Two weeks ago, during the AFC title game, CBS sports analyst Tony Romo’s accuracy predicting plays was celebrated.
During the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history Sunday, it was Romo’s dry humor that kept New England’s 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams entertaining for most of the game.
Romo and play-by-play man Jim Nantz were more entertaining than the game, which actually wasn’t that hard for three quarters.
Of course, Romo was his usual sharp self as he described offensive and defensive schemes and how to attack them.
He noted the Patriots’ winning touchdown drive came by running the same play three times in a row, including the key 29-yard pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski.
He also was as good a referee as CBS’ officiating expert Gene Steratore. He explained a bizarre penalty on Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman early in the game.
And he told Nantz the Rams needed to decline two penalties late in the game because it was the only way to stop the clock and give them a chance to still win before asking Steratore to confirm his explanation. Steratore did.
But it was Romo’s sense of humor that stood out in a game without many plays to get excited about until former Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore’s fourth-quarter interception for the Patriots put New England in control with a 10-3 lead.
A Super Bowl with so little scoring in a high-scoring league needed a sense of humor, which Romo and Nantz happily provided.
The defensive battle was so dull into the fourth quarter you almost wonder if the NFL was being punished for the call that went against the New Orleans Saints that put the Rams in the game.
When CBS kicking expert Jay Feely credited Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein for being hurt “a lot more than people know” after making a long field goal, Romo cracked: “Was that our kicker saying give credit to a kicker for playing through pain?”
When CBS showed the anemic first half passing stats of New England quarterback Tom Brady and Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff, Romo deadpanned, “They are on fire.”
With the first half score, 3-0, Nantz deadpanned that Romo predicted it would be low-scoring.
After Nantz mentioned field goal kickers were 31 for 31 in Atlanta’s dome this season as the Patriots’ Steve Gostkowski lined up to try a 46-yard kick, Romo cracked: ”Did you do it to him again?”
When Gostkowski missed, Nantz ask Romo: “Was that one of your predictions?”
Romo said it wasn’t.
No one could have predicted the first half would be as low scoring or as dull as it turned out to be.
At halftime, studio analyst Boomer Esiason said the big story is “Tom Brady and how horribly he has played.” Goff was even worse.
Romo credited Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, the ex-Bills coach, for confusing Brady in the first half to the point he couldn’t tell when he was facing a zone or man-to-man defense.
Phillips was the star of the first half as far as Romo was concerned, which tells you how exciting the game was to that point.
Before Gilmore’s interception, Nantz said the highlight of the game was a Rams record-breaking punt.
Romo didn’t make any memorable predictions before the Patriots' winning touchdown drive other than suggesting Goff stand in the pocket and deliver a ball downfield before hitting ex-Bill Robert Woods for one of the Rams' few big gains.
Romo astutely described the defenses the quarterbacks were facing and credited New England coach Bill Belichick for confusing Goff. Romo referred to Goff so often as a “young quarterback” that it got old.
Now on to more highs and lows of a game that is bound to be mocked for years to come.
More officiating from Tony: When CBS showed a replay of a hold called against the Rams center that stalled a drive, Romo said: “Not a call I would make.” It was a terrible call.
Opening remark: Asked about the Rams deferring until the second half to get the ball after winning the coin toss, Romo said the strategy was “risky” because the Patriots score so often on their opening drives. The risk paid off when Brady was intercepted on a pass tipped by Robey-Coleman that was intended for ex-Bill Chris Hogan.
MVP talk: Near the end of the low-scoring game, Nantz threw out the names of kickers and punters as potential MVPs. He surprisingly forgot to mention New England receiver Julian Edelman, who the Rams couldn’t stop. Romo said he would pick him as MVP at game’s end. Edelman won it.
Former Bills love: One of the more emotional ads was the one by Verizon playing tribute to first responders that featured former Bills coach Anthony Lynn. The series also included one on former Bills quarterback AJ McCarron.
Worst line for Bills fans: Before Gilmore’s interception, he broke up a pass, prompting Romo to say: “Gilmore is just too good.”
Best ad: I didn’t see many of them because I was writing about the game, but I loved the Google ad about the power of words – including mean-spirited and hurtful ones – that concluded by saying “how are you," "thank you” and “I love you” are the words most often used. Thank you for that Google.
Hopeless cause: Before the game, CBS sideline reporter Evan Washburn tried to get something out of Belichick in a pregame interview. Washburn’s question was longer than Belichick’s answer.
Best line: It was directed at how New England was handling Goff. “This is hard to watch,” Romo said. It could have been directed at the entire game until the fourth quarter.