SkyCam to offer distinct perspective on 'Thursday Night Football'

If not for a dense fog during the Atlanta Falcons-New England Patriots game on Oct. 22, viewers would be seeing a conventional telecast of Thursday's Tennessee Titans-Pittsburgh Steelers game.

The soupy conditions in Foxborough, though, made NBC's sideline cameras useless in the second half. The only alternative was to use the SkyCam camera situated behind the offense.

The unique look intrigued NBC Sunday Night Football producer Fred Gaudelli.

"I was thinking to myself, 'People are going to ask why isn't this camera used more on a live play-by-play basis?'" Gaudelli said.

Further embolden by positive feedback from viewers on social media, Gaudelli and his crew decided it was worth trying again -- this time without the fog. SkyCam will be the primary camera angle for Thursday's game in Pittsburgh, which will air on NBC, NFL Network, and Amazon Prime.

"Whoever said necessity was the mother of invention knew what they were talking about," Gaudelli said. Director Drew Esocoff is excited about the potential for an intentional SkyCam telecast. It is the view used most for replays, he said. Video game players will recognize the angle from the hours spent playing the popular "Madden" NFL video games.

"I think there's an intimacy to it, there is a dynamic component to it," Esocoff said. "I think it's going to be a really fun change-up."

Gaudelli and Esocoff, though, are quick to stress SkyCam won't be the only camera used Thursday night. Viewers will see conventional camera angles prior to the snap of the ball and on third-down plays, which Gaudelli calls "the most important snap in football." Also, the sideline view will be used when teams are within the opponent's 15-yard line. In those instances, it is important to have the exact perspective of where the ball is on the field.

"We want to try to be smart about it and not just say 'Here's SkyCam come hell or high water,'" Gaudelli said. "It's 'Here's SkyCam in the most advantageous places.'"

The pluses of SkyCam will come in illuminating different strategic elements during the telecast. Gaudelli says this game was selected because both Tennessee and Pittsburgh have good offensive lines and their defenses present many different looks at the line that will challenge the respective quarterbacks. Those schemes and the adjustments required aren't as apparent from the conventional sideline shot.

"I think you may have a different appreciation for people and things that aren't always illuminated inside of a telecast," Gaudelli said.

Even with the positive reaction to SkyCam's use in the foggy game, Gaudelli admits there has been a 50-50 split on social media to the announcement that it would be used again in Thursday's game. He says it is understandable that many viewers will prefer the traditional perspective.

Gaudelli and Esocoff also know there could be some potential glitches with the SkyCam angle. For instance, it won't provide the best perspective on long-pass plays. There also could be other issues.

"One thing about sports and one thing about live [TV], you just never know what you're going to get, right?" Gaudelli said.

Nevertheless, Gaudelli believes Thursday's telecast will be a worthy experiment in trying to present a NFL game in a different way.

"Did we make it more fun?" Gaudelli said. "Did we give you an experience that you haven't had before without detracting from the experience you're used to when you watch the NFL? ... I'm hoping that we're going to learn some things that we could use on Sunday Night or any other broadcast in the right situations."

Looking back at Eddie George's career

A Football Life: Eddie George is the latest subject of A Football Life (Friday, 9 p.m. ET, NFL Network). Growing up, George's father introduced him to the game of football, praising physical running backs such as Jim Brown and Walter Payton. Throughout his football career in the NFL and at Ohio State, the Heisman Trophy winner adopted that style of football, proving to be one of the game's toughest running backs.

"There is no way in the world that you are on first contact going to bring down 27," said teammate Brad Hopkins. "The approach in bringing down Eddie George was have one guy get there, slow him down and hope that the homies arrive."

"Butt fumble" retrospective

Epic goof: ESPN is taking advantage of having Rex Ryan as an analyst for this story. Leading up to the fifth anniversary of the infamous Mark Sanchez "Butt Fumble," ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown looks back the memorable play through the eyes of Ryan, then the Jets' head coach, and Patriots safety Steve Gregory, who recovered the fumble and ran it back for a touchdown.

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