Shamrock Bowl XXVIII Final Match Report

Shamrock Bowl Final: Trinity College Dublin 0 – Belfast Trojans 7


 

The coveted Waterford Crystal Bowl made its way back to Belfast as the Trojans overcame a tough and spirited Trinity College side, as the defending champions grinded out a 7-0 win in front of 1,500 fans in Tallaght Stadium, Dublin this Sunday.

The Trojans were aiming to clinch their third consecutive title whilst the undefeated students were entering their first appearance in the Bowl game, hoping to claim victory in their debutant year. However, amidst the lightning strikes and the torrential rain, a pick-6 from Connor Whitla was all that separated the sides as the Green Machine headed back up North as champions once again.

 

The game as a whole proved to be a defensive battle throughout with both offences struggling to produce any concrete chances, as possession swung back and forth in the opening stages. Each team started very cagey with the nerves of the occasion perhaps getting the better, as the wet conditions created fumbles and turnovers that would halt any forward momentum.

Trinity’s Offence, consisting of the talented duo of Quarterback, Dan Finnamore and Running-Back, Rob McDowell tried to get the ball moving up field, but the hard-working and persistent Trojans Defence snuffed out any danger possessed by the leagues top scorers. The pressure created by the Trojan’s D was beginning to pay off, as Finnamore was intercepted by both Andrew McGorman and Rick Duffield as Belfast’s defensive-backs shut-down Trinity’s passing game early on.

On the other side of the ball, James McKelvey was avoiding pressure of his own from the likes of Dylan Green and Eoghan Hurley on the Trinity D-Line, finding receivers David Richardson and Andrew Wright for some quick-fire receptions. With the conditions worsening, the Trojans resorted to keeping the ball on the ground, with Neil Montgomery and Dave Colvin fighting for hard yards. However, despite plenty of possession the Trojan Offence couldn’t make their efforts count as Trinity’s Defence, containing the likes of Alex Gurnee and Stephen Carton who were terrific all game, held them firm.

Midway through the second quarter, the dark clouds that started to fill the skies over Dublin forced the teams into a 30 minute interval, with lightning and torrential rain brining an abrupt halt to proceedings. Although the break was somewhat distracting and interrupted momentum, if gave each side the chance to reflect on the opening exchanges and once they returned to the field, the game exploded into life.

With the match still scoreless, both sides gave it their all in an attempt to break the deadlock. The water on the pitch was proving troublesome as it made tackling and gripping even more difficult with the Trojans and TCD struggling to gain consistent first downs. It looked as though this game was going to be won on the defensive side of the ball, and that’s exactly what happened.

After finding themselves deep inside their own 20; Finnamore, looking for one of his receivers over the middle was intercepted by Linebacker, Connor Whitla who expertly jumped the route to rush in for a 20-yard touchdown, much to the delight of the Trojan faithful. Rick Duffield converted the PAT that gave Belfast a slender 7-0 lead heading into the final quarter.

The last 12 minutes was exciting and intense, with differing emotions on the opposing touchlines. Trinity knew they had to go for it all whilst a few big stops from the Trojans would see them reclaim their crown. As the game entered the final stretch, Duffield sent an excellent punt downfield to pin TCD within their own 20 with little under 2 minutes left. For the students, it was all or nothing.

 

In what proved to be the defining play of the game, the ball was handed off to Rob McDowell who scampered past would-be tacklers down the near sideline. It looked as though this would be the play to bring Trinity back into the game, until a fantastic tackle by Neil Graham forced a fumble, that Andrew McGorman happily pounced on to give possession back to the Trojans and bring them within touching distance of an historic treble.

With no timeouts remaining for Trinity, The Belfast Trojans kneeled out the clock to claim a 7-0 victory, earning themselves yet another Shamrock Bowl triumph much to the relief and joy of the travelling supporters. The heroics of Connor Whitla won him the inaugural Terry Lynch Memorial MVP trophy, for his excellent performance throughout the game. The Trojans battled one of the toughest opponents they have ever faced in Trinity College, who did themselves proud with an outstanding effort that on perhaps another day, could well have seen them leave with the trophy.

 

Meanwhile, The Belfast Trojans keep adding to their impressive trophy haul after successfully defending their title as the best team in Ireland. The game was played with fantastic effort from both teams and their performances over the season will provide a great testament for football in Ireland. The Trojans can now celebrate winning their third straight National Championship! The ‘three-peat’ is complete!

