From Wembley to Drew Brees — What we learned from Week 8 in the NFL

The Titans and the Chargers played out a nail-biting 20-19 thriller at Wembley, delivering a contest the expectant British crowd had been longing for. (AFP)
Updated 23 October 2018
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From Wembley to Drew Brees — What we learned from Week 8 in the NFL

  • At the sixth time of asking, London finally delivered a game of gridiron worth watching
  • Drew Brees became the third quarterback in NFL history to defeat all 32 teams

America’s Game was back in London and Drew Brees once again added to the record books. Here is what else we learned from Week 8 in the NFL: 

London lights it up
At last. At the sixth time of asking, London finally delivered a game of gridiron worth watching. The Titans and the Chargers played out a nail-biting 20-19 thriller at Wembley, delivering a contest the expectant British crowd had been longing for. The main talking point, however, was Titans coach Mike Vrabel’s decision to go for a two-point attempt after a late touchdown. Had he sent out Ryan Succop for the extra point the game would have gone into overtime — beyond that, who knows? It was a gutsy call, that worked earlier in the month against the Philadelphia Eagles. This time, it did not come off. But it made for great drama and a game the London fans will remember for a long time.

Brees brilliance
We cannot stop waxing lyrical about Drew Brees. The New Orleans Saints star just keeps getting better with age. Already a colossus of the sport, he joined an elite club of quarterbacks after his side’s exhilarating 24-23 victory over the Baltimore Ravens. After completing 22 of 30 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns, and becoming the third quarterback in NFL history to defeat all 32 teams, he now has 501 touchdown passes in his career. Brees now ranks alongside Peyton Manning (539), Brett Favre (508) and Tom Brady (504). For some, including me, his legacy may be slightly tarnished owing to him only having one Super Bowl ring, but if he continues on this trajectory, the statistics will silence even his harshest critics.

Pathetic punts
Those less familiar with gridiron look at kickers and see one of the easiest jobs in sport. Rarely challenged by distance, never challenged with an angled kick — a kick in NFL does appear to be one of sport’s certainties. But this week, we got a reminder that an NFL kick is not quite as certain as death or taxes. First, the Ravens’ Justin Tucker inexplicably missed the first conversion in his career, which meant the Saints gifted Baltimore the win. Then Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher got the raw end of a snap infraction penalty against divisional rivals Washington, which meant his 52-yard kick (that should have been a 47-yard one) struck the post. Two games settled by bad kicks. Who says NFL kicking is easy?

Rams on the charge
We really need to start taking the Los Angeles Rams seriously as Super Bowl contenders. They might have surprised us in the first few weeks, but after their demolition of the San Francisco 49ers at the weekend, Jared Goff and his offense are genuinely the real deal. The Rams are the only 100 percent team left in the league, and unless they have a disastrous second half of the season, the City of Angels might well be celebrating its first Super Bowl success since the Raiders’ win in 1984.


Saudi Arabia to face Japan in Asian Cup second round after defeat to Qatar

Updated 17 January 2019
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Saudi Arabia to face Japan in Asian Cup second round after defeat to Qatar

  • A double from Almoez Ali means Qatar top Group E.
  • Juan Antonio Pizzi's men now face Japan in second round on Monday.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia now know they will have to overcome Japan in the second round if they are to keep their hopes of a fourth Asian Cup title alive. 

A 2-0 defeat at the hands of Qatar meant Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men finished second in Group E — both sides went into the top-of-the-table clash knowing they had already secured a spot in the knockout stages. 

A brace from Almoez Ali in Abu Dhabi was enough to give Qatar the three points and leave them top of the group. 

From the kick-off the Green Falcons were the ones who looked the more likely to make the initial breakthrough —  Fahad Almuwallad slamming a right-foot shot against the post after 22 minutes.

Qatar captain Hasan Al-Haydos then missed a penalty in the 42nd minute after Ali had been clattered in the box.

But Ali, who scored four goals in Qatar's 6-0 rout of North Korea last weekend, made no mistake in first-half stoppage time.

He calmly slotted the ball past Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais to become the first player to score six goals in a single Asian Cup since South Korea's Lee Dong-gook in 2000.

Ali subsequently headed in a seventh goal of the tournament 10 minutes from time, celebrating with a jig of delight.

While the defeat was not ideal Green Falcons coach Pizzi said he was still hopeful Saudi Arabia would be able to go far in the tournament. 

"It was an intense game but we have to hide our feelings and prepare for the last 16," Pizzi said.

"We were missing quality in the final third and individual errors have cost us," he added.

"But we will bounce back. I respect every team left in the competition, including Japan, but I don't feel that we are inferior to them in any way."

Qatar, who have never gone beyond the quarterfinals, advance to face Iraq in the last 16.