NFL Opening Weekend: Testing ties, ace Aaron Rodgers and brilliant Tom Brady

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The $134 million man — Aaron Rodgers showed exactly why he is worth the biggest deal in NFL history. (AFP)
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Updated 12 September 2018
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NFL Opening Weekend: Testing ties, ace Aaron Rodgers and brilliant Tom Brady

  • Aaron Rodgers showed the Packers exactly what they had missed in the second half of last season with a brilliant showing against the Bears.
  • The Browns finally had something to cheer about, but it was not a win.

LONDON: The greatest sporting show in the US kicked off this weekend. Here Arab News examines the talking points of the first week of NFL action and looks at what we learned.

EVEN AN INJURED RODGERS IS UNSTOPPABLE

The NFL is at its best when its stars are on fire. And one of its biggest, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, produced a masterclass in a pulsating game of gridiron against bitter rivals Chicago Bears. When the Bears’ defense fell on top of Rodgers in the second quarter, Wisconsinites must have feared the worst.  The Packers’ $134 million star man was taken off on a stretcher and the ghosts of last season, when Rodgers’ mid-season injury cost his side a run at the playoffs, threatened to haunt them once again. But the measure of Rodgers’ brilliance was on show in the fourth quarter with the Packers trailing 20-3. He defied the odds to return after treatment and set up a 39-yard touchdown to Geronimo Allison, before driving for a second score to drag Green Bay back into the game. When he picked out Randall Cobb for a game-winning 75-yard catch-and-score, he reminded us why he will always be remembered as one of the game’s legends. Magic stuff.



BUFFALO BILLS BACK TO EARTH WITH A BUMP

The unluckiest team in the NFL (we will never forget 1990-1993) looked like they might have turned a corner last season when they made the Playoffs for the first time in 18 seasons, eventually being hard done by in a 10-3 defeat to Jacksonville. That offered promise for 2018, but this season’s opening day 47-3 defeat to the impressive Baltimore Ravens brought Bills fans back down to Earth with a reality-checking bump. It looks like yet another season of disappointment for fans of New York’s “forgotten franchise.”



AMERICANS HATE A TIED GAME

Cleveland Browns fans are a hardy bunch. You must be to support a team that lost all 16 games in 2017, and only won its first game of the season before in the penultimate game. One win from 32 games over two seasons is tough going. Hope was high that the Browns could finally break the losing streak against the Pittsburgh Steelers on home turf. They did, but only by tying the game. It was a contest that the Browns really should have won, given the number of turnovers they forced, yet somehow they nearly lost it in overtime and had to settle for a share of the spoils. More telling, though, is the consternation from fans around the league who bemoaned the lack of further overtime periods to get an eventual winner. Sometimes, two teams cannot be separated on the day — something lost on the majority of US sport fans.



TOM BRADY COULD CARRY ON FOR YEARS

Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback ever to play the game, showed this weekend why he could probably beat half of the NFL on his own. And for years to come, too. Playing without his big-name wide receivers — Brandon Cooks, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman — the evergreen 41-year-old outclassed Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans, throwing for 277 yards and three touchdowns in the Patriots’ 27-20 win in Foxborough. Having Rob Gronkowski back into the offensive line probably helped, but Brady just seems to get better and better with age. Do not bet against him winning a sixth Super Bowl this season.

 


Pakistan beat Afghanistan in last over finish

Bangladesh's Mahmudullah, right, bats during the one day international cricket match of Asia Cup between Bangladesh and Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (AP)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Pakistan beat Afghanistan in last over finish

  • Hashmatullah Shahidi missed out on a maiden hundred by a mere three runs but still steered Afghanistan to a challenging 257-6

DUBAI: Experienced batsman Shoaib Malik hit a six and a boundary to pull off a sensational last over three wicket win for Pakistan against a spirited Afghanistan in the Asia Cup in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
Malik pulled the second ball of the final over by paceman Aftab Alam over the deep square leg boundary and then whacked the next to deep fine leg for a boundary as Pakistan pulled off a nerve-wracking win in 49.3 overs at Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
Pakistan, cashing a stiff 258-run target, were home and dry to start the Super Four Stage with a much needed win and now face arch rivals India in Dubai on Sunday.
Hashmatullah Shahidi missed out on a maiden hundred by a mere three runs but still steered Afghanistan to a challenging 257-6.
Pakistan were off to a disastrous start when opener Fakhar Zaman was trapped leg-before off the sixth ball of the innings by spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman for nought.
Imam-ul-Haq scored a 104-ball 80 with five boundaries and a six while Babar Azam knocked an attractive 94-ball 66 with four boundaries and a six during their innings repairing the 154-run stand for the second wicket.
But both fell within the space of four runs as spinner Rashid Khan (3-46) brought Afghanistan back in the game with the asking rate getting stiffer, as Pakistan needed 42 off the final five overs.
Despite losing skipper Sarfraz Ahmed (eight), Asif Ali (seven) and Mohammad Nawaz (ten), Malik kept his cool to sop Afghanistan from posting their third straight win after beating Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the first round.
Earlier, Shahidi hit three consecutive boundaries in the final over off Usman Shinwari, but failed to get to three figures off the last delivery after Afghanistan won the toss and batted.
Shahidi finished with a brilliantly-paced 118-ball 97 not out, and added 94 for the fourth wicket with his skipper Asghar Afghan, who smashed five sixes and two fours in his 56-ball 67.
But it was Shahidi who held one end against Pakistan’s bowling in an innings which featured seven boundaries after left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz (3-57) had put the brakes on Afghanistan’s early progress.
Shahidi had added 63 for the third wicket with Rahmat Shah who scored a measured 36.
The total is an improvement by Afghanistan after scoring 249 and 255 in their previous two wins against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Pakistani fielders dropped four catches — three off debutant paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi who finished with 2-38.
India beat Bangladesh by seven wickets in Dubai and now meet Pakistan on Sunday, also in Dubai. Afghanistan and Bangladesh meet in Abu Dhabi on the same day.
Top two teams from the Super Four Stages will play the final in Dubai on September 28.