Ian Ea­gle’s play-by-play car­ries the day for CBS

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS INSIDER - David Zu­rawik david.zu­rawik@balt­sun.com

Be­sides see­ing the Ravens beat the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers, one of the plea­sures of Sun­day’s CBS tele­cast was the con­fi­dent, steady and smooth work of play-by-play an­nouncer Ian Ea­gle.

He’s now the point manon the No. 2 CBS broad­cast team, and he is cer­tain to have a long ca­reer ahead of him as a top dog some­where if his chance doesn’t come soon at CBS.

Am I bi­ased? If so, it is only be­cause he is such a no-drama pro­fes­sional in a world of hot­dogs, empty-headed deep voices and ex-jocks who think their play­ing ca­reers guar­an­teed them a schol­ar­ship for the rest of their lives in the broad­cast booth.

Ea­gle is a su­perb ta­ble-set­ter, and he showed that skill from the minute the CBS cam­eras started broad­cast­ing from M&T Bank Sta­dium on Sun­day.

“Twenty days ago, Ben Roeth­lis­berger had surgery for a torn menis­cus, and here he is start­ing for Pitts­burgh,” Ea­gle said open­ing the pregame tele­cast.

At first, I was think­ing, “Here we go again, it’s all about Ben. How long be­fore they start af­fec­tion­ately re­fer­ring to him as Big Ben?”

But that was Baltimore bias: “Oh, poor us, the na­tional an­nounc­ers al­ways fa­vor the other team, blah, blah.”

After re­flec­tion, I had to ac­knowl­edge that Roeth­lis­berger’s re­turn was the story at the start of the game, and the fact that he played so hor­ri­bly in the first half was more im­por­tant than any­thing else in Baltimore es­tab­lish­ing its lead. Not that Ea­gle’s set-up was per­fect. He piv­oted from Roeth­lis­berger to the Steel­ers’ de­fen­sive woes by say­ing, “De­fen­sively, the num­bers are an eye-scratcher?” Huh? I’m guess­ing he meant to say head­scratcher. Though the num­bers are bad, I don’t think any­one wants to scratch their eyes out over them.

But that’s a slip of the lip and a blip of the brain. Try talk­ing live for two hours or so as your av­er­age NFL play-by-play an­nouncer does, and see how many strange things come out of your mouth. That’s the only “mis­take” I heard Sun­day out of him dur­ing the tele­cast.

Per­haps the best tes­ta­ment to Ea­gle’s skill is that he was not work­ing with his nor­mal an­a­lyst part­ner, and he still made the tele­cast seem mostly seam­less. Dan Fouts was do­ing the San Diego game this week, a CBS Sports pub­li­cist told The Sun via email, be­cause the for­mer quar­ter­back was “be­ing hon­ored at half­time with other Charg­ers Hall of Famers.”

So, Rich Gan­non was the an­a­lyst along­side Ea­gle. And I’m not say­ing it was all the re­sult of Ea­gle’s work, but I can’t re­mem­ber Gan­non sound­ing bet­ter. The two fed off each other nicely all af­ter­noon.

In the open­ing, when Ea­gle turned to prob­lem ar­eas for the Ravens in his setup, he went straight to Joe Flacco. After ac­knowl­edg­ing Flacco’s Su­per Bowl cre­den­tials, he went on to say, “But he has not played at the level they ex­pected this year.”

And with that, Gan­non picked up the ball with video show­ing a third-down play where the safeties had moved up al­most to the line of scrim­mage well be­fore the snap.

After ex­plain­ing how a quar­ter­back who is locked in might ef­fec­tively re­spond to that, the film showed Flacco call­ing a sim­ple hand­off into the line that was stuffed for a loss.

“Joe Flacco has got to play bet­ter in order for the Ravens to get it turned around on of­fense,” he said.

In his “Tools of the Game” seg­ment, Gan­non pointed to the need for the Ravens to use Mike Wal­lace to “stretch the field.”

A short time later, Wal­lace stretched it for a 95-yard touch­down re­cep­tion — most of it gained on his run away from the de­fend­ers.

Ob­vi­ous? Maybe. But it was nice to see these two re­spon­si­bly call­ing Flacco out for his level of play in some of the Ravens’ re­cent losses.

And while I am talk­ing about this broad­cast crew, let me not for­get Evan Wash­burn. He had a strong in­ter­view with Steel­ers coach Mike Tom­lin at half­time to go along with a solid set-up on Roeth­lis­berger’s in­jury at the top of the tele­cast.

In the end, the good play-by-play an­nounc­ers get you to trust them. You hear their voices, and you set­tle in to the tele­cast will­ing to fol­low the nar­ra­tives they lay down and fo­cus on the facts they high­light.

I did that with Ea­gle on Sun­day, and he didn’t dis­ap­point.

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