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.

 


Unrivaled: India now 7-0 in World Cup games against Pakistan

Updated 17 June 2019
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Unrivaled: India now 7-0 in World Cup games against Pakistan

  • Conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm of a predominantly pro-India crowd 

MANCHESTER, UK: For such an intense rivalry, it is still a lopsided contest when India and Pakistan meet at the Cricket World Cup.

India extended their record to 7-0 against Pakistan at the World Cup with an 89-run victory in a rain-interrupted encounter Sunday that likely will remain the most-watched game of the six-week tournament.

India started ominously with Rohit Sharma scoring 140 from 113 deliveries and skipper Virat Kohli contributing 77 in a total of 336-5, a record for a One-Day International at Old Trafford.

Pakistan were always behind the run-rate required.

Fakhar Zaman (62) and Babar Azam (48) put on 104 for the second wicket but when both were dismissed by left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav within nine balls, Pakistan’s hopes faded with them.

When Hardik Pandya took wickets with consecutive deliveries in the 27th over, Pakistan were 129-5. And with a result in play because both teams had batted more than 20 overs, there was no chance of sharing points if rain prevented any more play. A delay after the 35th with Pakistan at 166-6 just prolonged the inevitable.

Pakistan were  set a revised target of 302 from 40 overs and the last five overs were a non-event with Pakistan finishing 212-6. India remained unbeaten in four games to start the tournament.

The conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm of a predominantly pro-India crowd that filled the 162-year-old venue to its 23,500 capacity. Seats were in excessively high demand, after all, with the International Cricket Council reporting more than 800,000 ticket applications for the game.

There is always extra significance when the nuclear-armed neighboring countries meet at ICC tournaments because India and Pakistan play cricket so infrequently in bilateral series.

This was no different, with a 1 billion-plus TV audience and an almost football-like atmosphere at the ground.

Kohli’s single to get off the mark was met by “Kohli-Kohli-Kohli” chants from the predominantly pro-India crowd.

Sharma set the tone with his second century of the tournament, sharing partnerships of 136 with KL Rahul (57) for the first wicket and 98 with Kohli for the second.

He seemed ready to really unleash when he needlessly paddled a ball from Hasan Ali to Wahab Riaz at short fine leg in the 38th over.

Kohli continued, becoming the third Indian batter to pass 11,000 ODI runs. In doing so in his 222nd innings, he became the fastest to reach the milestone.

Kohli was on 71 and India was 305-4 when rain stopped play for the first time in the 47th over. The India captain was caught behind off Mohammad Amir’s bowling not long after he returned from the 55-minute rain break and, surprisingly, walked off before umpire Marais Erasmus had a chance to signal him out.

There was some speculation Kohli did not edge the ball but it was inconsequential in the end, as India passed Sri Lanka’s 318-7 against England in 2006 to set the highest ODI total in Manchester.

After a batting onslaught at the top, Pakistan pegged back the run-rate slightly as Amir (3-47) dismissed Pandya (26) and then had MS Dhoni (1) and Kohli caught behind — both the ex-captain and captain walking.

Things started going haywire for Pakistan after skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed won the toss and fielded, going against the advice sent via social media by Prime Minister and 1992 World Cup-winning captain Imran Khan.

Overcast and cool overhead conditions that usually would favor swing and seam bowling didn’t greatly assist the Pakistan attack, with India racing to 52-0 in its most productive opening power play of the tournament.

The Pakistan pacemen had trouble with the umpires, with Amir and Wahab each cautioned twice for running on the protected area in the middle of the pitch. One further warning would have resulted in a suspension.

It also didn’t help that opener Imam-ul-Haq got out in rare circumstances to Vijay Shankar’s very first delivery at a World Cup — it coming on the fifth ball of Pakistan’s fifth over after Shankar was asked to finish it off for injured teammate Bhuveshwar Kumar.

Pakistan’s next game is at Lord’s against South Africa, which also has three points and only remote prospects of reaching the semifinals.