This, quite simply, was a blueprint for how a Super Bowl broadcast should be done. With exceptional announcing, timely but restrained use of graphics, and nifty angles on replays, NBC delivered exemplary coverage of Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday.
As usual, analyst Cris Collinsworth wasted few words and offered analysis rich in insight and details.
He made a reasonable argument in suggesting the Giants not score a late touchdown, if it meant leaving too much time on the clock for the Patriots. (Collinsworth preferred the Giants to kick a short field goal after using up more of the game clock.) The Giants appeared to consider that, with Ahmad Bradshaw hesitating at the one-yard line before scoring. And Collinsworth's point proved justified, considering Tom Brady's desperation pass to end the game wasn't that far off from being caught for a winning touchdown.
Collinsworth spotted that the Patriots' defense had 12 men on the field on a key early play, thus negating a Giants fumble.
He paid close attention to line play, noting who made key blocks or who was victimized on sacks.
Al Michaels was typically diligent about disseminating pertinent details quickly after plays, and added flavor to the broadcast with anecdotes and tidbits, such as noting Bill Belichick took his team off the field for 30 minutes during Wednesday's practice to replicate a Super Bowl halftime.
NBC limited graphics largely to meaningful numbers and records, including Eli Manning becoming the first Super Bowl quarterback to complete his first nine passes, and Brady setting a Super Bowl record with 14 consecutive completions (he eventually had 16). The network made prudent use of isolations on replays, one of which showed how Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski was slowed early by an ankle injury.
Nitpicks? Very, very few. Collinsworth said he had never seen the Patriots "quite so unsettled to start a game," when they were trailing 9-0. Collinsworth or Michaels should have noted that New England trailed in its final two regular-season games 17-0 (to Miami) and 21-0 (to Buffalo) before winning both. And when Wes Welker couldn't make a catch, Collinsworth said he makes the play "100 out of 100 times.'' He presumably meant 99 out of 100.
NBC's only real embarrassing moment was singer M.I.A. raising her middle finger during Madonna's halftime performance. NBC apologized.
All networks use their Super Bowl pregame platforms as promotional vehicles for their prime-time lineups, but NBC took that to particularly blatant extremes, to the point of absurdity at times.
NBC aired highlights of a Boston-Washington NHL game — but didn't mention the Boston-Memphis NBA game earlier in the day — simply because the network owns NHL rights but not NBA rights.
We also were "treated" to a London Olympics preview, because, well, the Games are on NBC. No matter that they're still six months away.
But the five-hour pregame marathon, deftly anchored by Bob Costas, had some highlights, most notably Peter King's poignant piece on former Saints player Steve Gleason's battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Barry Jackson covers sports media for the Miami Herald.