The crazier things get on the field, the more important it is to have calm, steady hands in the broadcast booth and production truck.
So it was for Fox on Sunday night as the narrative of Super Bowl LI did an abrupt flip even more dramatic than the one Lady Gaga did off the roof of NRG Stadium at halftime.
As the Patriots came back from a 25-point deficit to beat the Falcons, 34-28, in the first Super Bowl with an overtime, the team led by announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, producer Richie Zyontz and director Rich Russo kept its collective eye on the ball — figuratively and literally.
The pictures were excellent and the words focused on the drama without falling into the trap of melodrama.
“That was incredible,” Buck said when his fifth Super Bowl alongside Aikman was over.
Said Aikman: “We got to sit here with a front-row seat and watch it. It was an amazing game.”
So it was. But it was more than that. As Buck said late in regulation: “This is just shocking.”
Buck got Twitter stirred up early when he twice confused Patriots receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, but he and Aikman soon settled in, trying to chronicle what the Falcons were doing to dominate.
When Deion Jones stripped the Patriots’ LaGarrette Blount in the second quarter, Buck shared insight from the Patriots coach’s production meeting with the Fox crew.
“Bill Belichick told us this is the best strip team we will face all year,” Buck said.
When Robert Alford intercepted Tom Brady’s pass and returned it 82 yards for a touchdown to give the Falcons a 21-0 lead, Fox offered a memorable image of the shock on Brady’s face and Buck had a dead-on call: “Robert Alford! He’s gone! There are no flags and the Falcons add to their lead. Alford, with a pick-6!”
At halftime, sideline reporter Chris Myers said he asked Belichick how his offense, down 21-3, could get back in the game, and “I got kind of a blank stare.”
It was 28-3 when Fox finally showed Patriots owner Robert Kraft in his box. He did not look that much happier when the Patriots finally scored a touchdown . . . and promptly missed the extra point.
Along the way, Aikman wisely noted that despite trailing, the Pats had run far more plays, and sure enough, the Falcons’ defense started to tire.
It was 28-9. Then 28-12. Then 28-20. Then 28-28. Poof.
It appeared the Falcons would hold on after a spectacular catch by Julio Jones put them within field-goal range with 4:40 left, a play that Fox documented for the ages from multiple angles.
“That’s as good as it gets,” Aikman said.
But it was not good enough for the Falcons to turn into points, and the Patriots got their chance. The highlight of the tying drive was a pass that Alford could have intercepted but instead deflected, allowing Julian Edelman to catch the ball just before it hit the ground.
Inevitably, Buck evoked David Tyree’s catch for the Giants against the Patriots nine years earlier.
James White’s 1-yard run with 57 seconds left led Buck to set up “the biggest two-point attempt in the history of the Patriots’ franchise.” Brady completed a pass to Danny Amendola. “This is a tie game!” Buck said.
Then came White’s game-winning 2-yard run. Said Buck: “Toss to White. Heeeeee’s in! Patriots win the Super Bowl! Brady has his fifth! What a comeback!”
So it was. Fox showed Brady’s wife, Giselle Bundchen, celebrating wildly while taking a selfie video. Brady was seen kneeling, face down, overcome with emotion. Then Belichick came over and gave him a hug.
Commissioner Roger Goodell’s presentation of the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Kraft was barely audible over the boos.
Let’s just say there was a lot going on. Like Brady and his friends on the field, Fox calmly went about its business off the field and got the job done.