleveland carried on WKBW-TV (Channel 7) in prime time more than a week earlier.
It was the second-highest rated preseason game since meters came to Buffalo in 2000. According to WIVB-TV researcher Bob Gallivan, the only Bills preseason game with a higher rating since then was the New York Giants' 17-13 win over the Bills in the Hall of Fame game carried by NBC on Aug. 3, 2014. That game had a 26.4 rating.
The rating Sunday hit a high of 27.9 from 6:15 p.m. through 6:30 p.m. when Nathan Peterman was at quarterback.
As far as the Fox broadcast itself, play-by-play man Kevin Burkhardt started off by suggesting bizarrely “when you’re in Buffalo, you are going to have a little barbecue.” Say what? Maybe he meant barbecue wings?
Then he noted that sideline reporter Pam Oliver, who spent two years at WIVB-TV (Channel 4), is “the hard-hitting journalist” of the crew who asked Bills coach Sean McDermott to look into her “beautiful eyes – and they are beautiful” — to answer whether Allen has already won the starting quarterback job.
Analyst Charles Davis seemed to simultaneously add “that they are beautiful” before Oliver waved them off and said, “OK, all right.”
OK, they were having fun. But I wouldn’t have blamed Oliver if she had said “I’ve spent years building up my credibility and you’re talking about my eyes. Really?”
Thankfully, Burkhardt and Davis were much better when they were focused on the field.
I do like Burkhardt’s voice. I have never seen his eyes.
Now more highs and lows of the broadcast:
Davis Sees the Future on Quarterbacks: Davis said a few times that McDermott has a choice between starting Allen or going with a veteran like AJ McCarron over Peterman. McCarron is still injured and his advantage as a veteran seems rather thin. Peterman’s strong performance and quick decision-making against Bengal second-teamers also was discounted in that assessment, as did the facts that Peterman has had one more training camp with the Bills than McCarron and McDermott loves him.
Dr. Davis: Davis was quick to suggest Allen would go into early stages of concussion protocol after his head hit the field on his next to last play of the first half. Dean Blandino, the Fox officiating analyst who used to be the head of officials in the NFL, agreed. When Allen went into the protocol after one more play, Davis said that was the way the safety measure is supposed to work. Allen was cleared at the start of the second half. McDermott has bigger headaches than Allen – the offensive line being chief among them.
Challenging Moments: When Allen appeared to scramble for a first down before going out of bounds near the first-down marker, Blandino thought the Bills should have challenged the spot and David questioned why the Bills rushed to punt. Good questions. The replay seemed to indicate Allen had a first down.
Robotic Announcers: Near game’s end, the crew started talking about robots, which prompted Davis to say: “Can you tell we are in preseason? We are talking about a robot.”
Sound Check: After the New Era Field crowd started booing after another three-and-out series married by poor offensive line protection, Davis said, “I don’t believe they are booing Josh Allen. I think they are booing the lack of protection.” Agreed. But on SportsCenter late at night, ESPN unfairly concluded Allen was being booed. Davis wasn’t critical of Allen, saying “he has hung in there” despite the protection issues.
More Preseason Choices: Oliver interviewed Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton during the Bills only touchdown drive under Peterman. That most likely wouldn’t have happened during the regular season or if Pegula Sports and Entertainment produced the game for WKBW-TV (Channel 7). Thankfully, subsequent interviews simultaneously showed the player and the action.
Buffalolove: Fox did a good job telling the Buffalo loves Dalton story, though it would have been nice if it allowed the TV audience to see more of the pre-game greeting for the quarterback who got the Bills in the playoffs last year.
More Buffalove: Bills veteran and family man Kyle Williams made a good subtle pitch to future potential free agents by saying nobody in the NFL wants to come to Buffalo and nobody wants to leave after they’ve been here. Maybe that will help them eventually add another decent offensive lineman.