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Super Bowl Coverage Has Debatable Moments

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 31:  NBC game analy...

Cris Collinsworth


If the entire game Sunday had been as exciting and as strange as the last five minutes, the sports nation would be debating today if the New York Giants’ 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots was the greatest Super Bowl in history.

Analyst Cris Collinsworth assuredly riled some Buffalo fans when he brought up kicker Scott Norwood’s Super Bowl miss 20 years ago when it appeared the Giants might need a big kick in the final minutes. But let’s face it, many of us were thinking the same thing. And Collinsworth was all over the game strategy of both teams in this offensively-challenged game.

Play-by-play man Al Michaels did his usual solid job and NBC’s cameras had all the angles on the game’s biggest plays.

But there were plenty of moments in the game — starting with the opening kickoff — that cried out for more debate.

You could say the Patriots’ decision to pull a Chan Gailey and defer the kickoff cost them the game. The Giants’ opening drive stalled, but a punt pinned the Pats back near their end zone. Then Pats quarterback Tom Brady was penalized for grounding when throwing a deep pass down the middle of the field from the end zone, which cost a safety that gave the Giants a 2-0 lead. The announcers were a little slow to realize it was going to be a safety.

According to some ESPN analysts, the safety call was debatable because Brady might have been throwing to a receiver who cut off his pattern earlier.

That safety could be viewed as the difference in the game. If it hadn’t been called and everything else had stayed the same, the Giants would have been trailing, 17-13, in the final minutes instead of 17-15 and would have needed a touchdown to win.

In that case, New England Coach Bill Belichick would not have given up Ahmad Bradshaw’s touchdown run in order to give Brady time to win the game. And even if the Giants had scored a touchdown, their lead would have only been 20-17, and Brady would have only needed a field goal to tie and send the game in overtime if enough time remained when he got the ball back.

Belichick’s decision to let the Giants’ score cried out for some debate. Collinsworth predicted it and suggested that the Giant coaches had told Bradshaw not to score. But in an ESPN interview after the game, Giant Coach Tom Coughlin indicated they hadn’t told Bradshaw to stop at the 1-yard line and he added no field goal from any distance under those conditions is a gimme.

There were several other strategic moments in the game that cried out for more debate, including a couple of times when the teams played it conservatively and punted when they might have considered going for it on fourth down. If Brady hadn’t missed on a couple of fourth quarter passes, the Giants might not have seen the ball in the final minutes and they might have been nine points down if they did.

Collinsworth thought one of those Brady passes to sure-handed receiver Wes Welker should have been caught. The analyst said Welker made that catch “100 out of 100 times.” That was highly debatable because he did have to turn to find the ball, but Welker probably should have caught it.

While NBC analyst Rodney Harrison – a former Brady teammate – was accepting praise for saying that he thought Giants quarterback Eli Manning was more reliable than Brady in the fourth quarter, that comment only proved accurate because of Welker’s drop and an amazing sideline catch by Giant receiver Mario Manningham during the Giants’ winning fourth-quarter drive. You could debate whether the game result was more about the receivers than the quarterbacks. After all, it appeared that Patriot tight end Rob Gronkowski of Amherst – one of Brady’s favorite receivers – wasn’t himself because of his ankle injury even if he denied it after the game.

Of course, there were plenty of off-the-field moments to debate today.

It all starts with Madonna, whose over-the-top halftime performance got mixed reviews on Twitter. There is no debating that the staging was fantastic. A couple of times it appeared that Madonna might fall, but you had to admire her energy level at age 53. As amazing as the theatrics were, after awhile I closed my eyes and said a prayer that Madonna wouldn’t hurt herself.

Then there was the debate over the commercials. I was impressed by Channel 2’s optimistic civic-pride promo to the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Better Days” even if the Buffalo Sabres used that song as its anthem a few seasons ago. Similarly, the optimistic national ad for Chrysler narrated by a raspy-voiced Clint Eastwood was effective.