Bucs v Jets – Video Breakdown

When evaluating English Essays (he wasn’t referring to mine of course…..), my teacher was fond of using the words “unmitigated disaster”, I think that sums up the game last Sunday from the Buccaneers side of things. There are several things which show a lack of preparedness, the safety, the Jets’ first sack when Luke Stocker lets a guy saunter past him only to realize his mistake far too late. 13 penalties is an inexcusable total. You can argue about the rules if you want for some of Dashon Goldson’s penalties, many people are complaining about how you can’t hit anyone and things of that ilk but the first one in particular gets called all the time he isn’t aiming for the helmet you could say but there is helmet to helmet contact for sure. It’s a penalty in the modern NFL no question.

I think it’s a question of where to start in this piece. There was far more bad than good last Sunday. I suppose the first drive is as good a place as any. The Bucs first three plays went for 29 yards. The Bucs had two more plays on the drive, the Bucs offense went minus 8 yards on plays following a sack on Josh. That’s not counting the succession of penalties which saw them lose 15 more yards. The sack was a complete mess all things being said.

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The Jets show an initial 4 man front with the Buccaneers doubling up on  Sheldon Richardson and Damon Harrison. Stocker appears to deal with Calvin Pace, and Dotson goes one on one with Muhammed Wilkerson. I’m as far as one can be from an offensive line expert, but from my experiences playing sports, you never let a man go unmarked (or uncovered as you guys say). I blame Stocker for not recognising that Barnes was blitzing. He gets off the line very gingerly and by the time he notices what’s happened, Barnes has that half step on him which is absolutely crucial in getting to the QB. I may be wide off the mark on this one but I think the Offensive line as a unit also deserve some criticism for not responding to the additional blitzer, put Penn on Calvin Pace and let Stocker deal with Barnes and I don’t think they give up a sack, a bright start was riddled with indiscipline which proved to be the tone for that quarter. So next we had the safety which was just unbelievably poor.

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Freeman is talking to Mike Williams who is in motion, Davin Joseph seems to think Freeman’s gesticulating as a sign that they are ready to go, he tells Zuttah to snap the ball, and of course Freeman is oblivious to it and we all know what happens next. A bad play from the offensive line, the highest paid one in football I should add. It’s early days as far as the season goes but these guys better prove they’re worth it or I expect to see some casualties next season. It looked like Donald Penn’s weight loss has hurt him in the passing game. He has a susceptible inside shoulder (as Jared Allen will attest to) but he now seems to be unable to consistently keep guys away from the QB on the outside. It has helped in the running game (we saw scant evidence of this on Sunday yes, but the preseason suggested improvements) as he seemed to be more successful getting to the second level.

On to some of the defensive woes. Steve White is always a guy worth paying attention to when he talks defence, he has helped thousands of Buccaneers fans understand the stunts as part of their defensive scheme and why they can be useful against the run (clogging up the interior) but can cause issues against athletic QBs. We saw Geno Smith take off several times in the game, and this was one of his big runs. McCoy (black line) goes to the B Gap taking on the challenge of Ducasse (only temporarily as Clayborn ,in purple, enters Ducasse territory and he and Mangold soon tie Adrian up) and Ferguson. McCoy enjoys success against him there is no doubt about that he puts tremendous pressure on him and he isn’t far off getting him. I was talking to a friend of the site Fred “Gur” Samuel on the game during the week and what  I learned from him (guy knows his stuff by the way) which now makes clear sense is these stunts leave no outside contain. Geno shifts a couple of yards and then he is on his way to an easy 13 yard gain. McCoy is a remarkable player as we all know but it seems to me he is at best working from the interior, where he can deal with double team incredibly well and helping out his DEs in the process. The Bucs face a number of athletic and speedy QBs who could cause untold damage, RGIII and Cam Newton didn’t cause the team a whole lot of problems last year, although RGIII’s scramble at the end of the Redskins game, where the Bucs again looked to look outside contain was key in the eventual game winning Field goal. This season the team faces Cam twice, as well as Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. You give them the opportunities Geno had it could spell big trouble.

