WHAT WE LEARNED: A miracle in Miami, dominant Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers feel the strain

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Miami Dolphin Kenyan Drake powers into the end zone to seal a remarkable win against the Patriots. (AFP)
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Updated 11 December 2018
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WHAT WE LEARNED: A miracle in Miami, dominant Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers feel the strain

LONDON: With a fantastic finish and a dominant defense, there has been a lot to talk about in the NFL this week.

A MIRACLE IN MIAMI


What a finish at the Hard Rock Stadium. The Patriots looked to have sewn the game up on their way to sealing their 10th-straight AFC East title in the process. Stephen Gostkowski’s field goal put New England five ahead with 18 seconds left, but the Miami Dolphins had other ideas. In a move reminiscent of the now legendary touchdown in a college football match between Stanford and the California Golden Bears — simply called “The Play” — Ryan Tannehill threw a good pass to Kenny Stills who burst forward 14 yards before laterally passing the ball to DeVante Parker, who then passed to Kenyan Drake who weaved his way 52 yards for a seemingly impossible score. In a sport defined by meticulous planning, it was breathtaking to watch a brilliant piece of spontaneity.

It's a case of catch me if you can for Kenyan Drake as he seals victory for the Dolphins against the Patriots. 



BATTLE OF OFFENSE VS. DEFENSE

The Chicago Bears and the LA Rams clashed this week in a game billed as a meeting of the league’s best defense and one of its best offenses. Good defenses will win you titles and it was the backline of the Bears that came out on top. For Chicago to restrict the rampant Rams to six points — 29 points fewer than their season average per game this season — tells the whole story. The Bears now have 25 interceptions for the year, of those their cornerback Kyle Fuller has seven. As we near the playoffs, you can guarantee that nobody will relish coming up against these measly Bears.

The 'they shall not pass' mentality of the Bears proved too good for the usually free-scoring Rams and could be good enough for Super Bowl glory this season. 



COWBOYS BACK IN THE RODEO


In a game they should have won long before a late Eagles flourish tied the game in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys got over the line in overtime and have all but sealed the NFC East division to return to the playoffs after missing out last year. There was a touch of fortune about Amari Cooper’s winning touchdown. He juggled a catch to take it home after Eagles’ Rasul Douglas tipped an interception into the air, but there was nothing lucky about Cooper’s overall performance. He scored three touchdowns and caused the Eagles’ defense a headache all game. His signing from the Oakland Raiders has been a masterstroke by owner Jerry Jones. The Cowboys are unlikely to go all the way, but for such a storied franchise, making the postseason is seen as achieving the bare minimum.

The Cowboys, for whom success used to be second nature, are back in the playoffs after missing out last year. 



TROUBLE IN PITTSBURGH

The Steelers’ woe continued this week with a third straight defeat, this time to the previously 2-10 Oakland Raiders. Their head coach Jon Gruden celebrated the win like he had won the Super Bowl, but the Raiders were definitely helped by Ben Roethlisberger’s rib injury in the first half — the iconic Steelers quarterback should be fit for their home clash with the Patriots next week — but take nothing away from Oakland. They certainly did not play like a team propping up the AFC. For Pittsburgh, they need to find at least two wins from the final three games to be sure of a spot in the playoffs.

The Steelers are looking less than sturdy the closer the playoffs get. 


Spain considers playing Super Cup in Saudi Arabia

Updated 22 min 15 sec ago
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Spain considers playing Super Cup in Saudi Arabia

  • Proposal will be made at the federation’s general assembly next week

MADRID: The Spanish soccer federation is looking into the possibility of playing the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia beginning next year.

Federation President Luis Rubiales said Wednesday playing in the Middle East is one of the options being considered for the tournament, as well as a “final four” format with the top finishers in the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey.

The competition has been played in a one-game final between the champions at the beginning of the season. The idea is to play the new Super Cup in January.

The proposal will be made during the federation’s general assembly next week.

Rubiales did not confirm reports the deal will be worth €30 million ($33 million) a year for six seasons, saying “it will be difficult” to reach that value.

The federation president, one of the main critics of the Spanish league’s idea to play a regular-season match in the US, said the decision would take into consideration the players’ health, noting that playing in Saudi Arabia would not affect them as much as if the game was played in the US or Asia, where travel time and time differences were greater. Last year’s final, won by Barcelona against Sevilla, was played in Tangier, Morocco.

This year’s Italian Super Cup was played in Saudi Arabia as part of a multi-year deal worth more than €20 million ($22 million).  The Spanish players’ association, which complained about the Spanish league’s attempt to play in the US, did not oppose the idea of playing in Saudi Arabia.

“We weren’t against playing in the United States, what we wanted at the time was to be consulted about the idea and to give our opinion,” association president David Aganzo said Wednesday at an event organized by Europa Press. “If the proposal for the Super Cup is good for the players, we won’t have a problem with it.”

The Spanish league had to scrap the game in Florida after Barcelona, which would have faced Girona, backed down because of the lack of consensus among the parties involved. The league said it will try playing abroad again next season.

There is also a plan by the federation to reduce the number of games in the Copa del Rey to help clear up the calendar and keep teams from playing too many matches. The competition would include single elimination matches in some rounds, instead of a two-leg series. The proposal is also expected to be presented in next week’s general assembly.

“The clubs and the players want less official matches in the calendar,” Rubiales said.