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CBS' Harlan, Gannon go easy on this scary, made-for-TV Bills movie

I raced home from the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday after seeing nine movies in three days to see the Buffalo Bills get humiliated, 47-3, by the Baltimore Ravens in the season opener.

None of those movies was as scary as the Bills game.

It felt like we’ve seen a version of this Sunday made-for-TV movie before. But CBS analyst Rich Gannon apparently hasn’t.

With the Bills down, 40-0, CBS play-by-play man Kevin Harlan asked Gannon if he had been involved in a game like that.

“If I did, I don’t remember it,” said Gannon. “You don’t see this in our league.”

He is right. Washington's 18-point victory over Arizona was the second biggest rout on Sunday, with most games ending in single-digit wins.

Somehow, I doubt that Gannon would forget a 47-3 pasting.

He was just being nice. Perhaps too nice in the view of Bills fans out for blood after a historically bad opening day performance.

[Read more: Jay Skurski's 10 observations about Sunday's game]

Harlan has one of my favorite voices on play-by-play, while Gannon is a former NFL most valuable player at quarterback with a great knowledge of the game. However, he often states the obvious and accentuates the positive.

Gannon and Harlan could have spent a lot more time saying how pathetic the Bills were Sunday. You’ll have to go to Twitter for that. They chose to praise the Ravens instead of burying the Bills.

It was such a pathetic performance by the Bills that near game’s end that you might have expected an analyst to take some deserved shots at their performance, preparation and coaching.

It was so bad that before halftime Gannon said, “You have to wonder if Sean McDermott would consider making a quarterback change.”

The remark came about 10 minutes after he praised the decision not to start rookie quarterback Josh Allen against this Baltimore defense and instead go with Nathan Peterman.

It was so bad that Harlan started talking near the end of the game about how the Bills would be better next year after all the dead salary cap money is off the books.

“We’re only one week into this thing,” replied Gannon, not ready for talk of next year. “Let’s see what they can do next week.”

With a lot of garbage time, Harlan and Gannon talked a lot about next week’s home opener against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Like any good play-by-play man, Harlan smartly asked the question on the mind of every Bills fans after Peterman struggled badly: Who is going to play quarterback next week?

Gannon predicted it would be Allen, reversing his earlier call about not forcing him to play before he was ready.

“I think you’ve got to play Josh Allen,” said Gannon. “You have to find out about him.”

A few minutes later, he revised that statement by adding the question of whether the Bills are "ready as a football team to play him."

In a way, you couldn’t blame Gannon for the whiplash on the wisdom of whether to play Allen.

[Read more: Vic Carucci on McDermott and the QB decision]

This game offered the kind of offensive performance that made Bills fans realize they have nothing to lose by playing Allen — except perhaps his health and confidence behind this offensive line.

Because of the lopsided nature of the game, Harlan, Gannon and sideline reporter Steve Tasker had a lot to talk about besides the quarterback issue.

Here are some highs and lows of the coverage and other things of note:

Channel 4 Had to Love QB Switch: I suspect many Bills fans changed the channel when the Bills fell behind, 33-0. But Bills Coach Sean McDermott saved Channel 4’s rating by switching to Allen in the second half and giving Bills fans a reason to be interested despite the score.

What’s the Score? After the Ravens’ final touchdown, Harlan said the score was 46-0 before quickly correcting himself and saying it was 46-3. Hey, the Bills worked hard for the field goal that cut the Ravens' lead to 40-3 and avoid a shutout.

Best/Worst Stat: The Bills became the first opponent in Ravens history not to get a first down in the first half. That was best for them, worst for the Bills.

Tasker Brings Energy: On the sidelines, Tasker noted the Bills were energized on the sideline by the switch to Allen. The remark seemed a desperate attempt to say something positive, but who could blame him? After all, he spent all day in the rain.

