Chargers-Broncos: Blowing the Call
With all the excitement surrounding the end of Sunday's Chargers-Broncos game, Playback could not resist a bonus mini-review. Here's panelist Dan Levy on the way CBS team Dick Enberg and Randy Cross handled the final minutes of Sunday's best game:
I have watched a lot of football in my life. I'm not sure I've seen a more exciting ending than the Denver-San Diego game on Sunday. Sure, as a fan of the Broncos my interest in this game was certainly vested, but the last six minutes of this contest were as good as it gets.
Well, unless you listened to the announcers.
The venerable Dick Enberg and longtime CBS color man Randy Cross seemed overmatched by the back-and-forth action of the last few possessions. Let's recap:
A 16-play Denver drive ended with a Jay Cutler interception at the goal line on either third and 3 or third and goal, depending on when you asked Enberg. Enberg and Cross did do a nice job catching the fumble by Chargers defensive back Antoine Cason after his pickoff, but totally missed the big hit Cutler put on Clinton Hart after Hart scooped up the fumble. It's an announcing team prerequisite to highlight any hit on -- or by -- a quarterback isn't it?
The tandem made up for it with a great call of Darren Sproles' 66-yard scamper to give San Diego the 36-31 lead. "Oh my," Enberg classically opined as my heart began to palpitate. San Diego converted the two-point conversion on a pass from Philip Rivers to Legedu Naanee, but if you ask Enberg, I'm pretty sure Nanook Legume caught the pass. I think what I wrote is closer than what Enberg tripped over before laughing through the correct pronunciation.
Finding his team down by seven after leading the entire game, Cutler led the Broncos down the field and into the red zone with precision. Denver got to the 1-yard line before Cutler rolled back to pass and fumbled a ball that was scooped up by the Chargers for what looked to be the end of the game. But the whistle blew. The play was ruled incomplete on the field. Salvation!
But no -- the play was challenged. Clearly, the replay showed that the ball was fumbled. Cross and Enberg went over the replay at least a half-dozen times from every conceivable angle. "It's definitely a fumble," was their verdict. Duh. We all saw that. What we also saw, but Cross was too engulfed in explaining the "empty hand" rule to see for himself, was that referee Ed Hochuli was in the replay waving the play dead. Even if the play was a fumble, which it was, Hochuli had ended the play with his whistle before the Charger picked it up. Broncos ball either way.
Cross totally missed it. He spent the entire replay looking at Cutler's hand, and he didn't explain the situation until after the official did. At that point, we didn't need any further explanation. But we sure got it. Thanks, Randy, for clearing up what we already knew.
Inexplicably, as the game got better, the announcing got worse. Denver had a fourth-and-goal from the San Diego 4 that if not converted, would end the game. When Cutler connected with rookie wide receiver Eddie Royal for a score, Enberg exclaimed, "Overtime!" Denver was still down a point, though -- and there was still time left.
Mike Shanahan showed his mettle by going for two. Cross vehemently disapproved. Of course, Cutler found Royal again, and according to Enberg, the Broncos win. Yes, with 24 seconds remaining in the game and Denver still having to kick off to a man who scored a 103-yard kickoff return earlier in the game, Enberg's call was, "Broncos win!" He excused his mistake on an inability to see the game clock.
Great call, Dick.
The Broncos did hold on for the win, Enberg proving to be as clairvoyant as he was overwhelmed. A great finish to the game. I just wish it was on mute.
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