Patriots survive Ravens fightback to clinch AFC East

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws against the Baltimore Ravens during the second half at Gillette Stadium on Monday. (USA TODAY Sports)
Updated 14 December 2016

Patriots survive Ravens fightback to clinch AFC East

NEW YORK: Tom Brady and the New England Patriots withstood a furious late fightback from the Baltimore Ravens to clinch the AFC East for an eighth straight year with a 30-23 win on Monday.
The Ravens had moved to within three points of a remarkable comeback, after cutting a 20-point deficit in the second half to 23-20.
However Brady sealed a crucial win for the Patriots after finding Chris Hogan for a 79-yard touchdown with 6:18 left in the fourth quarter.
The touchdown put the icing on another vintage display from Brady, who made 25 of 38 throws while amassing 406 yards and three touchdowns.
The victory saw the Patriots improve to 11-2 for the season, leaving them on course to secure home field advantage through the AFC playoffs if they manage to win their final three games.
Brady had earlier recorded the 450th touchdown pass of his career, only the fourth player in history to reach that milestone.
However the Patriots were forced to sweat as Baltimore bounced back from a sluggish first half display to capitalise on a string of uncharacteristic errors from New England in the second half.
Rookie Cyrus Jones threw Baltimore a lifeline when a bouncing punt hit his foot for a fumble which left the Ravens in prime position for a touchdown.
Matthew Slater then fumbled a kickoff, setting up Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco for a touchdown pass.
A Justin Tucker 38-yard field goal left the score finely balanced at 23-20 and the momentum appeared to be with Baltimore.
But Brady's long bomb to a wide open Hogan put the Patriots clear once again.
A further Tucker field goal made it 30-23 with just over two minutes left.
From the ensuing onside kick however New England's Patrick Chung was able to recover, allowing the Patriots to run out the clock for the win.
The defeat leaves Baltimore at 7-6, one game behind the AFC North leaders the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Fati delights, Jovic disappoints, optimism for Atletico

Updated 30 September 2020

Fati delights, Jovic disappoints, optimism for Atletico

  • Atletico scored 19 fewer goals than champions Real Madrid last season and 35 fewer than Barcelona

MADRID: Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid will all be hoping to build on their first wins of the season as La Liga heads into its fourth round of games this week.

Here are the five talking points ahead of the midweek fixtures.

For the first time in a long time, Barcelona can enjoy some calm after a 4-0 win over Villarreal in their first match of the season on Sunday.

Lionel Messi scored on his first competitive appearance since attempting to leave in the summer but most exciting was the performance of the 17-year-old Ansu Fati, who scored twice and won a penalty.

Ronald Koeman must decide how to make the most of the teenager, whose maturity on the pitch belies his age and whose body might not be ready to start every week.

But Fati's pace, movement and decision-making are all so impressive it will be difficult to leave him out, as Barca look to build on that win at Celta Vigo on Thursday.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane switched to a 4-4-2 formation during his team's 3-2 win at Real Betis on Saturday as Luka Jovic was deployed up front alongside Karim Benzema.

But the Serbian striker failed to take his chance, instead enduring another underwhelming night before going off with 18 minutes to go.

It remains to be seen whether Zidane persists with Jovic at home to Real Valladolid on Wednesday, or at all, given Madrid could yet decide to let their €60 million (today $70 million) signing leave before the end of the transfer window.

When Eden Hazard regains fitness, that spot next to Benzema will belong to the Belgian so Jovic's window of opportunity may be small. Time would appear to be running out.

Atletico scored 19 fewer goals than champions Real Madrid last season and 35 fewer than Barcelona.

So hitting six against Granada on Sunday offered some early encouragement that this season's Atletico, boosted by the arrival of Luis Suarez in attack, can put those scoring problems behind them.

Suarez stole the show after scoring twice on his debut but Joao Felix was arguably the biggest plus for Diego Simeone, who will hope the 20-year-old's excellent display is the start of a more consistent campaign.

Atletico go up against newly promoted Huesca on Wednesday, the kind of game they slipped up in too often last season.

Even defeat by Real Madrid could not knock Real Betis off the top of the table, as Manuel Pellegrini's team enjoy the benefits of a strong start and more games played than the traditional powerhouses three weeks into the season.

But there is cause for optimism longer-term as Betis began with wins against Alaves and Real Valladolid, before matching Madrid for prolonged spells until their opponents pulled away in the second half.

With the likes of Nabil Fekir, Sergio Canales and Joaquin, this Betis squad has not lacked for attacking talent but solidity at the back has too often been an afterthought.

Villarreal face Alaves on Wednesday, with pressure already on both coaches. Villarreal have four points from their opening three games but a 4-0 hammering at the hands of Barcelona on Sunday, as well as a draw at home to newly-promoted Huesca means Unai Emery could do with a victory.

Alaves, meanwhile, are second bottom after managing just a point from their first three games, with Pablo Machin seeking a first win at la Ceramica.

Valencia have also made a stuttering start, a draw at home to Huesca on Saturday coming on the back of a surprise loss away at Celta Vigo.

New coach Javi Gracia has already expressed disappointment with the club's summer transfer dealings, meaning credit with the board may be lacking if results do not improve.