Brady, Pats bounce back, Chiefs and Falcons win

New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead (34) is congratulated by quarterback Tom Brady (12) after his 19-yard touchdown catch against the New Orleans Saints ini the first quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. (USA TODAY Sports)
Updated 18 September 2017
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Brady, Pats bounce back, Chiefs and Falcons win

LOS ANGELES: The New England Patriots’ early-season struggles didn’t last long.
Quarterback Tom Brady threw for 302 of his 447 passing yards in a 30-point first-half burst and the Super Bowl champion Patriots bounced back from a season-opening defeat with a 36-20 rout of the Saints in New Orleans on Sunday.
Brady, who had completed just 16 passes in a 42-27 loss to Kansas City last week, connected on 19 of 25 with three touchdowns in the first half alone.
It was the first time in the 40-year-old superstar’s career that he completed three TD passes in the first quarter.
“We were 0-1, and with the 10-day break, it felt like a year,” Brady said. “It was a good four quarters of great competition. We got off to a good start with some situational things, but we still left some things out there.”
Brady hit Rex Burkhead for a 19-yard TD, connected with Rob Gronkowski on a 53-yard score and threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Chris Hogan.
The Patriots led 30-13 at halftime and handed a Saints team led by prolific quarterback Drew Brees their second defeat in as many games this season.
It wasn’t all good news for New England.
Gronkowski, limited to eight games last season because of injury, appeared to have shaken off the rust as he caught six passes for 116 yards, but he departed the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent groin injury.
Hogan was limping in the second half and receiver Phillip Dorsett left late with a knee injury.
The Patriots’ final three scoring drives ended in field goals by Stephen Gostkowski.
Coming off their big season-opening win over the Patriots, the Chiefs got off to a slow start but came alive in the second half for a 27-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Kareem Hunt got loose for a 53-yard touchdown run with 1:20 left in the third quarter to put the Chiefs up 13-10.
Philadelphia tied the game with 11:57 seconds left in the fourth quarters with a 40-yard field goal from rookie Jake Elliott.
But the Chiefs took the lead for good with a 15-yard TD pass from Alex Smith to tight end Travis Kelce before Hunt plunged over for another touchdown from two yards out.
The Atlanta Falcons, who collapsed spectacularly in the Super Bowl against New England in February, improved to 2-0 with a 34-23 victory over the Green Bay Packers.
In their first game at their $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Falcons built a big lead and made it stand up.
Matt Ryan threw for 252 yards and a touchdown and Devonta Freeman rushed for 84 yards and two short TDs for Atlanta.
Falcons safety Desmond Trufant, who missed the second half of last season, had a 15-yard fumble return for a touchdown and set up another TD with an interception in the rematch of last season’s NFC championship game.
The Arizona Cardinals erased a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to post a 16-13 overtime victory over the Colts in Indianapolis.
Phil Dawson, who missed a potential game-winning field goal from 42 yards on the final play of regulation, booted a 30-yard field goal with 8:02 left in the extra period to win it.
He got the chance after Tyrann Mathieu intercepted Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett at the Indianapolis 22 yard line on the first play of overtime.
In Los Angeles, Kirk Cousins connected on an 11-yard touchdown pass to receiver Ryan Grant with 1:49 to play to lift the Washington Redskins to a 27-20 victory over the Rams.
There was disappointment for Los Angeles’ other team, too, as the Chargers, newly relocated from San Diego, dropped their first home game at the StubHub Center 19-17 to the Miami Dolphins.
Cody Parker kicked four field goals, including a 54-yarder with 65 seconds left, for Miami.
San Diego’s South Korean-born rookie Younghoe Koo missed a 44-yard field goal attempt with nine seconds left.


Giorgio Chiellini confident Juventus can buck recent trend of Supercoppa defeats

Though upbeat, Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini admitted that it will be a “difficult match.” (AN Photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 16 January 2019
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Giorgio Chiellini confident Juventus can buck recent trend of Supercoppa defeats

  • Skipper also happy the match is being played in Jeddah, and sees it as a ‘step forward’ for Saudi Arabia
  • AC Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso sidesteps questions about Gonzalo Higuain’s rumored move to English Premier League

