A clean telecast for CBS
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By Neil Best
There is no other network sports analyst as willing as Phil Simms to admit when he is wrong. So it was no surprise when he did it again Sunday night — this time at the most important moment of what likely will be the most-watched event in American sports history.
Moments before Tracy Porter's 74-yard interception return for a touchdown that won Super Bowl XLIV for the Saints, Simms said this: "If I was the New Orleans Saints, I would not blitz him. I would put the extra guys in coverage."
Soon he was saying this: "What was I saying? Don't blitz? Well, they sent everybody."
Not that there was anything wrong with that. He has the self-confidence (and credibility) after six Super Bowls in the TV booth to point out when he gets something wrong.
What was more important was that he followed up Porter's play with deft analysis of what happened, aided by sharp replays, as CBS completed an admirably clean telecast.
Simms and Jim Nantz, working their second Super Bowl together, were their usual pleasant company, and CBS handled the game with its customary low-key, limited bells-and-whistles approach.
Mostly, that's a good thing. But there was one crowd shot I wished CBS had offered a bit earlier. "You can imagine what it's like down in the French Quarter," Nantz said after Porter's score. But only after the game did CBS offer a brief glimpse of Bourbon Street.
"Mardi Gras is about to break out here in Miami," said Nantz, who as an 8-year-old attended the Saints' first game ever at Tulane Stadium in 1967.
Before Porter's punctuation mark, the finest moment for CBS was Nantz's excited but controlled call of the game's most shocking moment: Saints coach Sean Payton opening the second half with an onside kick.
"What a fearless start!" he said after the Saints recovered.
Said Simms: "Unbelievable decision."
Just before halftime, Simms led viewers through a complicated bit of time management by Payton that squeezed out a bonus field goal after the Saints were stopped on fourth-and-goal.
Throughout, CBS' voices mercifully didn't talk too much, and the network's entire game operation gave the sense it appreciated and enjoyed the privilege of presenting the event.
At halftime, studio analysts Bill Cowher, Shannon Sharpe, Dan Marino and Boomer Esiason took turns shouting to be heard over preparations for the halftime show, but each was pointed and serious.
Esiason strongly suggested the Saints "let Drew Brees throw the football."
That proved wise, as he decisively outplayed Peyton Manning down the stretch and secured the MVP trophy, concluding a night on which CBS got what Fox and NBC had the previous two years: another classic Super Bowl.
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