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We move on to the interception next, as you have probably sensed from the piece so far it wasn’t good at all. I’m a Freeman supporter. He has got issues no doubt about it. He can struggle to read defences, he can stare down his receivers and miss guys who are open (as seems to be the case in this one). Freeman faces a bit of pressure and makes a horrendous decision. Vincent Jackson (circled in red in one picture, , we all know he is quite a decent receiver. At the top of the shot, you will see Kevin Ogletree just about to complete his curl route. You see the cushion he has on the DB and that he has enough for the first down and more. Two Jets defenders are highlighted in green (blue in the other picture) as well as the incoming Dawan Landry who snags the ball. Vincent Jackson is covered by three guys, you should never ever throw to a guy covered by three defenders. It will work every now and then a mix of fortune and great play from QB and receiver but you are also likely to get a the pass deflected or intercepted. Freeman’s footwork here is okay, he is a bit flat footed however The biggest issue is Freeman not scanning the field and spotting Ogletree for a simple first down. It’s a fixable issue but we’ve been talking about it for so long now it’s getting to the point where fans question will he be here to fix it? (I believe he will enjoy success elsewhere, Scott Reynolds’ piece during the week suggests there is a lack of trust there and Freeman’s performance is being affected)

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Why the Bucs lost that game lies largely in the hands of Mike Sullivan, poor offensive line play and a lack of discipline. Again I thank Gur Samuel, for doing this tough work for me in his piece for Bucs Nation this past week (the article can be found here: http://www.bucsnation.com/2013/9/11/4717144/third-forever-how-the-bucs-statistically-compared-to-the-rest-of-the). The Bucs had 18 3rd downs, last Sunday. They converted 7 of those (8 if you include a penalty giving a first down). Their average distance on 3rd down? 10.7 yards. So on average the Bucs lost close to a yard every drive that is pretty appalling. The Buccaneers offense was quite predictable, and the Jets put everything into the run, daring Freeman to beat them with his arm. As we all saw, the offensive line opened no holes for Martin and prior to 24 yards on his last 4 carries (that 17 yard scamper and a 7 yard pickup), Doug was averaging a mere 2.05 yards a carry on 20 carries. I think this shows some of the woes getting the run game going. Only one Bucs OL is past the LOS and there is nothing for the RB to run into. The second image shows the intended run play, there’s a full back out of shot to deal with Calvin Pace (97). But it doesn’t turn out like that. Stocker (who is blocked by Antwan Barnes). Stocker doesn’t effectively deal with Barnes which puts pressure on everyone else, Wright struggles dealing with the safety and Joseph can’t get around due to Stocker’s failure to block. The play goes nowhere a theme of the day for the OL.

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I don’t get why the team didn’t try to pass more often. Most of the second half seemed to be run, run, screen or dump off for a couple of yards and punt. The Bucs enjoyed some success on the slants the few times they tried them but their offense lacked imagination. It looked like VJax and Mike were told to just run a go route and we’ll see what happens. There was no threat over the middle and little time for the QB to do anything of note. Like it or not Josh Freeman is the starting QB, don’t handcuff him and the offense. You play sport to win, the Bucs played not to lose in the second half.,

I’m going to reiterate my earlier point, you can’t give away that number of penalties and expect to win games. When Greg Schiano came into the NFL he talked about not wanting to be the least penalized team in the league, while I can see the logic in wanting the opponent fearing crossing the middle of the field, the Buccaneers can’t afford 2 or more penalties a game from defenceless receivers. You can’t give the Saints free yards on any drive, it is likely they will score from a Field Goal or a touchdown if you do.

I’m optimistic about Sunday as strange as it may seem. The defence looked pretty solid on Sunday, bar the odd blip. The offense didn’t but I would hope some issues will be rectified otherwise it will be a long Sunday night for us European fans. There’s an increasing negativity towards all things Buccaneers in the last week. As fans whether you’re in Raymond James, at home or about 3000 miles away like myself, back the team. Criticise all you want before and after the game but those 3 hours are when you need to show them support. They’re your team after all.

Monday Blues for Manning and Co

Going into the late kickoff on Sunday, the Giants were 4 and 0 at Jerryfield. That said, the Cowboys record in opening games against the G-men may of has Dallas fans quietly confident, omens aside, this is was a game with much anticipation.

The game started off well for Dallas as Eli Manning was picked on his first throw. The new Cowboys defence will be delighted to have gotten the first of three interceptions so early on, but sadly weren’t able shut out Eli entirely.

The misery continued for Big Blue as running back David Wilson fumbled on a 1st and 10. Coughlin criticised Wilson after the game, saying “he won’t play if he can’t hold onto the ball”.

Romo was picked later on in the quarter by Mundy and the Giants took the ball up to the 1 yard line.  No TD, but the kick equaled up the score at the end of the first.

With three minutes left in the second quarter, Romo found Jason Whitten from 21 yards for the TD. Eli replied just after the two minute warning, finding Cruz with a 70 yard pass TD. The half ended 10-13.

Wilson started off the second half with another fumble for the Giants, which lead to a Cowboys TD. Romo threw his second TD to Whitten later on in the third quarter, largely due to the great protection from his OL.

Manning replied to the onslaught with another catch from Cruz in the slot. Manning continued the comeback with an impressive drive, hitting Cruz again for the hat trick. Cruz, again from the slot, faded away before celebration with the usual salsa routine.

With just two minutes left in the game, Eli Manning had the chance to remind people while he’s referred to as ‘clutch’. His chance was blown however, as he was intercepted by Brandon Carr. One could argue that Scott should’ve caught the pass, but Manning was left fuming as he left the field to watch Dallas increase their lead.

Manning reduced the deficit by 6 with a pass to Tight End Brandon Meyers before the end, alas, it was not enough and the Cowboys went onto win 31-36.

The Giants will want to access their running game and the amount of turnovers before next week home game. Jerry Jones and co will be delighted, as they finally overcame their NFC East rivals at the AT&T arena.

NFL Divisional Weekend in Review

Colin Kaepernick

After a relatively substandard wildcard weekend last week, the divisional round did not disappoint. The Ravens travelled to Denver to face the number one seeded Broncos, while The Packers ventured into San Francisco to take on the NFC’s second seeded 49ers on Saturday. On Sunday, Russell Wilson’s Seahawks took on Atlanta in the early kick off, followed by The Texans trip to New England.

The first game saw Ray Lewis’ retirement in the balance as the franchise he has represented for 17 years were heavy underdogs against the in-form Broncos. However, it was The Ravens who prevailed in double overtime. The game was very chess like between Peyton Manning’s offence and Ray Lewis’ defence, which the latter won.  The Broncos struggled to get any real rhythm to their passing game and a lot of the reason for that is because of the defensive performance from Baltimore. Joe Flacco will come out of Denver with his head held high and a new found confidence after he pulled his side back into it with a 70 yard fling, catching out the Denver secondary. Peyton Manning will be left scratching his head over where it went wrong for his side, after what has been an incredible season for the veteran.

The other game on Saturday was the highly anticipated clash between San Francisco and Green Bay at Candlestick Park. This was Colin Kaepernick’s first ever playoff start and a lot of the pre-game media surrounded how he would cope with the occasion. As it turns out, he threw an interception within the first five minutes, but he did more than redeem himself for the remainder of the game.
The game ended 45-31 to San Francisco, with Kaepernick running for 181 yards and throwing 17/31 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns. His passing game was as impressive as his running and Harbaugh will be confident ahead of the game next week. The Packers will be frustrated with the manner of the loss, but they knew how tough it was going to be going to San Francisco for a win.
The win sees the 49ers make the NFC championship two years in a row, however this year, they will have to travel to Atlanta, in order to get to the Superbowl.

Atlanta defeated a more than plucky Seattle side 30-28 on Sunday night, in what will surely go down as one of the greatest playoff games in NFL folklore.
As they did against The Redskins in the wildcards, The Seahawks went behind early on and trailed 20-0 at halftime. In fact, by the fourth quarter, they trailed 27-7. Atlanta has gained a reputation over the years for not getting it done in the playoffs and they very nearly choked, again. The Seahawks pulled the game back to 20-27. With only 32 seconds left on the clock, Wilson handed the ball off to Lynch who rushed for what seemed to be the winning touchdown at the time. However,’ Matty Ice’ was able to step up his game and get The Falcons far enough up the field and Bryant converted the field goal with just seconds left. So, The Falcons make the NFC championship game to take on The 49ers, but Russell Wilson and The Seahawks can take solace in the comeback and I think that young team will challenge again next year.

