WHAT WE LEARNED: NFL Week 15 — LA Rams rocking and Aaron Rodgers’ record run comes to an end

After a touchdown-less performance against the Chicago Bears, Jared Goff and his Rams offensive line were restricted to just two touchdown scores against the erratic Eagles. (USA TODAY Sports)
Updated 19 December 2018
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WHAT WE LEARNED: NFL Week 15 — LA Rams rocking and Aaron Rodgers’ record run comes to an end

The playoffs are on the horizon, and teams are jostling for position in the post-season push. Arab News examines who is hitting form at the right time and who is blowing it at just the wrong moment.

LA RAMS BEING FOUND OUT?

It looks like the Rams are coming a cropper at the worst time possible. After a touchdown-less performance against the Chicago Bears, Jared Goff and his offensive line were restricted to just two touchdown scores against the erratic Eagles in Week 15. Defensive coordinators in the NFL appear to have cracked the code of this previously blistering, unstoppable offense.
Granted, the Eagles defense pulled out one of their best showings of the season in Los Angeles. And they utilized a four-man backline perfectly, something that Goff has struggled with this year.
But it was the lack of fight in the Rams attack that will worry their fans as the playoffs are fast approaching. It would be inconceivable if they did not make the post-season, but home-field advantage is key and they will want to start it in four weeks’ time rather than three.
Speaking of the playoffs, the Eagles’ victory over the Rams means they are (somehow) still in the hunt in the NFC East after Dallas blew the chance to clinch the division by being shutout by Indianapolis. It is going to go down to the wire.


BEWARE WOUNDED PATRIOTS
Excuse the pun, but Pittsburgh’s steely resolve in their victory over the Patriots has thrown the AFC playoff picture wide open. The Steelers managed to stop the rot and snap their five-game losing streak off the back of Ben Roethlisberger’s game-winning drive with less than three minutes on the clock. Despite their bad run, the victory keeps them on top of the pile in the AFC North division and No. 4 seed for the conference. The defeat, their second running, pushed New England into No. 3 seed, unheard of in the last decade — the last time Tom Brady and Co. finished outside the top two seeds was 2009. But with home games against Buffalo and the Jets remaining, expect them to come out firing on all cylinders and potentially maintain their staggering record come Week 17.


INTERCEPTION FOR THE SCRAPBOOK
While his Green Bay Packers will now officially not be playing in January, Aaron Rodgers still manages to astound us. After Wisconsin’s finest lost again — to the Bears this time — at the weekend, he will have his first losing record on a season since 2008. Not great news. And that bad news was compounded by the fact that he threw for an interception late in the fourth quarter while trying to drag the Packers back into the game. But that it was his first interception in 402 passing attempts is staggering. Tom Brady originally had the record, set in 2010-2011 with 358 passes. Rodgers broke Brady’s record last week in a 34-20 win against the Atlanta Falcons. That Rodgers also holds the record for most pass attempts without being picked at home games (583) is a measure of just how good the 35-year-old has been at looking after the football throughout his career.


NOTHING MIRACULOUS ABOUT MIAMI THIS WEEK
After their mind-blowing win against the Patriots in Week 14 — dubbed the “Miami Miracle” — there was no such drama in Minnesota this weekend. The Dolphins bombed badly, as they lost Frank Gore to injury early on and quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked an eye-watering nine times. That is far too often to get any sort of offense going. Meanwhile, this writer’s dark horses for the Super Bowl managed to sneak themselves in for the NFC’s sixth playoff seed. But the picture is far from clear if Kirk Cousins and his “purple army” will be good enough to cement that place, let alone go all the way to the Big Game in February.


Siakam has 30 points, Raptors top Magic 98-93 for 2-1 lead

Updated 20 April 2019
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Siakam has 30 points, Raptors top Magic 98-93 for 2-1 lead

  • Siakam was 13 for 20 from the floor
  • Raptors held Orlando to 36% shooting

ORLANDO, Florida: Pascal Siakam had 30 points and 11 rebounds, Kawhi Leonard added 16 points and the Toronto Raptors held off the Orlando Magic 98-93 on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round series.
Siakam was 13 for 20 from the floor and the Raptors held Orlando to 36% shooting. Leonard had 10 rebounds, Danny Green had 13 points and Kyle Lowry finished with 12 points and 10 assist.
Terrence Ross led Orlando with 24 points, and Nikola Vucevic shook off a slow start to finish with 22 points and 14 rebounds.
Game 4 is Sunday night in Orlando.
The Raptors trailed 61-60 midway through the third, then went on a 16-0 run over the next four minutes to take the lead for good. Siakam and Green were both 3 for 3 during the run, the Magic missed 10 consecutive shots over a span of 6 1/2 minutes and had to play uphill the rest of the way.
That being said, they went down swinging.
Lowry’s 3-pointer with 7:48 left gave Toronto its biggest lead at 86-69. The Magic came flying back, and Ross’ 3-pointer with 41 seconds left got Orlando to 96-93.
Leonard was short with a jumper on the next possession — but the Magic couldn’t control the rebound, and were doomed shortly afterward. Leonard made a pair of free throws with 12.9 seconds remaining to make it a two-possession game again, and that closed the scoring.
Orlando, which finished the regular season by winning 13 of its final 14 home games, was 13 of 44 from 3-point range.
Toronto scored the first 10 points — the last five by Siakam, who was a problem from the outset for the Magic — and led by as many as 11 in the first half.
Orlando got within one on three occasions in the first half, but never got the lead in the opening 24 minutes. Toronto took a 48-45 lead into the break after Ross beat the clock from midcourt at the buzzer.
He took off from the Magic logo and released the ball with about a half-second remaining, it hitting the square on the backboard perfectly and dropping through. Ross never broke stride, watching the ball’s flight as he ran and kept going through the tunnel leading to the Magic locker room.
TIP-INS
Raptors: Toronto had lost four consecutive Game 3s. ... Patrick McCaw (sprained right thumb) was active, but did not play. ... The Raptors are 6-1 in their last seven road games this season. ... Siakam has 73 points and 30 rebounds in the series.
Magic: Among the former Orlando players in the building were Tracy McGrady, Jameer Nelson and Horace Grant. ... Orlando missed three shots at the rim in one third-quarter possession. Vucevic missed at the rim, and Gordon couldn’t convert on two putback tries. ... Attendance was 19,367, the second-most in the Amway Center’s nine-season history.
GOVERNOR SPEAKS
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state’s first lady Casey DeSantis were in attendance and received Magic “46” jerseys — a nod to his being the 46th governor of the Sunshine State. The governor and Magic CEO Alex Martins spoke pregame about the hope for Orlando to get another All-Star Game soon, though all through 2022 has already been awarded to other Eastern Conference cities — and Milwaukee, another East city, has expressed interest in 2023.
UP NEXT
Game 4 is Sunday night in Orlando.