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. 


Arsenal open US tour with 3-0 friendly win in Colorado

Updated 16 July 2019
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Arsenal open US tour with 3-0 friendly win in Colorado

LOS ANGELES: Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli scored in his Arsenal debut Monday as the English Premier League club launched their pre-season tour of the US with a 3-0 friendly win over the Colorado Rapids.

Bukayo Saka and James Olayinka also scored for the Gunners, who cruised to victory at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in suburban Denver.

Martinelli, the 18-year-old forward signed from Ituano on July 2, was given a surprise start in attack by Unai Emery and sent an early chance wide.

Saka, 17, was an energetic presence and put Arsenal up 1-0 in the 13th minute as he collected a through-ball from Eddie Nketiah.

Another teenager — 18-year-old Olayinka —  doubled the score in the 29th, seizing a stray pass from defense and racing in to fire into the top left corner of the net.

Martinelli, having missed his early chance, capped the scoring in the 61st when he slotted home a cross from close range.

The Rapids, in the midst of the Major League Soccer season, fielded a mostly reserve side that featured several players from the lower-rung Colorado Springs Switchbacks.

Arsenal, too, started a reserve team as they begin their build up to the Premier League season after again failing to secure a Champions League berth.

The tour has not started without controversy. Captain Laurent Koscielny refused to travel to the US, and a group of influential Arsenal supporters’ organizations published a statement on Monday hitting out at Stan Kroenke’s “passive ownership.”

Under a hashtag “WeCareDo You” the statement decried a “soulless” atmosphere at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and a lack of transfer strategy.

Kroenke, who began investing in the club in 2007 through his company Kroenke Sports Enterprises and took full ownership in 2018, also owns the Rapids as well as the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams.