It’s a good thing I like the Muppets, because there was no escaping them Thursday on the
Ads for their movie, "The Muppets" were all over the screen as sponsor of the NFL Network's "Gameday" show that started at 10 a.m. from Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium. And then, Kermit and the gang were back as sponsor of the pregame show at 8 p.m. Every time I looked at the screen Thursday, I saw a furry, crazed character.
But that’s OK, and not just because the Muppets make me smile. They paid a big part of the cost of bringing viewers a day and night of high-energy, holiday-themed, focused and informed TV football Thursday. In fact, overall, the NFL Network delivered a telecast that was in a league with
Much praise to Rich Eisen,
Sanders was at his ebullient best whether joking in the morning show about his fear of “getting shanked” by
The Eisen-Sanders-Mariucci-Faulk-Irvin crew had a great post-game interview with
If Sanders gets an "A" for enthusiasm, Eisen gets a grade of "A-plus" for stamina. But more importantly, he also sets a smart tone for the shows he hosts without being pretentious.
How many other hosts could have worked a reference to Omar (
Most impressive was the way the producers turned around images and sounds shot for future installments of
The real surprise of the day and night for me was the game coverage featuring Brad Nessler doing play-by-play and Mike Mayock as analyst. From the very first series, Mayock was crisp, clear and confident in explaining the game like no one this side of Chris Collinsworth.
At the start of the game, he zeroed in the matchup the Ravens were forcing with an outside linebacker on
Maybe it was because he agreed with my sense of what I saw on the screen, but I also liked Mayock's willingness to call it like he saw it when it came to penalties – even if he was in disagreement with the referees. He did that on a "blocking from behind" call that went against the Ravens on a first half kickoff.
Mayock constantly delineated what went right and wrong with “point of attack” blocks made and missed on both sides of the line. His explanation and accompanying video of a four-yard loss by the Ravens who had been on the 49ers one yard line in the second quarter was textbook.
And I absolutely loved the way he broke down a running play by the 49ers, saying, “Hey Brad, did that look familiar to you? It’s the old
Indeed it was, right out of
"You got a trapper and a wrapper," Mayock said as the video showed the pulling guards ala Thurston and Kramer.
There were flaws, of course. Mayock and Nessler were shown during the morning show in a canned interview that looked to have been taped the night before with them in parkas in front of a fireplace. It was stupid and lazy to air it with the weather being so fine and warm downtown at M&T. If you are going to go prime time, go all out. Get up and do a live shot that doesn't look like you're in Alaska when the temperature is headed toward 60 degrees in the city you are visiting.
But overall, the producers did a fine job of giving viewers a feel for the Baltimore and the excitement in the city for this prime-time matchup.
Crews went out to venues like the