Week 7: Eagle, Wilcots and Week 6
Maybe you heard, but less than a week before they played the Redskins, the Cleveland Browns engineered a shocking, season-changing upset win over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
Oh, what's that, you hadn't heard? Well CBS announcers Ian Eagle and Solomon Wilcots will be happy to tell you about it. Again. And again. And again.
At separate points over the course of Sunday's telecast, we learned, at least twice, how many times the Browns had punted against the Giants (zero). We learned, at least twice, how many yards Derek Anderson had thrown for against the Giants. We learned how their third-string tight end and their Pro Bowl wideout had fared against the Giants (good, and better). We learned about a dream highlight for a Browns cornerback. "Speaking of that Giants game," Eagle began at one point, which was confusing, because I wasn't sure when they had STOPPED speaking about that Giants game. Overall, I counted at least 20 references to the Browns' Monday Night Football win.
Sure, it was a great win on national television against the NFL's best team, but I'm not sure that made the Browns' rollercoaster ride the juiciest storyline of this game. Was it any less shocking that the Redskins, after winning in Dallas and Philadelphia, had stumbled at home against the Rams? Or that Jim Zorn was 4-2 in his first year in charge? More importantly, what point was made with such frequent references to a game most of us had seen ourselves?
As a viewer, I'd prefer fewer references to the Browns' sudden plunge from excellence back to blahness against the Redskins, and more insight into WHY they were making that fall. Was the reintroduction of Kellen Winslow screwing up the offense's timing? Was the play-calling different? Had Anderson's technique suffered? Was last week just a blip of competence? Was the six-day turnaround a factor? The road trip? After the game, the Redskins defenders talked about disrupting Cleveland's attack with aggressive, physical press coverage; how much of an impact did that really have? Instead, we got stuff like this:
"They're squandering opportunities and not being as consistent as they were on Monday night against the Giants," Wilcots said. No, really?
Who Are These Guys?
Eagle has spent 10 years at CBS Sports, most prominently on NFL and March Madness play-by-play duty. He's also worked tennis majors, college track championships, the Army-Navy football game, championship boxing and the NBA playoffs, and has been the television play-by-play announcer for the New Jersey Nets for more than a decade. He also has done a tease for my "Blog Show" segments on Washington Post Live, and has always been spectacularly nice to me. I'm hoping he never sees this.
Wilcots was an NFL defensive back for three teams over six years before moving into broadcasting. He's worked for ESPN and Fox Sports Net, co-hosts an NFL show on Sirius Satellite Radio, writes for NFL.com, is an analyst for the NFL Network, and has been a CBS analyst for seven years.
Story of the Game: Their Version
Wanna guess? Something like this: Are the Browns the team that started 0-3 or the team that crushed the Giants? And, to a lesser extent, are the Redskins the team that won at Dallas and at Philly or the team that lost at home to St. Louis?
More specifically, this was the key issue Wilcots identified in the first quarter: "For Derek Anderson, it's all about rhythm. The way they want to get into a rhythm early in this game [is with] short quick passes, but he has to get early completions so that he can gain more confidence as the game goes on."
Story of the Game: What Really Happened
Well, the Browns clearly were the team that started 0-3, not the team that crushed the Giants. And the broadcast team let us know. "What a 180-degree difference from what we saw on Monday night," Eagle said at the end of the first quarter. "Six days ago this all looked very easy for the Cleveland Browns," Eagle said in the second "The Browns were red hot on Monday, ice cold earlier today," Wilcots said at the start of the third. "This team is struggling to find their fit, struggling to find the confident swagger that they had in that game on Monday night," Wilcots said in the fourth.
Anderson was atrocious, completing 3 of 14 passes in the first half for 17 yards. Even as it was apparent that Anderson was having a horrific game, Wilcots kept talking about finding a way for him to get completions and get into rhythm. His job had been in some danger last week, and Eagle finally mentioned backup Brady Quinn about five minutes into the second half. The quarterback made several completions in the fourth quarter, but if it helped his confidence it didn't show; his last three attempts fell incomplete, which cost Cleveland a chance at a tie.
"Now if the word was rhythm, we didn't see a lot of it in the first half from either one of these offenses, we're beginning to see it here in the third quarter, two minutes to play," Eagle said, but by then they were using it to refer to Washington, the wrong team.
Wait, What Was That?
Three interesting developments, from a local standpoint, were never mentioned.
- Capitals superstar and NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin was shown twice during fan montages, once after the first quarter and once at halftime. But the fact that one of the best athletes in the world was sitting in the stands wearing a goofy hat was never mentioned by the broadcasters, whose producers should have told them of Ovechkin's presence.
