When CBS last televised the Super Bowl two years ago, the highly anticipated matchup between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams ended up being a dud.
The Patriots’ 13-3 victory was the lowest-scoring game in Super Bowl history and in the opinion of CBS play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz, “maybe one of the least memorable Super Bowls, ever.”
But no one’s expecting anything of the sort this time around. In fact, Super Bowl 55 in Tampa between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be “one of the great matchups in sports history,” says lead analyst Tony Romo.
SUPER BOWL 55:It’s The GOAT vs. The Kid
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There’s no doubt the game on Feb. 7 will be unlike any other Super Bowl in many ways due to the precautions related to COVID-19. There will be no on-field Media Day. The Chiefs won’t even come to town until a couple days before the game. And the seats at Raymond James Stadium will only be filled to roughly one-third of its capacity.
Still in keeping with Super Bowl tradition, CBS is planning to pull out all the stops technically. Coordinating producer Jim Rikhoff says the network will deploy a total of 120 cameras for the broadcast — including a dozen 4K and 8K cameras to provide enhanced close-ups, and a Trolley Cam, which will move back and forth on a zipline at speeds of up to 65 mph.
“The innovation,” Nantz says, “blows my mind.”
What makes this year’s game so compelling for both Nantz and Romo as they call their second Super Bowl together is the classic quarterback matchup between six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady of the Buccaneers and defending champ Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs.
On a Zoom call with reporters on Thursday, Romo struggled to find the right comparison. A meeting of chess grand masters. Perhaps a golf duel between prime Jack Nicklaus and young Tiger Woods.
“Could you imagine if Michael Jordan had gotten his team to the (NBA) Finals when he was older against a young LeBron James?” Romo mused. “It would be the greatest thing in the history of sports.
“I think we actually might have that game.”
Nantz has a much wider perspective, having called marquee events such as the Masters, the NCAA Final Four and five previous Super Bowls. Yet his sense of history is particularly acute when it comes to Brady’s legacy.
Two years ago when the Patriots won it all, the broadcast team made sure to put the game in its proper context.
“We felt pretty good about the fact that probably we had done – we felt like it was a foregone conclusion – Tom Brady’s last Super Bowl,” Nantz said.
Last year, he and Romo again reflected on Brady’s career after the Patriots lost to Tennessee in the AFC wild-card game. “We thought that this was probably it,” Nantz remembered. “Now we’re going back to the Super Bowl, and here he is again. So he’s given us a lot to talk about.
“If anyone out there has any superlatives that haven’t been used yet, you know how to get in touch with me. My reservoir is bone dry.”
Romo, however, was not at a loss for words in describing what a win could do for Mahomes’ legacy, saying he’s the one person who could potentially surpass Brady as the greatest quarterback of all time.
“There’s a chance for Patrick Mahomes if you’re playing this game, if you get close to climbing that ladder, this game could push you over the top when it’s all said and done,” Romo said. “(If) you beat him. In the Super Bowl. Head to head.
“This is the biggest game Patrick Mahomes will ever play in for the rest of his career,” Romo says. “He has to win this game. If he loses this game, he cannot catch Tom Brady, in my opinion.”
If Brady and Mahomes play their best, the CBS crew with Nantz and Romo in the booth and reporter Tracy Wolfson on the sidelines could very well have a classic on their hands.
“When we’ve had Brady games in these four years with Tony, these are his best games because there’s something to be said for watching film for 20 years,” Nantz says. “There are very few people — credit to my teammate here — who see things the way Tony can see them. Tom can see them. Tony sees what Tom sees.
“He’s one of the very few, maybe the only guy, that can actually know what’s going on in Tom Brady’s head in those situations when he’s looking at defenses and looking at schemes.”
When the two teams met during the regular season — a game the Chiefs won 27-24 in Week 12 — Romo predicted on-air that they would meet again in the Super Bowl. Before they face off for the Lombardi Trophy, Romo made an even bolder statement.
“This game is bigger than people realize,” Romo said. “20, 30, 40, 50 years from now, this is the game people are going to go back to.”
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