FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: Cleveland Browns have the last laugh, Philip Rivers deserves a ring and Seattle Seahawks show spirit

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The Browns are finally looking like a competitive team. (AFP)
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Updated 27 November 2018

FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: Cleveland Browns have the last laugh, Philip Rivers deserves a ring and Seattle Seahawks show spirit

  • Hue Jackson endures sorry loss against his former Cleveland Browns.
  • Philip Rivers once again proves he is worthy of a Super Bowl ring.

LONDON: As we grind closer to the playoffs who is dancing in the end zone and who is is in need of a hail Mary pass?

ALL HAIL RIVERS


I have waxed lyrical about LA Chargers’ Philip Rivers before, but as each week passes he gets better and better. He completed 25 consecutive passes — the first time that has happened in a single game in NFL history — on the way to driving the Chargers to a win over Arizona Cardinals. He led the team to 45 unanswered points in the last three quarters in response to going 10-0 down in the first. If that was not enough, his 96.6 percent completion rate — having connected on 28 of his 29 throws — is a new record as well. Rivers has commendably stuck with the Chargers through thick and thin, even during their move from San Diego up the road to Los Angeles. But it will be one of gridiron’s great travesties if he ends his career without a Super Bowl ring. Any other player, with so much talent, at one of the NFL’s stand out franchises would have a different one to wear every day of the week, but it has never worked out for Rivers. For neutrals without a team to support in the playoffs this year, they could do a lot worse than Rivers and his Chargers.


BROWNS GET THE LAST LAUGH

The story of Hue Jackson’s switch from the Cleveland Browns to their Ohio neighbors in Cincinnati has been the great soap opera of this season. The final nail in the coffin of Jackson's ill-fated stint as head coach at the Browns was his inability to manage and get the best out of the raw talent of quarterback Curtis Mayfield. And, as if to rub salt in the wound, the traveling Browns fans could not hide their glee as their former coach paraded up and down the Bengals touchline, now a Bengals assistant coach, trying to stop a rampant Mayfield. And failing as miserably as he had when trying to utilize him. Mayfield was superb in a very comfortable 35-20 Browns win, finishing with 258 yards and four scores for an offense that secured touchdowns on their first four drives. Mayfield's performances have brought smiles to the long-suffering Browns fans this year, and while a 4-5 record is hardly going to threaten the big guns, a competitive team has been a long time coming for that city.

SEAHAWKS SPIRIT

You have to hand it to Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson. Even when they are not firing on all cylinders, this Seattle Seahawks side find ways to win. Week 12 was the second week running that they managed to steal victory from the jaws of impending defeat. We cannot ignore the fact that the Panthers were extremely wasteful and should have won this game long before they lost it 30-27. But Wilson was fantastic, escaping from seemingly certain sacks to hit big throws at vital moments. With time ticking away in the last quarter and on a three-yard fourth down, Wilson threw a perfect pass into the hands of David Moore for the game-tying touchdown. A day when he sparked flashbacks to his remarkable 2013 season.

NFL DOING THE RIGHT THING


With the furore surrounding players “taking a knee” during the US anthem that has surrounded the NFL in the past 14 months, and a supposed lack of support for players from franchises and league authorities, it should be celebrated when the league makes a good decision. San Francisco 49ers’ Reuben Foster was hit with another domestic violence charge this week after an incident in Tampa Bay, having had similar charges dropped earlier in the year. General Manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan instantly made the decision to release Foster. Kudos.

 


Record-breaking Lukaku propelling Inter’s European dream

Updated 12 August 2020

Record-breaking Lukaku propelling Inter’s European dream

  • Inter reach their first European semifinal since 2010 when they went on to win the Champions League

MILAN: A record-breaking Romelu Lukaku is leading Inter Milan's chase for their first trophy in 9 years.

Eyebrows were raised last year when Inter shelled out a club record of around €65 million ($73 million) plus €13 million  ($15 million) in bonuses for Lukaku, who had had a disappointing final season at Manchester United.

However, Lukaku swiftly developed a scintillating partnership with Lautaro Martínez and their goals helped Inter sustain a title challenge before eventually finishing second in Serie A, a point behind Juventus.

Inter scored 81 league goals — well above the paltry 57 they managed in the previous campaign.

Lukaku scored again on Monday and set up another to help Inter beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 to reach the Europa League semifinals.

“Romelu has never played so well, not even in the past,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said.

The Belgian forward became the first player to find the net in nine consecutive Europa League games, surpassing the eight set by Alan Shearer for Newcastle in 2005.

Lukaku’s 31st goal of the season took him past the 30-mark for the first time in his career.

“I’ve always wanted to win, ever since I was little,” Lukaku said. “I’ve always said that I will give my all for this team.

“We’re a great team; my teammates help me a lot, otherwise I couldn’t do these things and achieve these numbers ... my teammates look for me. We’re doing well together, all of us.”

Inter reached their first European semifinal since 2010 when they went on to win the Champions League as well as Serie A and the Italian Cup to complete a historic treble.

They retained the Italian Cup the following year but have not managed to lift silverware since.

The Nerazzurri play Shakhtar Donetsk or Basel in the semifinals on Monday.

After an intense period of playing matches approximately every three days after soccer restarted following the pandemic-enforced shutdown, Conte has almost a week to prepare his players.

He will want to make sure they understand that profligacy can prove costly at this level.

Inter have often failed to kill off games in which they have  dominated, and that was again the case on Monday when they had opportunities to extend their advantage.

That allowed Leverkusen to stay in the quarterfinal despite having only two shots on target.

“We could have gone through in a more relaxed manner because, despite the fact that we never really had to dig in, the result was close,” Conte said.

“It’s difficult to be annoyed. I can only compliment the lads on their performance. As is the case after every game, we’ll analyze every situation and see where we can improve.”