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Alan Pergament: CBS' Eagle, Davis didn't dance around issues surrounding 'discombobulated' Bills

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Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen runs for a touchdown last week.

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The excitement level of CBS play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle is as excellent as his vocabulary.

He had me scurrying for the dictionary to spell a word during the New York Jets’ 20-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills Sunday afternoon.

During the 12-minute break in the action when a SkyCam wire snapped, Eagle said the camera “got all discombobulated.”

That word would best describe the frustrating and confusing play of Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who was his own worst critic as he was a week earlier in a victory over Green Bay on NBC’s "Sunday Night Football.”

Besides his wide vocabulary, Eagle is at his best asking the analysts he works with the right questions, something not all play-by-play announcers do well.

That was on full display during the Jets’ victory, notably when he asked analyst Charles Davis: “Have you seen a more concerted effort to get quick throws” for Jets quarterback Zach Wilson?

“Absolutely,” replied Davis.

At halftime, he asked Davis how the Bills and Jets should feel with Buffalo holding a 14-10 lead. Davis said the Bills should feel “neutral” and the Jets “ecstatic” even though they were trailing.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen talks with the media after the Buffalo Bills' 20-17 loss to the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022.

The Jets were even more “ecstatic” at game’s end when they answered Eagle’s key question of the day: “Can the Jets generate enough offense to stay with the Bills?”

With the help of some risk-taking by Jets coach Robert Saleh, the answer was a resounding “yes” in a game in which the Bills seemed to be outplayed and outcoached. It didn’t help that the Bills also didn’t get some of the 50-50 officiating calls they had gotten in previous games as good teams often do.

In his post-game interview, Allen described his frustration with a sentence that included a word that can’t be used in a family newspaper.

If he thought the second half of the win over Green Bay was “gross,” he likely felt it was even uglier in the Jets game judging by the mild post-game expletive.

How ugly? It was uglier than the behavior in the “Saturday Night Live” skit 12 hours before the game starring guest host Amy Schumer and members of the cast playing mean-spirited, ugly Jets fans giving a pregnant woman, young children and a disabled fan of the Bills Mafia “the business.”

I hate to think of all the gloating that members of the Bills Mafia had to endure at MetLife Stadium after the Jets won a game in which the Bills offense was as lame in the second half as that unfunny “SNL” skit.

By comparison, Eagle and Davis were gentler than the Bills fans tossing their own expletives as Buffalo looked like anything but Super Bowl favorites.

CBS’ No. 2 announcing team addressed most of the key reasons the Bills lost, had a little fun with references to a classic movie and even gave the discombobulated Bills excuses for losing.

The most fun came after one of the rare Bills highlights, an Allen touchdown run that led him to leap into the arms of defensive lineman Jordan Phillips, as he often does.

“Nobody puts Joshie in the corner,” said Davis, playing off a memorable movie line.

“We got some ‘Dirty Dancing,’ ” replied Eagle, delivering the name of the movie.

Before the start of the second half, Eagle delivered another “Dirty Dancing” reference: “(Patrick) Swayze and (Jennifer) Grey have nothing on Phillips and Allen.”

Davis responded with another “Dancing” line, saying before the Jets’ late touchdown by Michael Carter to end a 75-yard drive at the end of the first half, the Bills “looked like they were having the time of their life.”

Eagle and Davis didn’t dance around the Bills’ issues.

As the Jets drove for the game-winning field goal with several consecutive runs, Eagle noted that the Bills defense was missing linebacker Matt Milano and safety Jordan Poyer.

Jets fans probably didn’t like hearing what sounded like an excuse. But Eagle gave the Jets credit at game’s end when he called it a “shocking victory.”

“Everybody is asking, 'Are the Jets for real?' ” noted Eagle.

Then he added the Jets had “a huge divisional win” against the team many believed was the best in the NFL.

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Davis was on the ball concerning the Jets’ conservative offensive strategy and wondering if Jets coaches were going to be “confident” enough in Wilson to make a big throw during the winning fourth-quarter drive before the quarterback hit Denzel Mims for a key third down.

He also gets credit for predicting a possible Allen run on a short third down before the quarterback’s 36-yard touchdown gave the Bills a 14-3 lead in the second quarter. Of course, any Bills fan could have predicted that, too.

The most annoying aspect of the broadcast was the camera work. And I’m not even talking about the SkyCam issue.

CBS was late to get to Allen’s 1-yard touchdown and made it almost impossible to follow the flight of a successful Jets field goal.

The Jets’ key fake punt had a long camera angle and seemed to catch the announcers off-guard more than the Bills, who had personnel ready to defend it even if they didn’t stop the Jets from getting a first down.

It also would have been nice if there had been some camera views of how the Jets’ secondary was able to shut down Bills receiver Gabe Davis, who was supposed to be a significant No. 2 option this season, and Stefon Diggs in the second half.

The Bills loss might not have been shocking as Eagle suggested if you read what “Sunday Night Football” play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico told me before the Bills win over Green Bay in addressing the preseason belief the first part of Buffalo’s schedule was the tough part.

“Here's the thing, right?” warned Tirico. “We thought that. Now when you look, both games against the Jets look a little more difficult than we thought they would. Minnesota looks really tough. The Vikings look very good … You get Chicago and Cincinnati.

“So those games, now that you have seen a good sampling of these teams, they don't look quote, ‘as winnable, as easy’ let's say.”

In other words, if the Bills and their fans are going to have the time of their lives this season, they better avoid being cornered by more surprise teams.

Now on to more highs and lows of the telecast:

Biggest Question: Eagle was quick to note that the quarterback appeared to have injured his arm after being sacked by the Jets’ Bryce Huff near game’s end. Allen did throw an incomplete pass 70 yards downfield after that and the quarterback said he’ll be OK after the game, but it is still concerning.

Graphic Explanation: After a CBS graphic called the game a “New York Showdown,” Eagle may have gotten some love from Western New York fans with this explanation: “You also have New Jersey flavor in there. The Jets are New York in name, but they play in New Jersey.”

His Vision Wasn’t 20-20: Davis gave Allen an excuse after he threw his first interception, saying the quarterback’s vision may have been “obscured” by Jets lineman John Franklin-Myers. Allen confirmed that in his post-game interview.

Bills Jets Football

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson throws a pass.

50-50 Call: Eagle called the play in which Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds appeared to intercept a pass that was instead called a reception by the Jets’ C.J. Uzomah “a 50-50 call.” “The tie goes to the offense,” said Davis. CBS’ officiating expert Gene Steratore said it was probably tough to overturn even if he didn’t seem so sure it was the right call. That was the kind of call the Bills had been getting.

Unfortunate Timing: The military deserves all the attention it gets. Still, it wasn’t ideal for CBS sideline reporter Evan Washburn to interview a Distinguished Service Medal recipient before, during and after a kickoff. He should have been interviewed during a stoppage of play.

Geography Lesson: Davis said the Army man must be a Bills fan because he is a graduate of Norwich University, which he added, “definitely means Western New York, doesn’t it?” He must have been discombobulated; Norwich is in Vermont.

Wacky Remarks: Before the Jets made the decision to kick a first-half field goal, Davis said, “the pressure” from playing against Allen “almost dictates you go for it.” But then after the Jets decided to kick a 53-yard field goal, Davis called it “the right decision” and added “don’t get out of whack until you have to.” It was the right decision since it ended up being the difference in the game.

After Further Review: After one of Wilson’s better passes, Davis said it showed “why he was drafted so high.” Almost immediately, Wilson missed a throw, which led Davis to say it seemed to be “another throw that has to be made.”

On Second Thought: Davis said Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur told him, “the Bills backup safeties are better than you think.”

A New Camera Position: The announcers noted that Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey “changed the camera angle for us,” a reference to his new seating arrangement after his temper tantrum following the loss to Miami went viral.

Frankly, My Dear, It Might Be Time to Shave: Early in the game, Eagle noted that Allen “got that Clark Gable mustache working today.” I suspect the loss might make him consider shaving it off, especially since he now does razor blade commercials.

Challenging Remark: Davis was quick to note that it would be tough for the Jets to win a challenge of a spot on a third-and-one play. It wasn’t overturned.

A Second Look: The Jets were awarded a first down on the following fourth-down play, which led Eagle to say, “a second look gave you a pause there.” It didn’t look like Wilson made it, but the Jets’ lost challenge may have made the Bills reluctant to challenge that spot and it wasn’t clear they had the time to do it anyway.

Sideline Humor: When Wilson threw a pass away, Eagle made a crack about the Jets quarterback’s problems a week earlier when he was intercepted three times by New England. “This time he is going to throw it to the sideline, and it actually made it there.”

Clock Management: The Jets held the ball so long at the start of the third quarter that by the time the Bills got the ball Eagle cracked that Allen “feels like he hasn’t had the football for three hours.” Allen could have used more help from his defense in the second half as the Jets dominated the clock.

Puzzle Solved: Washburn said Jets coach Saleh gave him a “puzzled look” when he was asked how to stop Allen. “We just have to hit him,” said Saleh. 

A Tall Order: As Allen got the ball back with 1:43 left needing a field goal to tie, Eagle called “it a tall order, literally a tall order” for the Jets because of Allen’s height and weight and because he is an “elite NFL quarterback who relishes the moment.” A holding call that negated a long completion, a sack and a long incompletion later and the discombobulated Bills were finished.

In a word, the Bills need to get “healthy” before playing at home against the 7-1 Vikings. There is no dancing around that.

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TV Critic

Alan Pergament has had a variety of roles at The News since 1970, including as a news and sports reporter. He has been the TV columnist since 1982, with more than year off for good behavior. He is a member of the national Television Critics Association.

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