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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Nantz, Simms mostly right on during CBS call of Jets-Colts

Quarterback Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts holds

Quarterback Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts holds the Lamar Hunt trophy as he is interviewed by CBS' Jim Nantz after the Colts defeated the Jets, 30-17, to win the AFC Championship Game. (Jan. 24, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty Images

'As smooth and as sweet as custard, Peyton Manning and the Colts patiently figured it out,'' Jim Nantz said Sunday, curiously putting pudding into his AFC Championship Game wrap-up.

Predictably, the choice of words immediately became a source of amusement on the Internet, where the CBS play-by-play man has a reputation for flowery descriptions.

But as peculiar as the custard reference was, it essentially was true. Not only of Manning, but come to think of it, of CBS, too, as Nantz and Phil Simms provided their usual pleasant company.

The duo mostly was steady and prepared during the Jets' final two playoff games, easily outperforming the makeshift team NBC foisted upon us in the wild-card round.

Their most noteworthy failing yesterday was not being more specific in discussing the game's biggest story - the matchup problems in the Jets' secondary, especially after Donald Strickland got hurt.

Network announcers can't delve too deeply into X's and O's, lest they turn off casual fans, but the weaknesses that Manning exploited called for more detailed analysis.

There also were occasions on which Simms, who expressed pointed opinions in the divisional round, seemed to hold back.

For example: Did he think it was a good idea to try a 52-yard field goal, which when missed gave the ball to Manning at his 43-yard line? He drove the Colts from there for the go-ahead touchdown.

The day's coolest media observation came from a guy whose network did not carry the game.

ESPN's Ron Jaworski told me Thursday that the Jets often take a deep shot on the third series, usually to Braylon Edwards. Then he said it early yesterday on "NFL Matchup.''

Sure enough, on the first play of the third series, Mark Sanchez threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Edwards.

SNY and 1050 ESPN took over the postgame heavy lifting after CBS left the air, going deep into the evening.

Unlike after recent victories, SNY did not offer video of Rex Ryan's locker-room address, but it did show Edwards criticizing the Jets' offensive strategy for not being sufficiently aggressive.

Analysts Ray Lucas and Adam Schein promptly ripped Edwards.

(Earlier, Lucas had called the performances of defensive backs Dwight Lowery and Lito Sheppard "a little embarrassing.'')

CBS' uneventful pregame show began with Joe Namath setting the scene - and referring to his Super Bowl III guarantee being made poolside, which despite a common misperception, it wasn't.

Hours later, Nantz and Simms declared the debate over the Colts resting their starters in Week 16 over at last. But in the studio, the argument heated up again.

It wasn't smooth or sweet, and it continued even as the network signed off for the night.

Analyst Shannon Sharpe said if he were a Colt, he'd still be upset about the loss to the Jets a month ago.

The debate will continue for the next two weeks, until CBS returns for Super Bowl XLIV, which could well become the first show since the M*A*S*H finale in 1983 to surpass 100 million viewers.

Now the Jets will be among them.


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