Week 13: Rosen, Ryan and Myers
In a game key to both Carolina's and Green Bay's playoff chances, you might have expected a good game (if you ignored the Packers' sub-.500 record). But if you were Fox play-by-play man Sam Rosen, you just couldn't wait for the snow to start falling.
Maybe he's itching to get back to hockey, but I really don't think that some late flurries are going to impact the game so much that they need to be mentioned every two minutes. Even when it finally did start to snow in last Sunday's game, it didn't change the way the teams were playing as much as the wind did, which they failed to mention at all until the Packers' final drive of the game in the fourth quarter.
How did the rest of the broadcast go? Read on ...
Why Should We Listen to These Guys?
Because they've seen a lot of games from a lot of angles. Rosen has done hockey for the Rangers since 1984, been on Fox for football since 1997 and also has called NHL All-Star games, Eastern Conference finals and the Stanley Cup finals since 1996. Color commentator Tim Ryan, after his nine years playing on the big stage at USC and then with the Bears in the NFL, has been a part of Trojan broadcasts as well as college bowl games and Super Bowls.
Chris Myers contributed more than your average sideline reporter - for instance, his pre-kickoff report came from beneath the field, in the room that pumps anti-freeze through the field to keep it warm. Who knew that, as Myers said, "The frozen tundra isn't so frozen"?
What They Said Was Going to Happen ...
Ryan went to the old standby: "It's gonna be old-fashioned football. I think it's gonna feature the ground game." And although he tossed a bunch of stats on both sets of running backs into his preview, the only other thing he added was shocking: Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme said it was important to get off to a fast start.
After the first Packers' drive (a three and out), Ryan added that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers would likely roll out of the pocket away from Julius Peppers, since Rodgers likes throwing on the run.
As part of the "early eyes on..." feature, Ryan also pointed out the injuries and dismal run defense for the Packers.
What Actually Happened ...
On the Panthers' first touchdown drive, all but five of their 42 yards came on the ground, including the touchdown. As Ryan was quick to remind viewers during the second Panthers' TD drive, "remember I told you the defensive tackles have to play well," and the Panthers once again ran it all the way in, right through those DTs.
Carolina got off to a hot start on offense and an even hotter start on defense, holding the Packers scoreless in the first quarter. But things changed, and the Packers built up nearly 200 yards of offense in the third quarter alone.
The running game did turn out to be key for both teams, as even the Packers' passing game keyed off numerous play fakes, and, in a rarity in today's NFL, the Panthers actually had more rush attempts than passes (26 to 17). But it was that Packers' passing game that led them all the way back into contention
Need a History Lesson?
Rosen opened the broadcast by describing the Panthers as needing to "overcome the Lambeau Field mystique," but wasn't that lost in 2003 when the Packers lost at home to the Falcons in the wild card round? Or 2005 when they lost to the visiting Vikings in the conference semifinals? Or earlier this year, when they lost to the Giants at Lambeau in the NFC Championship game?
It's Okay to Criticize Players
Jonathan Stewart looked like he relaxed as he broke through for what could have been a second-quarter touchdown run, allowing two Packers to catch him and force a fumble. However, neither Ryan nor Rosen mentioned it. Yes, a fortunate bounce meant the Carolina avoided a squandered big play. But all Rosen and Ryan said, when the cameras showed Stewart on a stationary bike a few minutes later, was that he must have been cramping up.
You Don't Have to Wait for Monday to Second Guess
After the Packers drove 95 yards for a touchdown with 5:17 left in the third quarter, they elected to go for two to try to tie the game, yet rather than commenting on that decision, Ryan chose to talk about the touchdown pass, forcing Rosen to rush to set up the conversion attempt and go to commercial. Ryan even continued talking about the touchdown after the kickoff, ignoring Mike McCarthy's decision to go for two, even though most people would say it was way too early to risk it.
McCarthy's decision paid off, as Rodgers was able to complete the pass to the near side, but the Packers could have lost a lot of momentum if it had not worked.
Making the Game Accessible
The broadcast team quickly addressed issues such as the Packers' changing secondary with Charles Woodson switching over to safety to start the game, so that people watching who might not follow either team too closely would know some of the intricacies of the matchup. In the same vein, when Myers came in with an injury report, he added the importance of the injury to the team and the game plan. For example, when Green Bay safety Nick Collins went down in the first quarter, he not only updated the injury, but also threw in that the coaches said it would affect their planned coverage schemes for Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith.
Unofficial Favre Tally
This was in the good column for a while, with only one passing Brett Favre reference in the first 26 minutes of the game. However, it all went downhill with four minutes left in the second quarter, when Fox ran a pre-produced package comparing Rodgers to Favre based around toughness, including such brilliant comparisons as "they both jump into their linemen's arms." And even though I thought we might make it to halftime at two, they had to give the game recap of the first-ever matchup between the two teams in 1996 with 15 seconds left in the half, noting not only that Favre led the Packers to victory that day, but also that it was the year they won the Super Bowl. Thankfully, we didn't have to hear about Favre again until Rodgers got rocked by a late hit from Peppers, and Ryan compared Rodgers playing through a shoulder injury this season Favre's famed durability.
Useless Stat of the Day
When the Panthers took over with less than two minutes to go, Rosen let us know that Delhomme had 17 career fourth-quarter or overtime game-winning drives. Okay, so what? Did any of them come this season? Were most of them short drives to get into field goal range?
Giving a number of game winning drives for a quarterback that has been around for as long as Delhomme (now in his eighth NFL season) is irrelevant because it has no bearing on what may happen in this game.
The crew made a positive contribution to the viewing experience, but they really could have paid more attention to explaining the things that viewers could see and clearly would want to know more about. It's hard to know everything about every team in the league, and although Ryan, Rosen and Myers started strong by providing information and analysis, they regressed later in the game. Rosen, particularly was a culprit, dominating the time that could have been dedicated to discussing the options the teams could go to down the stretch.
December 5, 2008; 6:15 PM ET
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