The Jerry Seinfeld and Matthew Broderick humorous short films might have made more of an impact if I hadn’t seen the car ads repeatedly for days before the game. I did enjoy the nostalgic Budweiser ads cheering the end of prohibition and a couple of ads featuring dogs (including the Doritos and VW ads). But overall, I thought many of the over-the-top ads were dogs considering the expense.

If I were working at NBC Sports, I’d be debating a few things about its coverage. The cameras were too quick to cut away from the post-game, emotional embrace of coaches Coughlin and Belichick, two disciples of Bill Parcells. After all, Belichick isn’t exactly known for showing his emotions or any human traits for that manner.

NBC also owns a cable sports network now, called the NBC Sports Network. It seemed to be in an awful hurry after the game to cut off the post-game report to get to the season premiere of “The Voice.” OK, I’ll accept that. But why not move its post-game coverage over to cable? After all, ABC moves its post-game coverage of NBA Finals games to ESPN since both networks are owned by Disney.

In case you missed it, Channel 2 announced Sunday in its newscast after the game that it will carry MSG’s coverage of the Buffalo Sabres game with Tampa Bay Lightning at 7 p.m. Saturday. The announcement came after another update about the cable dispute between MSG and Time Warner Cable that is keeping the games off of local cable.


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4 responses to "Super Bowl Coverage Has Debatable Moments"

  1. Doug says:

    Play-by-play man Al Michaels did his usual solid job and NBC’s cameras had all the angles on the game’s biggest plays.
    This may be true, but I noticed that as soon as Victor Cruz scored his TD he started to do his famous salsa dance – At that exact predictable moment the camera cut away to a close up of the back of Mannings jersey.

    I read articles about how hard they were preparing to cover the game. So why are they looking for a reaction from a boring QB known for being reserved, while the player who scored is doing his dance live!

    We shouldnt have had to wait to see it on replay. Bad work.

  2. Mark Scott says:

    I don’t think there should have been much debate about the opening kick off. I remember hearing Michaels and Collinsworth explaining that Belichick has been deferring for several years now. The fact is the Patriots defense held the Giants on the opening drive. An outstanding punt by the Giants and then the questionable intentional grounding call led to the two-point safety, not the decision to defer. In fact, I would argue that strategy worked. The Patriots scored on their last drive of the first half and then the opening drive of the second half. They were in a commanding position after that second score and should have used that to put the Giants away. But the Pats defense just couldn’t contain the Giants and allowed them back in the game.

    Indeed, those two points proved critical in the game’s outcome. But again, I don’t think the safety was a direct result of Belichick’s decision to defer.

    As a die-hard Bruce Springsteen fan, every half-time show since Bruce’s appearance a few years ago doesn’t make the grade for me. Like you, Alan, all of us at our Super Bowl party were worried Madonna was going to hurt herself. We caught a couple of stumbles on her part. And just what was she trying to do with her legs and those male dancers at one point? I think the NFL should stop tapping old acts and go with today’s entertainers. I’m no fan of Lady Gaga, but she certainly would have been preferable to the aging Madonna. Springsteen still has it at 62. But Madonna is certainly yesterday’s news.

    We were traveling home from our party after the hardware was awarded to the Giants. So, I didn’t see the quick wrap-up to NBC’s post-game show. I had assumed the NBC Sports Network would have taken over the post-game coverage. They didn’t? That’s not the way you build a brand to challenge ESPN. Costas and company should have gone on for at least an hour on their cable network. I’m sure ESPN was all over the post-game coverage. NBC could have given their new network a tremendous shot in the arm by encouraging football fans to check out the continuing coverage on the NBC Sports Network while everyone else was sticking with “The Voice.” Sometimes, I don’t get the decision-making of network executives!

    • alanp says:

      Thanks Mark. Who is to say that Brady wouldn’t have driven ther Pats to a touchdown on the opening drive and changed the entire complexion of the game. When your offensive is your strength, it is worth debating whether you should take the ball. I’m saying.

      • Mark Scott says:

        I must have too much time on my hands, Alan. I’m now engaging in sports analysis. As if we don’t already have too much of that! LOL!

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