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Volume 24 No. 155
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Patriots-Panthers Delivers Second-Best "MNF" Overnight For '13 Season To Date

ESPN earned an 11.2 overnight for last night’s Patriots-Panthers “MNF” telecast, up 20% from a 9.3 rating for Bears-49ers in Week 11 last year. That figure marks the net’s second-best “MNF” overnight this season, behind only an 11.6 rating for the Week 1 Eagles-Redskins matchup. In Charlotte, last night’s game earned a 37.8 local rating (17.5 on ESPN, 20.3 on WSOC-ABC). In Boston, the game earned a 36.1 local rating (12.0 rating on ESPN, 24.1 rating on WCVB-ABC). The top markets were rounded out by Providence (25.9), Greensboro-Winston-Salem (22.9) and New Orleans (18.9) (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).

RULES ARE RULES: Former NFL ref Gerry Austin, who serves as a rules analyst for ESPN, appeared on-air last night to explain of final play of last night's game in which the officials waved off a penalty against the Panthers for pass interference in the end zone. His comments drew heavy criticism on Twitter. NESN's Dale Arnold wrote, "Epic fail by @espn trotting out Gerry Austin for that bogus explanation of an obvious blown call. So any receiver can be tackled?" The Austin American-Statesman's Cedric Golden wrote, "It's one thing to swallow your whistle but to pick up the flag? Gerry Austin is a Hall of Fame ref but that explanation made no sense." Fox' Joel Klatt: "Hey Gerry Austin that excuse was even worse than the no call...protect your buddies at the expense of your credibility!. ... Does any other football fan feel a bit cheated? And why in the world was Gerry Austin in the booth speaking nonsense?" The AP's Tim Reynolds: "Gerry Austin has also confirmed that Maradona did nothing wrong on the Hand of God goal." Writer Joe Posnanski: "Next week, Gerry Austin on how Goldfinger was just trying to prank James Bond" (, 11/19). Austin was profiled by the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER's Mark Washburn prior to last night's game. Austin indicated that as he is situated in the broadcast booth, he will give announcers Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden a "thumbs up for a good call, thumbs down for a bad one and open hands for an I-Don't-Know." Austin: "Sometimes I'll give Jon a thumbs up on what I think is a good call, and he'll mouth to me, 'Are you kidding?'" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 11/16).

QUARTERBACK CLUB? ESPN's Ray Lewis decided to put his money where his mouth is last night while talking about the controversial hit 49ers LB Ahmad Brooks put on Saints QB Drew Brees on Sunday. Brooks was penalized for hitting Brees in the head, and Lewis said, "This is the most embarrassing call in the National Football League since the tuck rule and Tom Brady. I’m serious. I’ve just never seen this type of insult to defenders. ... When you look at the hit, Ahmad Brooks took the hit and hit him exactly where he was supposed to hit him. Drew Brees’ neck slid down to that man's arm." Lewis added, "If they fine this kid, if they go on record and they fine this kid, Ahmad Brooks, I’m going to do something personally. I’m going to pay ... half of this kid’s fine." Meanwhile, ESPN's Trent Dilfer said of the NFL's emphasis on safety precautions, "This product is a worse product because they're being hyper-sensitive to this billion-dollar issue. The thing is you’re not protecting Drew Brees from a concussion. You're protecting him from a cut lip." He added, "The quarterback has become the brand, it's become the league. But it doesn't mean you protect them this much" ("Monday Night Countdown," ESPN, 11/18).

: In Chicago, Lewis Lazare reported WBBM-CBS' broadcast of Ravens-Bears "began shortly after noon with a strong 29.2 rating," but when play stopped because of severe weather, ratings "sunk to a low of 18.5." When the game resumed around 3:00pm CT, the ratings "quickly shot back up into the 30's and peaked just before 5 p.m. at a whopping 36.4 -- nearly five hours after the first play of the game." Ratings on Chicago's other local TV stations "struggled to get to a 5.0 for a mix of stuff that aired opposite the marathon Bears game" (, 11/18). In Baltimore, Ryan Sharrow noted WJZ-CBS' broadcast of the first half-hour of the game prior to the delay drew a 26.9 local rating. After the game resumed, the rating grew to a 33.5 (, 11/18).

READY AGAIN FOR PRIME TIME: The NFL yesterday announced that it would keep Giants-Redskins as NBC's "SNF" matchup on Dec. 1 (NFL). In N.Y., Ralph Vacchiano noted there "had been speculation -- and even a report -- that the Giants' struggles would cause that game to get bumped to the afternoon." But now that the Giants have won four straight games to "nearly erase their 0-6 start and climb back in the NFC East, the NFL and NBC decided it's once again an attractive matchup" (, 11/18).

MUSCLE FLEXING: SPORTS ON EARTH's Colin McGowan wrote the "good news is the NFL is apparently taking steps to broadcast better games to non-DirecTV-having plebes." McGowan cited ESPN’s Adam Schefter as saying that the NFL is "planning to cross-flex games next season." That means the league will have the "authority to move more enticing match-ups from the 1 p.m. local time slot into the national one at 4:25 p.m., across networks if they need to." Discussions about the issue are "still fluid." McGowan: "One hopes that [Commissioner] Roger Goodell and company are also mulling over whether or not flex scheduling should begin sooner than Week 11." The NFL "doesn’t get much credit for being progressive," but it is the first major sports league to "acknowledge that schedule-setters aren’t prescient and put in place a counter-measure that allows the league to tweak the broadcast schedule in order to give national audiences more attractive games." But there is "no practical reason why the league couldn’t shift certain games into the 4:25 p.m. or Sunday Night Football slots in Week 8 or, hell, Week 3 if they really wanted to" (, 11/18). ESPN's Mike Greenberg said, "I’m not saying I think it’s a bad idea. But then don’t come ask me why they are having trouble putting people in the stadium.” Greenberg: “They are doing it because it will make them more money from the television markets. But even beyond that, there are probably more people who will now get to watch a better game across the country then there are people affected by this, but there are people adversely affected by this” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 11/19).