With just one game remaining, the focus was in Foxborough for The Patriots game against The Texans, which the home side were heavy favourites for.
Sadly, this game wasn’t contested as closely as the others and The Patriots made a statement for the AFC championship opponents in wait, Baltimore. This is not a side that The Ravens will be unfamiliar with, but upon watching The Texans’  being dismantled, Baltimore will be aware of the tough task ahead next Sunday. The Patriots never looked like giving up their lead and they continued their impressive offensive game, running out 28-41 winners. The Patriots defence was hardly Superbowl worthy, but they did make enough big plays to allow Brady to do the rest of the work. Unfortunately for Schaub and The Texans, it’s the same story as last year and they’ll need to regroup to improve on the disappointing end to their season, which started off with so much hope.

NFC Championship Prediction: San Francisco – Atlanta

The young QB Colin Kaepernick has delivered more than expected so far for The Niners, but can he do it in Atlanta? A lot of people will be sceptical of The Falcons after they nearly blew their commanding lead against Seattle, but I think that a late win such as that may well spur them on for this huge encounter.

What Atlanta showed on Sunday was that their offence isn’t reliant on Matt Ryan and that their running game has a lot to offer. Is that enough to take down a physical San Francisco? Seattle did it in the regular season, but I don’t think The Falcons pose the same physical threat to The Niners offence as The Seahawks did. San Francisco are hot right now and they have this one, for me.

AFC Championship Prediction: Baltimore – New England

A repeat of last year. When Cundiff kicked the dreams of every Ravens fan wide of the posts late in the game, Lewis and co may have felt like that was that squad’s last chance at a Superbowl ring. Now, one year later, we see the same game set up, but in Foxborough.

There’s a fairy-tale element to seeing Ray Lewis sign off his illustrious career with a Superbowl win, but I’m not so sure that The Patriots are the team to give him that opportunity, especially at home. Their offence is one of the best and their defence has improved, it’s still not the best by any means, but The Patriots’ defence is capable of stopping Joe Flacco and Ray Rice. I can New England squeezing past a spirited Baltimore to reach a second Superbowl in two years.

Green Bay Packers 24 Minnesota Vikings 10

Right from the outset this game kicked off at a much faster pace than the previous match up as the Vikings started their opening drive with 8 run plays before calling a time-out. Seemingly the team, in their first drive at least, was benefitting from having Joe Webb in as QB as the play action calls in particular were causing the Packers huge problems. Minnesota’s first passing attempt failed and the Vikings were forced to settle for a field goal. Despite only throwing the ball once Webb has forced the Packers to question every hand off, this could be the difference at the end of the day. If the Packers want to win, they will need to force Webb to throw the ball to make it easier for their defence to read each play. The Viking’s defence forced the Packers into a quick 3 and out and began their next drive at their own 33. The drive began with an 11 yard Webb run, and if I’m the Minnesota offensive co-ordinator I start looking at some wild-cat plays for this guy for next season because he was really able to exploit the Packers’ focus on stopping Peterson, but the Vikings’ drive ended in a 3 and out. On their next drive the Packers were saved from another 3 and out in their own territory by an offside penalty. Couple of short passes and runs were followed up by a big time screen play to Grant for 16 yards. Harris then ran the ball and was ruled inches short but the call was changed after a McCarthy challenge Green Bay was awarded a touchdown and moved into a 7-3 lead. Surprisingly Webb ended the quarter with only one less rushing yard than Peterson as Webb picked up 33 yards on the ground.

After a great run to pick up a first down Webb fell over Matthews and gifted the Packers a sack, the drive resulted in another 3 and out. Aaron Rodgers at this point of the game was having his way with the Vikings’ defence; dumping short passes off for first downs as the Minnesota secondary were sitting back in a deep Tampa 2 set up. After some early success the Packers were forced to punt and the Vikings began their next series on their own 14. Another short 3 and out for the Vikings were forced, at this stage the game had slowed down drastically from its early stages. On 4th and 5 from the Vikings’ 34 Green Bay went for it, clearly not trusting Crosby on the field goal attempt and picked up 32 yards, before being forced to settle on a field goal from the 1. Vikings were yet again held to a 3 and out, and as they started to fall behind Webb’s lack of passing ability was becoming a real issue. (This guy could be used in some formations to maximise Peterson’s ability but he’s not a pure passer.) Green Bay’s passing attack was really the difference between these two teams in the first half as on their next possession the Packers drove 62 yards for a touchdown, with 59 coming through the air, to take a 17-3 lead. Next drive we see just how bad in the passing attack Webb really is, as he failed to move the Vikings into field goal range and we go into half time with the Packers leading 17-3.

