The magnitude of the Super Bowl can overcome even the most seasoned broadcast team. But the Fox broadcasting crew of play-by-play analyst Joe Buck and color analysts Troy Aikman and Cris Collinsworth rose to the challenge Sunday with entertaining analysis, insights, humor and a willingness to criticize that is largely absent among their peers.
While the often-caustic Collinsworth plays the booth's bad-boy, the one most willing to call out a player or a coach for a mental, physical or strategic lapse (he won Redskins fans' hearts with his ripping of former coach Steve Spurrier), it is the trios often understated restraint and poise that was on display for a global audience Sunday.
Few color analysts are more equipped than Aikman, the three-time Super Bowl champion and Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XXVII in 1993. "You're always wondering how your players will react to the magnitude of the game," Aikman said early on, foreshadowing the jittery first-quarter performance of Donovan McNabb, who threw one interception and who was saved from further disgrace when a penalty and a replay reversed two additional turnovers.
Collinsworth also offered several observations in the early going, which helped put even casual fans into the play on the field. He pointed out that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was using a "molasses count" in which he goes through the snap count at the line of scrimmage twice in an effort to slow down or confuse the defense, and noted how "Brady has a way of manipulating linebackers with his eye movements." And in a reference to Eagles wideout Terrell Owens, Collinsworth said, "I don't care, whenever Donovan (McNabb) looks up and sees T.O. in one-on-one coverage, he's going to go to him."
Play-by-play man Buck proved again why hes one of the best in the game. His sense of humor -- perhaps in doubt after his playoff rebuke of Viking Randy Moss for pretending to moon Green Bay fans -- and his ability to provoke the best from his boothmates were on display throughout. He also came to the defense Eagles receiver Todd Pinkston, who was last seen in these parts shrinking from a freight-train hit from Redskins safety Sean Taylor. Said Buck: "Pinkston has had one critic after another jump on his back. But he's had a good game."
Some of the best moments and critiques from the Fox crew came in the second half, none of which was larger than Aikman's admission that if the Patriots succeeded in winning their third Super Bowl in four years, it would be a "bigger achievement" than when Aikman's Cowboys did the same during the 1990s. In an era when free agency makes it almost impossible to keep a team on top for very long, perhaps New England's effort is indeed superior. But coming from Aikman, the remark showed why he is an exceptional and humble asset. It was the sort of thing that made one wish he would speak up more often during a broadcast.
Collinsworth may have had the final say Sunday, when he accurately pointed out that the Eagles two-minute offense looked like a "disaster." But Buck displayed more empathy for the Eagles fans watching at home when he said that they must be "yelling at the TV for the Eagles to hurry up."
The Fox broadcast itself offered several intriguing moments. One was when microphones picked up the Eagles defense, almost in unison, desperately screaming out screen, screen as the Patriots set up a successful screen pass. Another was the near perfect camera work that followed a McNabb touchdown pass whistling through the fingers of two converging Patriot linebackers in the second half. We wish we could have seen more of the newly unveiled goal-line pylon cam, but alas it was not to be.