nbc's Tony Dungy problem
Al Michaels’ hopes for a competitive Thursday night game evaporated when the Patriots fumbled around with their timeouts at the end of the first half.
The legendary broadcaster’s disdain for New England’s newfound buffoonery was palpable. For the rest of the night, his calls dripped with scorn and condescension.
With 45 seconds left in the second quarter, Rhamondre Stevenson ran to his left for no gain. The Patriots had two timeouts to spare; but for some reason, they let the click tick down to 34 seconds before calling for one. On the next play, Mac Jones ran a QB sneak for the first down. Since the ball was so close to the line of scrimmage, it seemed like spiking the ball and conserving their last timeout was the obvious call.
Instead, the Patriots immediately called time, stopping the clock at 32 seconds. Michaels’ annoyance was apparent.
“They want to save that timeout. … Well, so much for saving that timeout,” he grumbled.
With no timeouts remaining, Jones predictably panicked, and the Patriots ran three sloppy plays inside Buffalo territory. As Nick Folk set up for a 48-yard field goal, Michaels expounded on his critique of the Patriots’ strategy, with the tone of a disappointed father.
“That timeout strategy was not New England-like,” he said. “We’re so used to seeing such judicious use of timeouts by New England. That was very odd. Letting the clock run for a few extra seconds before they took the timeout, then taking another timeout instead of maybe spiking it.”
The Patriots’ clock mismanagement was so glaring, even Kirk Herbstreit, who struggles to state more than the obvious, chimed in with a salient point. “I thought they would’ve saved that one,” he offered.
But hope wasn’t completed lost. Folk, who’s been nearly automatic over the last three seasons, was setting up a 48-yard field goal. The kick looked good off of his foot, and Michaels assumed the attempt was successful.
“And he boots it through,” said Michaels.
It’s easy to understand why Michaels seems so miserable. He’s arguably the best sports broadcaster ever; and now, he’s stuck calling lackluster games on Amazon Prime. (Then again, Michaels is reportedly earning roughly $1 million per game, so life isn't too rough for him.)
Earlier this week, Michaels complained about TNF’s weak slate, telling the Globe’s Chad Finn the schedule was “a little leaky” early in the season.
Bills-Patriots was one of his best hopes for a competitive affair. “Some games have been better than others. We’re really looking forward to [this game] because it’s a great matchup for us,” he said a couple of days before kick-off.
Unfortunately for Michaels, it didn’t turn out that way. By the fourth quarter, he was mocking the Patriots — and showing little interest in the action.
When Sam Martin came out to punt for the third time, Michaels reminded the audience the Patriots didn’t force a punt in their previous two meetings with Buffalo. “Sam Martin, who had not punted in two games last year against the Patriots, what a workout he’s getting tonight. Three punts,” said Michaels.
It was a good line, except for the fact that Martin wasn’t with the Bills last season.
Michaels couldn’t contain his laughter when he corrected himself. Finally, he had found a moment of levity during a brutal night of football.
As the Patriots floundered, Michaels upped his comedic contempt.
“[Mac] Jones … running from here to Providence,” said Michaels during a particularly horrible play in which Jones ran around in circles before firing an incompletion to Kendrick Bourne.
Viewers could sense Michaels’ misery from Foxborough to Providence, and all around the country.