Disaster Movie: The announcers ignored the fact the Bills prolonged the disaster by calling two timeouts in the last minute. They were behind by 44 points so you might have thought they would be more concerned about preventing Allen from becoming injured. You would have expected the announcers might question the logic of calling timeouts. They didn’t.

Disastrous Predictions: I don’t want to call Channel 4’s pre-game sports team homers. After all, picking NFL games comes with the risk of looking foolish. But Sports Director Josh Reed, backup Nick Filipowski and Thad Brown of Rochester station WROC-TV predicted a Bills victory.

On the national level, CBS’ Phil Simms and Boomer Esiason picked New Orleans to make the Super Bowl before it lost its season-opener to Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Harlan Plays Official: After Bills tackle Dion Dawkins was shown pushing a Raven to the ground, Harlan said “he’s gone." He apparently thought Dawkins was tossed from the game. However, Dawkins was on the sideline and apparently was just taken out of the game by Bills Coach Sean McDermott.

Coach Gannon: Early in the game, Gannon noted that he coached and worked out Ravens’ Maxx Williams when he was a quarterback and he ended up becoming a tight end. We could have used more self-deprecating humor like that in the blowout.

Best Replay: CBS gave viewers an overhead shot of all the covered Bills receivers when Allen was at quarterback. I wish it had given the same view to see whether any Bills were open when Peterman was playing

Best Analysis:  After the Ravens’ Brandon Carr intercepted a Peterman pass, Gannon suggested he sat on an underneath route and beat Bills' Kelvin Benjamin to the ball. Gannon is at his best when describing what happens before the replays confirm what he says. He also was sharp to note that the Ravens’ sat on the Bills short routes when Peterman was in and they played press coverage.

Seeing Red: Gannon praised the Bills new punter Corey Bojorquez, who promptly fumbled a snap, which led to another Ravens’ score. The analyst was sharp to note that the punter’s hands were red from the leather on footballs. By that time, all Bills fans were seeing red.

McDermott Appeared to Be Hot: When the Bills’ Deon Lacey jumped offsides on a Ravens punt and gave Baltimore a first down, the Bills coach seemed to question whether a Raven moved first. CBS showed an inconclusive replay. It would have been nice to see another one.

Odd Decision: After halftime, Tasker noted that Ravens coach John Harbaugh wished he hadn’t gone for two points with a 26-0 lead, but didn’t explain why. You might have expected Gannon to weigh in on the decision, which seemed odd. Did the Ravens really think they needed any more points at that point? The Bills could play the Ravens three times and not score 27 points.

Dangerous Remark: After Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco threw a couple of high passes, Gannon noted that “high throws are dangerous in the rain.” Aren’t they dangerous when the weather is good, too?

Hochuli Needs to Get in the Gym: Early in the game, Harlan noted that the referee, Shawn Hochuli, is the son of retired referee Ed Hochuli, who was known for his powerful physique. Harlan later said Hochuli has his father’s “guns.” It made me question Harlan’s eyes. I thought Shawn needs to get to the gym to protect the family name.

Promo Surprise: Channel 4 is heavily promoting an interview that will run at 6 p.m. Monday that anchor-reporter Dave Greber had with Rep. Chris Collins, who was recently indicted for insider trading. It is hard to believe Collins’ attorney thinks that is a good idea.

Sorry About That Chief: On the CBS pregame show, Bill Cowher said Peterman had a multiple interception game against the Kansas City Chiefs last year. Actually, it was against the Chargers, whom the Bills play next Sunday.

Don’t Overreact? Gannon said it was important for Ravens’ fans not to overreact after this dominating performance. Good luck with giving Bills fans that advice.

Cue the Beatles: At halftime, CBS' Simms said he wasn’t getting support from the rest of the crew and compared himself to Peterman. “I need some help. (Like) Nathan Peterman. I need help.”

You don’t want to overreact, but the season opener makes pessimists think “Help!” should replace “Shout!” as the Bills theme song this season.


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