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.

 


Mickey Arthur calls on Pakistan to prove India defeat was one-off

Updated 20 September 2018
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Mickey Arthur calls on Pakistan to prove India defeat was one-off

  • Pakistan coach wants improved performance when side next face big rivals India on Sunday in the UAE.
  • Asia Cup now down to Super Four stage.

LONDON: Mickey Arthur is confident Pakistan can bounce back from their big defeat against India in Dubai on Wednesday.
Arthur’s side lost by eight wickets to their arch-rivals in the final clash of the group stage at the Asia Cup, taking place in the UAE.
It came less than 24 hours after India struggled to beat Hong Kong, but Rohit Sharma’s side hit the disappointment of that performance for six to easily beat Pakistan.
Despite the defeat Arthur is sure his side can turn things around in the Super Four stage and go all the way and win the tournament.
“Whenever we go head-to-head with India, I am comfortable that we’ve got a dressing room of players who can stand up to it,” the Pakistan coach said.
“I am comfortable we’ve got a dressing room of players who, on any given day, can win. So I still think it’s a 50-50. Lucky this game was inconsequential in the tournament.”
Pace spearhead Bhuvneshwar Kumar (three for 15) and part time off-spinner Kedar Jadhav (three for 23) sent Pakistan, who won the toss and batted, collapsing to just 162 all out in 43.1 overs at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
Skipper Sharma then struck three sixes and six boundaries in his 39-ball 52 while fellow opener Shikhar Dhawan hit a six and six fours in his 54-ball 46 as India romped home in just 29 overs.
Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik both finished on 31 not out as India exacted some revenge for their humbling 180-run defeat against their arch-rivals in the final of the Champions Trophy in London last year — the most recent match between the teams until Wednesday.

Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur was not a happy man after watching his Pakistan side soundly beaten by India in Dubai. 


Both Pakistan and India had already qualified for the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup and will meet again in Dubai on Sunday. When they do Arthur will doubtless be looking for a response and for his side to stick to the set plans.
“On a wicket like that you need to strike really if you’re going to defend it. We didn’t strike early enough,” Arthur said.
“We went away from our plans too quickly. We said that our batters batted outside our roles and that wasn’t acceptable. With our bowling, we went outside our plans far too quickly. We wanted to bowl hard lengths, hit the top of off stump.
“It was tough to score then. We did that in the first six, and then (Usman Khan) Shinwari decided to come around the wicket and bowl a bouncer with fine leg up. And from there it just tumbled.
“We’re going to sit down and talk about that. It’s not good enough. We went outside our plans.
“That’s not acceptable. I think there was a bit of panic when they didn’t strike early.”
Also of concern to the Pakistan coach is the form of Mohammad Amir. The side’s main bowler has looked out of form recently and has struggled for wickets since last year’s Champions Trophy win.
“I’d be lying if I sat here and said there wasn’t (any concern about Amir),” Arthur said.
“I had a really good, long hard chat with him last night and I thought he came out and bowled really well. He hit the crease really hard. He ran in well. He’s been decelerating to the crease, but he didn’t do that today.
“He seemed more fluent, there was a little bit more pace there. And I was comfortable (with what he did), he bowled well. 
There is pressure on him, of course there is.”
There was much hype surrounding the clash, as there always is with any India vs. Pakistan match, but once Pakistan’s unpredictable batting crumbled, Wednesday’s showdown turned into a damp squib for a near-capacity crowd in the UAE. They will all hope that Sunday’s rerun will dish up more drama and entertainment.