- When two drunk fans ran onto the field in the fourth quarter, the cameras stuck with tight shots on coaches and players on the sidelines, but there was no explanation for the delay. Broadcasters don't want to give publicity to such fans, but viewers deserve to know why the action has halted. It's hard to imagine Eagle noting that "two idiot fans just ran onto the field, and one was tackled by Antwaan Randle El," would spawn copycats.
- Three key plays were marred during the broadcast by the hand of an excited fan sitting in front of the camera. Perhaps the broadcast team never saw their feed, but an apology would have been nice for viewers who completely missed the Redskins' second, game-winning touchdown.
- During Cleveland's second goal-line series in the late going, Wilcots brought up the possibility of a back-end play-action pass on third down. The Browns ran the ball, but then went play-action to the back end for a touchdown on fourth down. "We said, 'Watch out for the play action pass,' " Wilcots noted.
- Wilcots, a former DB, correctly noted that Washington cornerback Carlos Rogers is in the midst of his best season in the NFL. This may have been his finest game, and Wilcots praised him several times.
- Both men immediately questioned Romeo Crennel's bizarre decision to pass up an easy field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line late in the fourth quarter. The fourth-down play failed, and Crennel was bailed out only when Clinton Portis fumbled.
- Early on, Wilcots praised Santana Moss's ability to run after the catch, saying that makes him a great West Coast Offense receiver despite his small stature. Moss's game-winning touchdown late in the game came mostly on yards after the catch.
- "Now you have to ask, do you go for two?" Wilcots asked, when the Browns scored a touchdown to draw within five points with less than three minutes left. Going for two there was beyond automatic.
- Browns receiver Joshua Cribbs was identified as a Washington, D.C. native five separate times.
- During Washington's final, late-game possession, Wilcots said we would learn "how much of a riverboat gambler is Jim Zorn." Anyone who's followed this team already knows that the Redskins head coach has boldly gambled in such situations before, and the fact that he didn't on Sunday shouldn't change his reputation.
- Many Redskins fans assumed new signee Shaun Alexander would be the second-string tailback this week. But when Rock Cartwright was the first sub into the game, the announcers were too busy discussing the Browns win over the Giants to note the move.
- Zorn said after the game that he changed his offensive approach after Jason Campbell's early groin injury, but after a few initial words of speculation, the broadcasters never discussed Campbell's health in the second half.
- After Chris Cooley's first catch, Eagle referred to the tight end as "Mr. Popular, Chris Cooley." I'd have preferred a "Captain Chaos" reference.
- After Wilcots called Anderson "D.A.," Eagle noted that the name came from Anderson's high school years. "When he was 17 years old," Eagle explained, "he got a tattoo of his initials on his calf and the nickname stuck." Dude must have had some creative friends.
- Redskins linebacker London Fletcher was described as both a "menace" and a "tackling machine."
Whether it was good defense or bad offense, the first half made for wretched television, and the announcers were slow to break out the gallows humor, although Eagle finally got going in the second quarter.
"I had to remember how to say the term 'first down;' haven't seen many of them in the first half," Eagle said, following that up with "I don't know if you heard yet, no score," a few minutes later. "Well, there's been no 'O' in 'Hog' here today," he said when the cameras found a Hogette in the second half. "Just an offensive juggernaut in that third quarter, we had 10 points," he noted at the start of the fourth. And as the Browns continued to flounder, Eagle took a small shot at Anderson, saying "I keep looking at the numbers, Solomon, thinking that they're going to change."
- "Pressure in the face of the quarterback always helps your defense," said Wilcots, whose expertise is supposed to be on that side of the ball. "A good pass rush and pressure can wreck your passing game," he later noted.
- "Cooley is a slippery player," Wilcots said of the Washington tight end.
- "[He] was not going to let Jason Campbell get up to do his business," Eagle said, when Browns nose tackle Shaun Rogers was hit with a delay of game.
- "I would say right now in the game, they need to not worry, they need to just come on out and play and put all worries aside and let it all hang out," Wilcots said of the Browns. Not while they're doing their business, please.
I'm clearly biased, because I cover the Redskins and have more interest in that franchise than in the Browns. But with many experts agreeing that Washington is one of the five or six top teams in the NFL, with Washington dominating much of the game, and with the secondary -- Wilcots's strong suit -- playing such a pivotal role in the game, the broadcast team missed a chance to explain exactly what Rogers, Fred Smoot, LaRon Landry and Chris Horton were doing to disrupt Cleveland's offense, and to discuss how that good that unit can be this season. By the way, anyone got the score of that Browns-Giants game?
Dan Steinberg blogs about Washington area sports on the D.C. Sports Bog.
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