3rd quarter began as the second ended as the Packers offence had their way early on, until Rodgers was sacked by Griffen for a 4 yards loss. However the offence was able to right itself and continued the drive into the Vikings’ red zone before seemingly being forced to settle for a field goal. However a penalty for too many men on the pitch allowing the Packers to continue the drive, and they proceeded to pick up another touchdown as Rodgers hit Kuhn on a 9 yard play. At this point of the game I was really surprised by how much the Vikings were missing Ponder. What should have been a very close game was anything but as Webb and the Vikings weren’t able to get the passing attack going. On their next drive the Vikings managed to get some offence going as they picked up 3 first downs as Webb started to settle into the passing attack. Ultimately however the Vikings surrendered possession as they went for it on 4th and 3 but Clay Matthews forced a fumble by Webb and the Packers took over at their own 45. Packers however were forced to punt, and pinned the Vikings to their own 19. Minnesota’s next drive began with 3 Peterson runs, picking up 18 yards before Webb ran 17 yards on 3rd down. On the next play Webb went for a pass deep but was intercepted by Shields who made some great plays defending the run already in this game, and that ends the 3rd quarter.

Despite the great play to end the 3rd quarter the Packers weren’t able to keep possession and were forced to punt, but Sherels totally misread the punt, muffed the catch and Green Bay recovered possession at the Vikings’ 39. The Packers were unable to capitalise on the mistake though and were forced to punt, giving the Vikings the ball at their own 9. Vikings again forced to punt as the receivers couldn’t get open on 3rd down and Webb failed to pick up the 1st down with his feet. Green Bay received the ball but the team was again forced into a 3 and out in what was surprisingly a very boring game up to this point. On the next series Peterson began with two rushed, picking up 2 first downs and 29 yards, before 2 the Vikings turn the ball over again on 4th down. At this point the game had turned into a constant series of both teams surrendering possession as the Packers are forced to punt again, before a blown coverage spot allow Webb to hook up with Jenkins for a 50 yard touchdown to reduce Green Bay’s lead to 24-10. On their next drive the Packers were able to pick up a first down and drain the Vikings of all their timeouts before the break in play for the two minute warning. Green Bay simply drained the clock to 28 seconds before they punted the ball away Webb was able to pick up two more big pass plays and make up for some earlier poor passes but it was too little too late at this stage as the Vikings lost 24-10

The Packers will move on now and play the 49ers in the next round, but like the Texans earlier in the night were far from dominant. The Vikings’ defence was not up to scratch tonight and the Packers should have done a better job of dominating them. At the end of the day the team did enough to win, but huge improvements will need to be made ahead of next week’s match. However the team must be very happy with the improvement in their rushing defence as they able to keep Peterson to 99 yards, the first time they kept him under 100 yards this season.

Houston Texans 19 Cincinnati Bengals 13

As expected this game began slowly with the Texans taking a 6-0 lead off of two early field goals. Throughout the first quarter the Texans defence has been dominant, keeping the Bengals passing attack to -17 yards at one stage. However early in the second quarter a pivotal series of plays occurred as firstly Dalton was apparently intercepted on a deep throw downfield. Kareem Jackson failed to hold onto the ball though, but the Bengals were still forced to punt. The Texans took over possession seeking to extend their lead, however after a short Foster run Schaub threw an interception to Leon Hall. Hall returned the ball for a touchdown giving the Bengals an undeserved 7-6 lead. Houston at this point had dominated every aspect of the game but still finds themselves behind. In the next Texans series Foster seeks to lead his team back to the lead bringing Houston into the Red Zone, but again the Bengals manage to stuff the Houston attack forcing another field goal. Big play on this drive as Andre Johnson gets open with the Texans three yards from the end-zone but fails to get his hands on a pass you would expect him to catch 99 times out of 100. After the 2 minute warning, the Bengals offence enters the Texans half for the first time of the game but on 3 and 8 Gresham almost tips a pass into Manning’s hands for an interception but Manning can’t quite pull it in. After another Bengals punt the Texans get one final chance to extend the lead before half time but are again stuffed by the Bengals defence at the Bengals 41 and Dalton takes a knee to take us to half time. In the first half the Bengals were outgained by 200 with A.J. Green failing get a reception in the first half (Last time that happened was his debut game in the 2011 regular season) but somehow manage to find themselves only 2 points down as the Texans offence has really let their defence down.

