The benefit of having CBS analyst Dan Fouts work the Buffalo Bills-New England Patriots game Sunday was to hear the Hall of Fame quarterback assess the play of Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
Fouts didn’t disappoint too often even though he might have been the only one to defend Allen Sunday during the team’s 16-10 loss to the New England Patriots.
“In his defense,” said Fouts in the second quarter, “and I will always defend quarterbacks, receivers just aren’t getting open.”
Fouts’ defense came after he ripped Allen pretty good for bad decisions.
On Allen’s first intercepted pass by the Patriots' Devin McCourty, Fouts probably took the words right out of the mouth of Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
“He’s got to see the weak safety, especially when the weak safety is as talented as Devin McCourtry,” said Fouts.
At another point, Fouts said Allen was trying to make things happen “and it’s not happening.”
After the third interception, Fouts opined “all three of the interceptions look alike, high throws down the field.”
And then there was this comment after one of several Allen overthrows: “I know Josh Allen has a tremendously strong arm. But you have to throw on balance. He threw off his back foot and overthrew John Brown by five yards.”
On balance, Fouts was more than fair to Allen while at the same time pointing out his flaws. If anything, Fouts, who is on CBS’ No. 2 team alongside excellent play-by-play man Ian Eagle, could have been much harder on the quarterback since Allen arguably played his worst game as a Bill.
Fouts had a few questionable moments of his own.
At one point, he argued there should have been a grounding call against the Patriots’ Tom Brady and then proceeded to look at the replay to explain why there shouldn’t have been a grounding call.
But his most head-shaking moment came when he said of the Patriots’ field goal that gave them a 16-10 lead.
“It really doesn’t do them all that much good,” said Fouts.
Uh, it only won the game.
If the Patriots hadn’t taken a six-point lead, the Bills could have tied the game with a field goal and that could have changed coach Sean McDermott’s strategy when he went for a touchdown late in the game on a fourth down play that failed.
That Fouts comment was almost as unintentionally laughable as the intentional moment when Fouts related to New England’s Julian Edelman playing with sore ribs. Fouts said he had broken ribs at one point in his career and had to sit through the team movie – Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles.”
“The campfire (scene) killed me,” said Fouts.
Now on to more highs and low of the telecast:
Read My Hand: The most entertaining discussion between the announcers came when the cameras caught Daboll on the bench gesturing to Allen with hands to his head. Eagle assessed: “That is an animated conversation.” Fouts added to that interpretation: “He’s probably saying something like, ‘use your head.’ ” “You read lips?” asked Eagle. “I can read hands,” replied Fouts.
The Big Hit: Fouts didn’t hold back after the helmet-to-helmet hit by the Patriots' Jonathan Jones that took Allen out of the game and into concussion protocol. “Jones didn’t have to do that. They are trying to coach that out of the game. It is a vicious hit on a defenseless runner.” But there was no discussion on whether Jones should have been tossed from the game, which became a postgame issue.
Concussion Protocol: After a teammate hit Allen on the head after the quarterback sustained a helmet-on-helmet hit, Fouts cracked: “Then a guy comes over and taps him on the helmet. Never quite figured that out.”
Keep Calm and Carry On: As CBS carried video of McDermott talking to Allen, sideline reporter Evan Washburn said the coach was a calming voice.
Best Video: CBS’ cameras showed a few times that Fouts was right and nobody was open when Allen held the ball too long.
Easiest Throw? After Bills backup quarterback Matt Barkley hit Brown for a long completion, Fouts said he made the easiest throw – a go route. It didn’t look that easy to me.
After Really Further Review: CBS’ officiating expert Gene Steratore came back to review the sideline interception in front of Bills receiver Zay Jones a second time and determined it should have been called an incomplete pass because the Patriots player touched Jones when he was out of bounds. “It is a very unique play,” said Steratore. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it in my 20 years in the NFL.”
