Predictably, Tony Romo had a broadcast full of opportunities to show off his prognostication skills during his first Super Bowl as a CBS analyst on Sunday.
But the former Dallas Cowboy’s endearing goofiness and self-deprecating nature is what ultimately gave viewers enough to digest during a championship game that was otherwise as compelling as watching Andy Warhol eat a hamburger — a record-low offensive output for the New England Patriots’ 13-3 victory over the Rams.
As the teams went into the fourth quarter with the score tied 3-3, a CBS graphic reinforced to viewers that they were witnessing the lowest-scoring game through three quarters in the Super Bowl’s 53-year history, and the first time the title game was without a touchdown this late.
“Lowest-scoring game for three quarters, first time no touchdowns, blah, blah, blah, no one’s scoring, no one’s moving the ball,” Romo said in response. “But guess what? It’s a tie game in the Super Bowl.”
This postseason narrative of Romo’s prophetic play-calling had a couple of real moments, but none that matched what he did in the AFC title game when it seemed, for a time, that the plays were being called directly into his headset.
In the first quarter when New England’s Stephen Gostkowski lined up for a 46-yard field goal attempt, a CBS graphic noted kickers were 31 of 31 in field goal tries at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium during the regular season. Jim Nantz read the graphic aloud, and Romo jumped on him for jinxing it.
When Gostkowski missed, Romo razzed Nantz even more. Nantz replied: “Is that one of your predictions?”
“No! I’m not predicting,” Romo yelped.
A few plays later, Romo said New England had “to respect the run” that he believed the Rams would try on a third-and-three situation from their 42. Jared Goff’s pass to Robert Woods was knocked away instead.
Maybe the only thing Nantz jinxed was Romo’s microphone.
Not long after, Romo was quiet for a couple of plays before he came back and said: “Well, my mic works again, so I can talk. This works out perfect. I was saying such good stuff on that play earlier, too. It was fantastic.”
Most of Romo’s foreshadowing came on plays involving Patriots receiver Julian Edelman, the game’s most valuable player, as he questioned why the Rams did not double team him more often. The comments most often came setting up key third-down plays, before Tom Brady connected with Edelman, once leading Romo to reply: “They’ve been way too soft on him.”
If we’re talking about too soft, perhaps Nantz and Romo were also that way with Edelman, failing to mention that he was suspended four games this season for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
The veteran Nantz, calling his fifth Super Bowl, might playfully oversell a record-rolling punt by the Rams’ Johnny Hekker. But most of the time he was allowing the rookie Romo’s personalty to shine.
After the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein converted a 53-yard field goal to make it 3-3 with 2 minutes 11 seconds left in the third quarter, Romo nearly shouted: “I can’t believe it! We got points! Three-to-three and it feels like we’ve got a scoring spree going on!”
On the play that essentially ended the Rams’ chances to get back in the game — an interception by the Patriots’ Stephon Gilmore at the New England 3-yard line with 4:17 to play — Romo also screamed: “They went all-out pressure. [New England coach Bill] Belichick waited the whole game to send it. Gilmore wasn’t going to get beat deep.”
After a commercial break, Romo showed on the Telestrator the play from an angle high above and behind Goff. Romo explained how New England rushed both safeties, Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon, yet Rams running back Todd Gurley could block only McCourty, allowing Harmon to pressure Goff.
At a time when we could have predicted Romo might have been bored with all he’d been watching, that proved he was still engaged.
Wolfson delivers under pressure
Along with offering several key updates on Gurley’s erratic participation in the Rams offense, CBS reporter Tracy Wolfson was put into a somewhat dangerous spot after the game, trying to conduct a live interview with Brady in a crush of media.
For several minutes, CBS’ cameras and live mics stayed on Wolfson, and she stayed composed as she finally positioned herself to ask Brady questions.
As for Gurley, Wolfson asked Rams coach Sean McVay about his availability just before the opening kickoff. McVay said Gurley’s “got a good look in his eyes.”
But about halfway through the first quarter, Gurley’s absence necessitated Wolfson to circle back and report that “the Rams just told me there’s nothing to report” on Gurley, despite informing her he would be “heavily involved in the gameplan.”
At halftime, CBS studio analyst Phil Simms referenced Wolfson’s report and could only guess that “he’s not 100%.”