Second half begins with another Bengals 3 and out, as the team has still managed just -6 yards passing on 12 attempts. Punt goes to the Texans 34 but Lewis-Harris in penalised 15 yards for fair catch interference and the Texans will start on their 49. What would have been a Texans 3 and out is overturned by Bengals holding penalty. A huge 22 yard play by Andre Johnson sets the Texans up on the Bengals 5; Johnson has been dominating Adam Jones for the most part of this game. Foster finally breaks the plane for the Texans first touchdown and the Texans deservedly lead 16-7. Next Bengals possession Green finally gets his first reception and the pass offence seems to be starting to click as Hawkins picks up 7 more before Green gains 45. Just as the offence seems to get it going the Bengals are forced to take a field goal, to bring the game to 16-10. Kubiak challenged the ruling of an incomplete pass on the Bengals 3rd down, looking for a fumble ruling but the challenge was rightly turned down. Texans take over possession again and at this point of the game Foster is carrying the Houston offence with 7 receptions and 22 rushing attempts. After a 2 yard run on 3rd and 3 the Texans are forced to punt, Tate muffs the catch for the Bengals but manages to recover, Cincinnati takes over at their 11. On the next Bengals possession Dalton turns to Green again but this time it’s intercepted by Joseph, no doubting this interception.  However that play was almost overshadowed by Alex Flanagan revealing that J.J. Watt, one of the league’s most feared defensive players was spotted at a Justin Bieber concert! Texans take over deep in Bengal’s territory and an 11 yard reception by Daniels brings up 1st and goal as the Texans offence is beginning to play as well as its defence.

4th quarter begins with the Bengals managing to hold the Texans again, as a 10 holding penalty on the Texans proved decisive, Texans lead 19-10. Tate makes up for his earlier muffed punt and returns the Texans kickoff 43 yards but his hard work is almost undone as the Bengals are again stopped on 3rd down before The Law Firm picks up the first down on 4th down. Bengals opt to take the Field goal on 4th and 2 bringing the game to 19-13, the drive could have been better though as Dalton failed to pull the trigger on a wide open receiver on second down, A.J. Green also had a pass batted out of his hands in the end-zone. Also interesting to note that Dalton is really struggling to communicate play calls to his offensive line and receivers as the Texans crowd are really drowning him out. On their next possession the Texans go 3 and out again and two things are killing this Texans team so far, efficiency in the Red Zone and Penalties, Bengals start on their own 20 after the punt. Another failure by the Bengals to convert on 3rd down is overturned by a defensive pass interference call, Bengals keep the drive alive, and any team could win this. Dalton’s forced to go for it on 4th and 11 but the Bengals come up short, Texans get possession with 2:44 left.  Texans pick up the first down just before the two minute warning but manage to drain the Bengals of their 3 time outs. 2:00 to go, 6 points in it, Texans 2nd down 8 to go and a first down wins the game for the Texans. Foster managed to pick up 10 and Schaub takes to the knee to win the game 19-13.

Houston Texans advance and we now know they will play the Patriots. However the Texans did not look great tonight and unless their Red Zone offence can improve drastically, the Patriots should have an easy win. After watching this game the Bengals will be disappointed as they could have won this game, but I expect the Texan’s joy to end next week, unless we see improvements this team cannot beat the Patriots.

NFL Match Report: Massive win for Giants

Green Bay Packers 10-38 New York Giants

Last night, Eli manning said that he felt like his arm was refreshed and that he has more pop in his throw after the week off. Eleven weeks can take its toll on a throwing arm and it seems the rest couldn’t have come at a better time for the Giants.

Green Bay were without several key players from both their offence and defence. Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson and Greg Jennings being some of the bigger absentees. The Packers certainly felt their losses, too, as QB Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times throughout the game.

It was the home side who got the game going and Eli was able to orchestrate a first drive TD. Ahmad Bradshaw received a screen pass from his captain, before gaining a colossal 65 yards. This lead to their first TD, as fullback Andre Brown rushed in to put the Giants ahead.

