The highly-anticipated Monday Night Football matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams lived up to the amazing hype and then some. The Rams' 54-51 victory was the third highest scoring game in NFL history and the first game where both teams scored 50 or more points, with young stars Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes displaying their talents in front of 77,000 fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (and millions more at home).
But in what has become a trend this season, ESPN analyst and former Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten was mocked and ridiculed throughout the game by sports reporters and media pundits for his over-enthusiastic and at times awkward analysis alongside veteran play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore and fellow analyst Booger McFarland (who calls the game from an elevated cart on the sideline).
Witten, thrown into the spotlight by ESPN with no prior broadcasting experience, has improved over the course of the season, but at best he remains a work in progress. Last week, Witten was mocked for comparing New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley to O.J. Simpson. And earlier this season, ESPN had to release a statement addressing Witten's claim the NFL had become too "left wing."
Monday night's game was more of the same for Witten, who once again stumbled at times through the broadcast with cliches about how championship teams handle adversity and comments like, "They're going to play to win." He also struggled to pronounce Samson Ebukam's name, which was problematic because the young Rams linebacker had a big game that included a sack, an interception and multiple touchdowns.
There were also several times when the normally chatty broadcast went awkwardly silent, like when a late Rams defense touchdown was overturned. And Witten made odd choices throughout the night, like praising Rams running back Todd Gurley after being tackled for a loss and ignoring a nice defensive play by Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller.
But Witten also had his good moments. At times, the former tight end offered some insightful analysis on the routes both teams' receivers were running throughout the night. And he pulled off a mini-Tony Romo by calling a touchdown catch by Tyreek Hill before Mahomes threw the football (though to be fair, Romo would have called it prior to the snap).
To his credit, Witten owned up to his mistakes and admitted he needed to improve during a conference call with reporters last week. And he's been willing to poke fun at himself, like he did last night when he re-surfaced his "pull a rabbit out of his head" remark that was widely mocked by fans last month.
Witten wasn't the only problem with ESPN's broadcast. The crew repeatedly misidentified that Rams fans in Mexico City (the original location of last night's game) were watching the game at "the Alboa Bar," when in fact it was a Buffalo Wild Wings. And as they've done all season, the network cut to a musical act during halftime instead of continuing to discuss the exciting first half fans had just witnessed.
Witten and ESPN have one more week to tighten things up before coming to Philadelphia to call the Eagles' Monday Night Football match-up against Washington Redskins on Dec. 3.
Here's a round-up of what other sports reporters and media pundits thought about Witten and the entire Monday Night Football crew's performance last night: