Wednesday , October 4 2023

Top-notch performance from CBS’ Harlan, Green

If the Buffalo Bills’ 38-10 domination of the Las Vegas Raiders Sunday afternoon wasn’t enough for Bills fans to be happy about, there was the added bonus of listening to CBS wordsmith Kevin Harlan on play-by-play.

According to Harlan, Bills back Damien Harris “corkscrewed” to the 1-yard line, tight end Dalton Kincaid was “slippery” as he bounced off tacklers and receiver Gabe Davis “lassoed” one of quarterback Josh Allen’s passes.

Best of all, Harlan gave some Western New Yorkers a history lesson late in the game after an aerial shot of a Buffalo lighthouse at the mouth of the Buffalo River where it meets Lake Erie.

Harlan explained it is called the Buffalo Main Light and stands 60 feet tall.

“That’s how Josh Allen feels,” added Harlan. “Standing tall.”

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It was his way of saying what CBS analyst Trent Green said throughout the game, that Allen had done a 180 from his four-turnover performance in a 22-16 loss to the New York Jets on “Monday Night Football.”

Green was as sharp as Allen throughout, documenting the Bills conservative offensive game plan that saw the Bills quarterback hit his first 11 passes for a combined 58 yards.


Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen throws a pass against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half of an NFL game at Highmark stadium on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023.

At the time, Allen tied a personal record, though Green was quick to note that the last time he likely threw for more than 58 yards.

“He has been very protective of the football,” said Green.

Allen eventually hit his first 13 passes and finished 31 of 37 with two touchdowns and no interceptions, prompting Green to say he played conservative but still had a couple of Allen moments.

A former Pro Bowl quarterback who has a Super Bowl ring, Green was sharp explaining the Bills ability to exploit the Raiders’ zone defense with short passes and noting the Raiders didn’t blitz Allen a lot.

It was the second time in six days that Bills fans heard a quality broadcast.

ESPN’s Joe Buck and Troy Aikman had a strong game Monday night as well. They documented Allen’s second-half struggles against the Jets, though they were gentler in their criticism of Allen than the national media was after that game.

Buck’s call of the Jets’ winning touchdown on a punt return by rookie Xavier Gipson in overtime was exciting – especially if you were a Jets fan – and he sharply noted that he saw no penalty flags well before the touchdown.


Buffalo Bills receiver Stefon Diggs is interfered with by Las Vegas Raiders defender Nate Hobbs during the first half of an NFL game at Highmark stadium on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. 

ESPN rules expert John Parry quickly said there should have been a penalty for a trip of the Bills’ Quintin Morris that sprung Gipson for the touchdown. The NFL subsequently agreed and fined the Jets’ Chazz Surratt $4,833 for the trip.

Within six days, Allen and the Bills have shown the highs and lows of the NFL.

Which brings me to the highs and lows of Sunday’s telecast:

The Cowboy Hats: During a promo for CBS’ decision to show reruns of “Yellowstone” on Sunday nights, the cameras looked around Highmark Stadium to find all the cowboy hats in the stands. One fan was wearing an Allen jersey from his college days playing at Wyoming, nicknamed the Cowboys.

Cowboy Love: After Allen tried one of his trademark leaps over a former Wyoming teammate, Marcus Epps, near the goal line, Green noted that Epps appeared to take it easy on the flying quarterback by not slamming him to the ground. Before CBS signed off, the cameras spotted Allen and Epps sharing a postgame moment.

What Were They Discussing? CBS’ cameras also captured an unusually long postgame moment between Raiders coach Josh McDaniels and Bills coach Sean McDermott. McDaniels may have trained with New England coach Bill Belichick as his offensive coordinator, but he certainly didn’t learn Belichick’s quick goodbye postgame routine after games.

Dorsey Animation: Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, who was famously caught having a fit after a Bills loss, was shown excitedly celebrating a couple of big offensive moments Sunday.

Passing the Patience Test: Green noted that the Raiders were “testing the patience of Josh Allen” with their zone defense. “He’s been patient,” said Green.

“Missed Opportunity”: As well as Allen played, Green noted that he missed a wide open Stefon Diggs in the end zone after the Raiders dropped coverage on a failed fourth down pass to tight end Dawson Knox.

Where’s Gene? If there was one big play in a 28-point loss to lament for the Raiders, it was the call that negated a long completion to the Raiders’ Tre Tucker at the sideline and also calling off what appeared to be a pass interference call against Christian Benford. Harlan said CBS’ rules expert Gene Steratore agreed there was “no PI” but it would have been nice to have Steratore explain why.

That’s Bull: Harlan quickly corrected himself after erroneously saying that the Raiders’ defensive end Malcolm Koonce was a former Buffalo Bison. He explained that Koonce was a former Bull, having played for the University at Buffalo.

Block Party: Green alertly praised Bills tackle Dion Dawkins and tight end Dalton Kincaid for blocks on the Latavius Murray touchdown.

Digging It: Green couldn’t understand why Raiders defensive back Nate Hobbs was complaining about a pass interference that gave the Bills the ball inside the 5-yard line. He noted Hobbs was interfering with Diggs for 10 yards.

Taking a Stand: I liked Green taking a stand on McDermott’s first decision to go for it on fourth down near the goal line. It didn’t work that time, but it did the next time.

Best Ears: Before an Allen completion to Kincaid, Green overheard the quarterback telling the rookie “you with me, you with me” to alert him. That was quite a feat for Green to hear over 70,000 fans.

The X Factor: Where’s Maxx? Raiders star defensive end Maxx Crosby was so little a factor that you had to wonder why. Then CBS showed a replay of oft-maligned Bills tackle Spencer Brown getting help via a chip from Kincaid on keeping Crosby in check. Crosby did get through to pressure Allen on a pass that was intercepted after being tipped. But it was overturned by a Raiders penalty.

The Master: After one of Allen’s rollout pass completions, Harlan called the quarterback “the master of releasing the ball close to the sideline.”

The Sack Heard Around the World: That’s what Harlan called the sack of the Jets’ Aaron Rodgers by the Bills’ Leonard Floyd that led to Rodgers’ torn Achilles and the Jets having to go with Zach Wilson. Wilson threw three interceptions in a loss to Dallas Sunday.

Isn’t Losing a Team Statistic? At game’s end, Harlan noted that, “after a Josh Allen loss, the Bills are 19-5.” Allen admitted he was responsible for the Jets loss. But it might have been better to say the Bills are 19-5 after a loss with Allen as quarterback.

Buffalove: Near game’s end, Harlan noted “this is more than a football team for this community. This is a way of life.” And life got better in six days for Bills fans.

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