THINGS WE LEARNED IN THE NFL THIS WEEK: Remarkable LA Rams, good guy Andy Dalton and spoil sports

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Dalton has been in dynamic form so far for the Bengals. (AFP)
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Updated 03 October 2018
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THINGS WE LEARNED IN THE NFL THIS WEEK: Remarkable LA Rams, good guy Andy Dalton and spoil sports

LONDON: Week 4 of the NFL has been and gone and the season is starting to take shape. Here is what we learned from the gridiron action.

DO NOT SPOIL THE SPECTACLE

Fans will remember September 2012 all too well. With the league-approved referees on strike over bargaining agreements, sub-standard officials were drafted in to replace them. In a tight Week 3 game, the Seattle Seahawks beat Green Bay with a touchdown which has become known as the “Fail Mary.” One official gave a touchdown, the other — standing yards away — signalled an incomplete pass, but ultimately the touchdown was given. And since that fateful day, the NFL have tinkered and tweaked the rules to such an extent that most fans feel the current crop of referees are still just as clueless about what is or is not a penalty.
The latest example of ineptitude by officials came in this weekend’s Browns vs. Raiders game. Some very questionable on-field calls failed to be overturned on video review, and some fair calls got inexplicably overturned. The bizarre, too-frequent penalty calls and the missing of blatant infringements ruined what was one of the best games of the season so far, the Raiders coming out 45-42 winners in overtime.
While some rule changes are welcome — especially those that limit the risk of severe concussions — many of them are completely unnecessary, and for the millions of fans tuning in every week, the NFL looks to be increasingly making gridiron a non-contact sport.
Considering the amount of preparation that teams go through in the build-up to a gruelling NFL campaign, it must be disheartening not be aided by consistent, fair officiating. And poor decisions on top of the already stop-start nature of the game will see casual fans of the sport tuning out and turning off.



ANDY DALTON PROVES GOOD GUYS CAN WIN

Not much is ever written about Andy Dalton, the unassuming but solid quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals. He lives a quiet life off the pitch and puts in his shift each week on it. But in Week 4, he really shone. He put in a battling performance, which culminated in throwing for a 13-yard touchdown for A.J. Green with seven seconds left on the clock in their thrilling 37-36 win over the Atlanta Falcons. That do-or-die final drive capped a near perfect day for Dalton, who threw for 337 yards and three scores. With all the controversies that plague the NFL, it is always heartwarming to see one of its good guys grab the limelight.



LA RAMS SURPRISING US ALL

It might be early days, but the LA Rams are nailing their colors to the mast as potential Super Bowl winners. They emerged this weekend as the only 4-0 team in the league and they are second in the league for offense (racking up 35 points-per-game). Their secret? Their brilliant, innovative set of offensive coaches, an up-and-coming quarterback in Jared Goff and a hardy defensive line led by Aaron Donald.

 


Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal into Monte Carlo last eight

Updated 18 April 2019
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Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal into Monte Carlo last eight

  • Medvedev eliminates 6th seed Tsitsipas in three sets

MONTE CARLO: Top seed Novak Djokovic and 11-time champion Rafael Nadal showed no mercy in dominating wins to power into the Monte Carlo Masters quarterfinals on Thursday.

Djokovic extended his winning streak against US players with a 6-3, 6-0 defeat of Taylor Fritz.

The two-time tournament champion has now won nine in a row over Americans since losing at Wimbledon in 2016 to Sam Querrey.

“It was very challenging to play in these (windy) conditions,” Djokovic said. “Taylor just flattens the ball.

“We had five, six close games in the first set, I just managed to break his resistance midway through.

“After that, things went on my side and I felt more comfortable.

“This was one of these days where you just have to hang in there and try to put an extra ball back in the court — that was enough.”

Nadal repeated last year’s semifinal win over Grigor Dimitrov, beating the Bulgarian for the 12th time, 6-4, 6-1.

“I’m very, very happy, this is an important victory for me,” the second seed said after winning his 23rd consecutive set at the tournament.

“Grigor is a super talent and is very dangerous. It was a positive match for me.

“I had a good day, I can be happy with what I did on court.

“When you don’t play on clay for almost a year, every win is important for the confidence, especially as I’m coming back from injury.”

Spain’s 17-time Grand Slam champion started his clay season this week after missing a month with another knee problem and has title-holder points to defend here plus Barcelona, Rome and Roland Garros.

The king of clay is bidding for a 12th trophy in the principality. His record at the event is a staggering 70-4.

Nadal spent almost an hour in securing the first set but picked up the pace in the second as he ran out the winner.

He next faces Guido Pella, who defeated Italy’s Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

World No. 1 Djokovic will be playing his ninth quarterfinal here from 13 appearances at his home event.

Djokovic turned in a steady performance with a dozen winners and unforced errors, while his opponent committed nearly 30 unforced errors in 68 minutes.

Sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas earlier lost 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 as Daniil Medvedev continued his run of form.

The Russian will next line up against Djokovic after losing to him in January in the Australian Open fourth round.

Tsitsipas was caught on the back foot facing three match points as he trailed 0-40 on his serve late in the second set. After saving the first two, the Greek botched the third to seal his exit after an hour and three-quarters.

Medvedev increased his leading total of ATP season match wins to 20 as a result after he beat Tsitsipas for the fourth time in as many attempts.

“This was a great achievement for me,” Medvedev said. “Everything was perfect today.

“Some wind came up in the second set and I could not get used to it. But in the third, I just worked to put every ball in the court.

“I was pleased to fight back after going a break down in the third set.”

The player who stands a career-high 14th credits his rising form to a renewed dedication to the sport.

“I’ve been working hard for the past 18 months —  since before the start of 2018. I’ve dedicated my life to tennis, which I did not do before,” Medvedev said.

“I had my best season last year — hopefully this year will be better.”

The Russian reached his first quarterfinal at the Masters 1000 level after winning his second match against a Top 10 opponent.

Tsitsipas, runner-up last season to Nadal in Toronto, suffered his eighth defeat of the season against 18 wins and will try and lift his game next week on the clay of Barcelona. 

Italian qualifier Lorenzo Sonego defeated Britain’s Cameron Norrie 6-2, 7-5.