Officiating Report: All the Bills fans upset at calls during the game might have been surprised at how often the announcers noted the Bills got away with obvious penalties.
The Block: Fouts was quick to note that Edelman – sore ribs and all – had the key block on New England’s 4-yard touchdown run by Brandon Bolden.
Eagle-Eyed Statistic: After the Patriots blocked a punt that led to a touchdown by Matthew Slater, Eagle noted it was the first time in eight years Buffalo had a punt blocked for a touchdown. Then CBS ran a replay that showed that the Bills’ Patrick DiMarco had to block two Pats, which led to the block. There was no mention of the Bills gunners visibly being uncovered, which would have enabled punter Corey Bojorquez to throw a pass to them for a first down or even more though it was fourth down and 14 yards to go.
Say What? Fouts said Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said the Bills drafted Ed Oliver to play against New England. What about the other 14 games?
The GOAT: After Brady’s end zone interception by Micah Hyde, Fouts said: “Even the great ones make mistakes.”
The Longest (Five) Yards: After Allen was sacked late in the first half and Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka had to try a 49-yard field goal rather than a 44-yarder, Fouts noted those five yards might have been the difference as Hauschka’s kick was good until the last five yards. Those three points might have been the difference at game’s end, too.
Wedding Talk: Evan Washburn noted the halftime wedding in which Jim Kelly walked the bride down “the aisle,” enabled Kelly to talk to Allen before the second half.
Quick Adjustment: On the Bills’ only touchdown drive at the start of the second half, Fouts noted Daboll’s adjustment to have Allen get the ball out quicker as he completed six straight passes.
Decisive Call: When McDermott decided to go for it on fourth and inches near the goal line early in the third quarter, Fouts was quick to say, “no question, you go for it.” Allen dove for the touchdown a play after Fouts suggested that be the play.
The Second Guess: On the fourth and one at the goal line with the Bills behind, 16-10, Eagle asked: “What do you do?” “Here’s your answer, three wide receivers coming in,” said Fouts. After the play failed and a commercial, Fouts said: “Three points obviously would have looked pretty good now.” It would have been better if he had an opinion before the play failed.
Confusing Penalty: CBS ran a graphic that said the Pats N’Keal Harry had committed a key penalty when Eagle said it was Slater’s penalty. Harry is on injured reserve.
Whistleblower: When a Patriot ran an obvious intentional Allen completion into the end zone, Fouts asked: “Aren’t the officials supposed to blow their whistles on incomplete passes? I know it is loud here, but whistles are loud, too.”
Buffalove: Eagle called New Era “one of the best pregame stadiums in the NFL.”
Lifesaver: Fouts noted that a holding call against the Bills’ Dion Dawkins “saved the quarterback’s life actually.”
There’s the Rub: Fouts called McDermott’s challenge of a 31-yard New England completion to Josh Gordon that led to the field goal that gave the Patriots a 16-10 lead “definitely worth a challenge” after initially calling it “a good rub.” He changed his mind again after looking at the replay. “(Tight end Matt LaCosse) may have stuck his leg out. He didn’t make contact. (Levi) Wallace did a good job making it look like contact. But he just lost his balance."
The Trap: As CBS quickly went to commercial, Eagle noted a Patriot interception “might have been a trap.” It was, bringing the ball back to the Patriot 1-yard line.
He’s Only Human: The most encouraging moment for Bills fans might have been near game’s end, after Fouts gave the Buffalo defense “a lot of credit,” Eagle said: “Brady has looked human.”
Piling on: After the final Patriot interception of a Barkley pass, Fouts noted: “In his seven-year career, Barkley has never led a game-winning drive.” It was kind of unfair, especially from a guy who defends quarterbacks. Barkley has only started seven games in his career and hasn’t been in position to lead a winning drive too often in seven years.
Closing Statement: This from Eagle before signoff: “We were going to find out what the Buffalo Bills were about. What we learned is Buffalo's defense is the real deal. But the New England Patriots remain undefeated.”