Let me say upfront that I’m not a fan of Phil Simms. I think he’s vastly overrated as a broadcaster and spends far too much energy trying to discount the viewpoints of others instead of providing fresh, honest and opinionated takes on the game.
So I’ll admit to having a bias against Simms.
That said, I think that, given the magnitude of the game, it was one of the worst telecasts Simms and Nantz have ever experienced.
Starting from the end of the game, Nantz finally brought up what many, if not most, hardcore fans were thinking in the final seconds. Baltimore had to take a safety on fourth down with 12 seconds left. But first, neither Simms nor Nantz pointed out that, given the nine-second difference on the play/game clocks, Baltimore called timeout with 12 seconds left when it should have called timeout with 10 seconds left. OK, a very minor point. But who knows, at the time, those two seconds could have ultimately cost Baltimore had punter Sam Koch been instructed to kick the ball from his end zone.
Back to Baltimore’s decision to take the safety. It was an absolute no-brainer. The choice was clear:
If Baltimore punted the ball from its end zone, even a great punt would have allowed Ted Ginn to call for a fair catch near around midfield, allowing San Fran a Hail Mary that could win the game. Or — and Giants fans will support this possibility having witnessed DeSean Jackson’s game-winning 65-yard punt return for a TD as time ran out of the 2010 game — punting to the talented Ginn would have risked a game-winning return.
But if Koch took a safety, and even if the play took only four or five seconds, he could free kick it well past midfield and all Baltimore would need to do was make the tackle and time would run out. Koch did as well as could be expected, helping burn eight seconds, and punted the free kick 61 yards to San Fran’s 19. Ginn returned it 31 yards before being tackled at midfield with no time left.
Yet Nantz caught Simms completely off guard when Nantz finally mentioned the possibility of Baltimore taking the safety. It was obvious that Simms hadn’t considered the idea until Nantz mentioned it. To compound matters, Simms immediately discounted the thought instead of first sorting it out in his mind.
Why pick on these guys? Because they are getting paid enormous salaries to think of game situations such as these.
Earlier, Nantz insisted on blaming San Fran’s second-half flurry on the blackout. But it’s not a logical conclusion. Why does a 34-minute delay automatically favor a Niners team that’s getting their butts handed to them? I understand the concept of momentum. But how does the team that’s playing great suddenly lose all its momentum while the team that’s playing poorly suddenly gains immense momentum after a 34-minute delay?
But it sure was a convenient storyline, wasn’t it? And Nantz ran with it.
More logically, San Fran simply got its act together after the delay. Anyone who had seen San Fran play this season, and especially in these playoffs, knew that it’s almost impossible to knock out San Fran by early in the third quarter. In fact, all you really had to have done was watch the Niners-Falcons game for the conference title, when San Fran came back from a 17-0 deficit inside Atlanta’s loud Georgia Dome, to know that the Niners probably had a run in them.
But according to Nantz, the delay spurred San Fran while hindering Baltimore.
More Simms silliness:
After Joe Flacco’s incompletion on third-and-goal from the 1 early in the fourth quarter, Simms said he thought Baltimore might try two runs to get the yard, insinuating that Baltimore would go for it on fourth down.
The Ravens led by five and had just slowed San Fran’s momentum with a great drive. A field goal would make it an eight-point game, forcing a Niners touchdown and two-point conversion to tie it. There is NO WAY IN THE WORLD that Baltimore would have gone for it on fourth down. I don’t care if the Ravens were a centimeter from the end zone. They would not have chanced coming up empty on the drive, allowing San Fran to regain its momentum, when they could kick a gimme field goal goal to make it an eight-point game with 12:54 left.
Simms and Nantz provided very little insight the entire telecast. For example, San Fran’s comeback was in part due to unveiling wrinkles in the Pistol. The Niners were rather vanilla running the offense in the first half. For the most part, it was Colin Kaepernick handing off to one of his backs on dive plays. In the third quarter, San Fran started to run some neat stuff out of the offense, namely misdirections and counters, that resulted in big gains and left Baltimore’s defense searching for answers.
But there was no mention of San Fran’s adjustments, just one more facet of the game missed by Simms and Nantz.
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