Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are Fox’s top NFL broadcast team for a reason. They’re very good at what they do, delivering game play-by-play and analysis, all while having a casual conversation. Sometimes those conversations take interesting turns and touch on topics the audience was never expecting.
During Saturday’s wild-card broadcast between the Seattle Seahawks and LA Rams, the conversation did just that and when all was said and done, the Fox duo took a swipe at their competitors over at CBS, making fun of rules analyst and former NFL referee Gene Steratore.
Joe Buck and Troy Aikman broadcast Rams-Seahawks playoff matchup
Less than two weeks after meeting during the regular season in a game broadcast on Fox with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, the LA Rams and Seattle Seahawks met in a wild-card matchup in the Pacific Northwest. The Rams expected to rely on their No. 1-ranked NFL defense to carry the load with starting quarterback Jared Goff unavailable after breaking the thumb on his throwing hand in the previous meeting and undergoing surgery with several pins inserted in the days since.
Those plans went out the window in the first quarter when Rams backup quarterback John Wolford was on the receiving end of a hard shot to the head delivered by Seattle safety Jamal Adams. Wolford left the game and was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure. He was released hours later and flew home with the team.
Goff played the rest of the game and played well enough for the Rams to come away with a 30-20 victory and advance to the divisional round.
Joe Buck and Troy Aikman make fun of CBS rules analyst Gene Steratore
Late in the contest, on a third and 4 from the Seattle 43 with just over two minutes to go and LA leading by the eventual final winning margin, Rams running Malcolm Brown took the handoff from Goff and rumbled to the left for four yards, falling right on the 39-yard line, and what appeared to be the line to gain for a first down.
Referee John Hussey called out the chain gang for a measurement, which was very close, and ruled the Rams earned a first down. On that same play, Rams receiver Cooper Kupp appeared to get injured and noticeably limped off the field.
As cameras focused on Kupp on the sideline, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll threw out the challenge flag. Troy Aikman took notice up in the Fox broadcast booth and told his broadcasting partner Joe Buck how the scenario reminded him of one NFL refereeing fiasco from the past.
“Pete Carroll is challenging the spot. He just threw the red flag out there. That was close,” Aikman said of the ball spot and ruling. “I thought they were going to have to bring out an index card to measure that one,” he said with a laugh.
“He’s at CBS,” Joe Buck immediately responded, and Aikman let out an even heftier laugh in the background.
Gene Steratore was referee in charge of infamous ‘index card’ game
Troy Aikman and Joe Buck were referring to one of the strangest scenes in an NFL game that happened back in 2017 during a Sunday Night Football matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the then-Oakland Raiders.
Like the Seattle-LA contest, it was late in the fourth quarter when Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott surged forward on a fourth and 1 play for what appeared to be a Dallas first down. Referee Gene Steratore called out the chain gang, and that’s when things took a bizarre turn.
After taking several glances from the top of the first-down marker looking down on the football, Steratore pulled out a white index card typically used for recording penalties. Folded in half, he tried placing the card between the ball and the marker. It wouldn’t fit. He raised up with a wry smile and ruled a first down.
“This will live in infamy,” Al Michaels said on the telecast.
And it has. Three years later, the close measurement in the Seahawks-Rams game instantly evoked memories of the Steratore-index card event for Troy Aikman. Steratore, who retired after the 2017 season and serving 16 years as an NFL official, has worked for CBS Sports as a rules analyst since the 2018 NFL season.
Steratore has yet to respond but would likely have thrown a flag on Aikman.