Green Bay responded quickly though, as Rodgers passed to Jordy Nelson for a 61 yard TD on their first drive. Crosby converted the PAT.

On the Giants next possession, Manning threw a few passes astray and Green Bay received the ball back. They stuck to a running game on this drive before Chris Canty tripped Rodgers on 3rd down and Crosby aimed the field goal attempt wide. The Giants next few plays saw M. Bennet blocking the Packer’s offensive line with ease. This allowed Manning extra time in the pocket on countless occasions. The rookie wide receiver Rubin Randle received a TD pass with two minutes left, his first TD in the NFL.

With only two minutes left, Aaron Rodgers was picked excellently by Corey Webster, which resulted in a field goal from Lawrence Tynes. Rodgers was sacked again, this time by Chase Blackburn. This ended an eventful first quarter.

The second quarter began with Green Bay returning the ball to New York. The Giants mixed up their offensive plays well here, Bradshaw again gaining crucial yards before Manning found Cruz for a TD between double coverage.

Green Bay failed to complete another TD for the rest of the same and their last points came from a 28 yard field goal. On their next drive, Rodgers was stripped by Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul picked up the fumble for some yards. Bradshaw completed another TD for New York, taking his total yards to 117 for the game. At half time, the score read Green Bay 10-31 New York.

As the 3rd quarter got under way, the battle between Andre Rolle and Randle Cobb was a spectacle worth noting. Rolle was getting the better of the Packers wide man, which made things for Rodgers very difficult.With three minutes left to play, Manning found Hakeem Nicks from the shotgun. The play was challenged by green Bay but eventually, the TD was award to New York.

This was the final score of the game and also, Eli Manning’s 200th career TD pass, making him the most successful QB in the franchise’s history.

Green Bay struggled to get going and Rodgers continued to get sacked. The game ended 10-38, meaning that the Giants are now 7-4 with a two game lead over their NFC east rivals, where as Green Bay slip behind the Bears in the NFC north. Next week see’s the Giants travel to Washington to face the in form rookie RG3 and co. Green Bay face Minnesota in an equally tricky encounter.

Stats

Green Bay New York
Rush 116 yds 147 yds
Pass 201 yds 243 yds
Sacks 5 1
TD 1 5
QB Passes/ Yards 14/25 for 219 yards. 1630 for 249 yards.

Reality Bites For The Bears?

Chicago 7-32 San Francisco

Chicago fans will have been overjoyed at the start to the season Jay Cutler and co have made. For eleven weeks, they looked like the best team in the NFC north and that meant overshadowing the Green Bay Packers. Their one loss came at the hands of the playoff hopefuls, the Houston Texans.

Last night, they faced opponents of equal stature in the form of San Francisco 49ers without their starting quarterback. Jason Campbell filled in for Jay Cutler. Alex Smith was absent for the 49ers too, so calling the shots for them was Colin Kaepernick. This was his first start and in all honesty, he couldn’t have dreamt it going this well. He threw two touchdowns and completed 16 of 23 passes throughout the game, gaining a total of 243 yards. The second year quarterback lead the drive for the 49ers to take a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. The first touchdown of the game came from a first and goal situation, whereby Kaepernick utilised the play action to find the reliable Vernon Davis in space.

The backup quarterback threw to Davis all night long and easily strode up the field in the second quarter, but ultimately, it was Kendall Hunter who ran up the middle to convert the 49er’s second touchdown. Jason Campbell then threw an interception on the Bear’s drive that lead to a San Francisco 3-point conversion before the half.

Bears 0-20 49er at HT.

After the break, it was the 49ers who kept up the tempo again, this time Kaepernick found Crabtree free. It took until the end of the 3rd quarter for the Bears to reply, when Campbell found Brandon Marshall for their first and only touchdown of the game. On their next drive, Campbell threw his second interception of the game as they went into the 4th quarter. The nightmare continued for Campbell in the last quarter. Deep in the Bear’s half, he got sacked and the 49ers went onto win 32-7. Aldon Smith completed an impressive 5.5 sacks in a game that the Bears will want to forget.

A lot of questions may be asked about the Bears offence after this result and various 49ers fans may wonder if Kaepernick should be given another start, even when Alex Smith returns. This means The Packers go top of the NFC north and The Bears must now face Minnesota and Seattle, who are both 6-4 at present. Reality check for the Bears? Let’s see how they do against these two.