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

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. 


Sarfaraz removed as Pakistan T20 and test captain

Updated 18 October 2019

Sarfaraz removed as Pakistan T20 and test captain

  • The change in captaincy comes after Pakistan was beaten 3-0 by Sri Lanka last week in a Twenty20 series in Lahore
  • Pakistan is due to leave for Australia next week to play three Twenty20s and two test matches

ISLAMABAD: Babar Azam has replaced Sarfaraz Ahmed as Pakistan’s Twenty20 captain until next year’s T20 World Cup in Australia, and Azhar Ali has been appointed test captain for the 2019-20 season.
The change in captaincy comes after Pakistan was beaten 3-0 by Sri Lanka last week in a Twenty20 series in Lahore.
In the T20 series, Sarfaraz had scores of 24, 26 and 17 against a second-string Sri Lanka as Pakistan failed to chase in all three matches.
“His (Sarfaraz) loss in form and confidence is visible and in the best interest of the team it has been decided to leave him out and provide him the opportunity to reflect and regroup himself and try to reclaim his form away from international cricket,” Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ehsan Mani said in a statement on Friday.
Pakistan is due to leave for Australia next week to play three Twenty20s and two test matches and the PCB said the squads for both series will be announced on Monday.
Babar was the vice-captain during the T20 series against Sri Lanka and is presently leading Central Punjab in the National T20 Cup, where he scored a 59-ball 102 against Sindh.
Babar previously led Pakistan in the Under-19 World Cup in 2012. However, he has no experience leading the national team in big time international cricket.
But the world’s top-ranked Twenty20 batsman said he was ready for the challenge.
“To be named captain of the No. 1-ranked side in the world is the biggest thing that has happened to my career to date,” Babar said. “I am ready for this challenge and also willing to learn more in the process. I feel it has been a natural progression for me and I am delighted that the PCB has put faith in my capabilities.”
Pakistan, ranked No. 7 in test cricket, had an unimpressive record since Sarfaraz took over from now-head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq three years ago. Pakistan won only four test matches and lost eight during that period.
“These are exciting times in Pakistan cricket with a new team management,” Azhar said. “As a captain, I feel comfortable that there will be number of knowledgeable people in the hut who I can rely on for advice and guidance.”
The 34-year-old Azhar has played 73 test matches and scored 5,669 runs with 15 centuries.
The PCB also said it will name the ODI captain at a later date because Pakistan’s next international assignment is against the Netherlands in July.