Not even Tony Romo could salvage Super Bowl LIII. In the lowest scoring Super Bowl to date, the Patriots’ 13-3 outwitting of the Rams garnered a 44.9 rating on TV, the lowest since 2009 (Steelers vs. Cardinals) and a total viewership of 100.7 million.
Throughout the season, NFL executives and network experts pointed to an offensive explosion as a major catalyst for this year’s ratings bounceback. Sunday’s results only support that hypothesis. While the Rams’ nascent fanbase, a bit of Patriots fatigue, and a halftime show that “felt designed to be forgotten” certainly weakened enthusiasm, there’s no doubt that a game closer to last year’s puntless 41-33 battle would have drawn and retained more eyeballs.
Romo, Jim Nantz, and co. did what they could, keeping their call light and loose. Romo’s much-hyped facility for prediction was referenced several times, including after he suggested Nantz jinxed Stephen Gostkowski before the Patriots kicker missed a 46-yarder in the first quarter.
A couple minutes later, Romo pretended to narrate as referees huddled to discuss a delay of game call, something he’s done throughout his two years on the job based on the conversations he overheard for 14 years as a Cowboys quarterback. If he was nervous for his first Super Bowl, it hardly showed. But then again, the stakes never felt paralyzingly high.
Romo’s best bit of telestration came midway through the second quarter when he walked viewers through a chart of the Rams’ first eight possessions. “I’m just circling to let you know: That’s how many punts in the game, because I know not everybody can read all of that,” he joked. “All of them.”
Late in the game, rules analyst Gene Steratore joined the act. With refs coming out to measure New England just inches short of the first-down marker before it kicked the game-sealing field goal, Nantz threw to the former official. “I think we have to go to the index card on this one,” Steratore said, referencing his decision to use a piece of paper to check the spot of the ball in 2017.
That was the rare inside joke on the broadcast, which otherwise considered the viewer who might not see another game until this time next February. While Romo and Nantz applauded Bill Belichick’s stifling game plan, they did not delve too deep into how his defense was matching the Rams’ every move. Producers also invoked the “17-year challenge” to simultaneously highlight the Patriots’ long-lasting dominance and Los Angeles’ relative youth. In the end, Nantz’s climactic call, The dynasty continues! was appropriate if not iconic.
Following a lackluster season finale, Nantz’s defense of himself after Gostkowski’s wayward strike rung true. “Don’t blame the announcer,” he said.