JEDDAH: Juventus have been experiencing a worrying trend in cup finals of late. Despite securing the Serie A and Coppa Italia double for three seasons running, they have lost back-to-back Supercoppas and seven out of nine European cup finals. It’s a trend, however, that captain Giorgio Chiellini believes can be halted on January 16 when his side takes on AC Milan in the Supercoppa Italiana final at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
“We want to change that trend that has seen us lose the last two Supercoppa finals, and this is the ideal opportunity,” said the defender. “We have changed a great deal in two years, but we’ve got to prove ourselves with actions rather than words because we let a few too many of these trophies slip through our fingers and it’s a shame.
“It’s going to be a difficult match but the objective is to start 2019 lifting a trophy above our heads.”
Chiellini also defended the choice of Jeddah as the venue for the game against a backdrop of criticism by some. He said that it was “right” to give the Saudi port city the chance to host the showpiece match.
“I am happy this game is being played here and can be seen as a further reason for progress in this country, and I see it as a step forward and not a problem,” he said. “We (soccer players) cannot change the world but initiatives such as this can provide a new start.
“We have been given a warm welcome and I hope tomorrow can be remembered by the Saudi people as a wonderful celebration. We have to provide a spectacle of Italian football and know that all fans will be happy with our performances.”
As the rival teams faced the media on the eve of the match, both were confident about their chances of lifting the first silverware of the Italian soccer season. This year marks the 31st Supercoppa, a match contested by the previous season’s Serie A domestic league champions and the winners of the Coppa Italia. When a single team wins both honors, as was the case last season, they take on the Coppa Italia runners-up.
This year’s game, the tickets for which reportedly sold out in two days, might also mark a farewell to Italian football for striker Gonzalo Higuain, who is currently on loan to AC Milan from Juventus but is widely rumored to be on the verge of a move to Chelsea in the English Premier League. If the Argentine international is indeed on his way out, he will be hoping to end his stay with the Rossoneri with some silverware while also, perhaps, sticking it to his parent club.

Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso (center) said Higuain has never told him he wants to leave the club. (AN Photo by Huda Bashatah)

Asked about the status of any transfer talks, AC Milan head coach Gennaro Gattuso was careful to avoid feeding the rumor mill.
“At this moment, I have to repeat the same words: there are many rumors but Higuain is training well and working with everyone just fine and is at our disposal,” he said. “I base my decisions on how players train during the week and how they work with the staff and their teammates. We’ll see tomorrow whether he plays or not.
“I want to reiterate that Higuain has never told me he wants to leave. I am waiting for that. He has to decide what to do, how to resolve this issue, but right now he is training with great professionalism. We’ll see.”
Gattuso then nipped this line of questioning in the bud by adding: “I want to be honest; I don’t even want to talk about Higuain as we’re here for the Supercoppa.”
Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri, meanwhile, is well aware that while they are undefeated in Serie A this season after 19 games, with 17 wins and two draws, league form counts for little in a cup final, as evidenced by their recent results in such games. As such, he is keen to avoid any complacency among his players.
“One of the great strengths of this team is our respect for the opposition, otherwise you don’t win as many games as we have,” he said. “There are 22 points separating our teams in Serie A but those don’t matter here. If we do not have great humility and respect for Milan tomorrow, then it’s unlikely we will win the game.”
The prematch press conference inevitably included questions about Cristiano Ronaldo. Since his 112 million euro ($128 million) move to Juventus from Real Madrid last summer, the Portuguese star has netted 15 goals in 25 appearances. On Wednesday, the five-time winner of the Ballon d'Or — an award presented each year by France Football magazine to the player judged to be the best in the world — will aim to lift his maiden trophy with his new club, after having bagged 15 titles during his nine years with the Spanish giants.
While Ronaldo did not appear at the press conference, Allegri was asked whether the striker had arrived in Italy with a stronger and hungrier desire to win.
“He would have to win something first to prove that,” the coach said. “Cristiano is accustomed to winning; he has won four of the past five Champions Leagues and many more titles. Ronaldo is the best player in the world and clearly an added bonus for us. Our situation has certainly improved with his presence.”
Wednesday night’s match is sure to be hotly contested, as Juventus and AC Milan currently share the record for Supercoppa titles, with seven each. While Juventus are making their seventh successive Supercoppa appearance, it is perhaps AC Milan who can lay claim to bragging rights, given that the last time these two teams met in the Supercoppa, in 2016, the Rossoneri ended up on top following a penalty shoot-out after the game ended in a 1-1 draw after extra time. With all the talking officially done, all that remains is a historic night of top quality soccer at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium.