Friday, September 9, 2016

Sports Update for September 9, 2016


Denver 21, Carolina 20 - Wow! What a game, huh? 

And what a way to start the brand new NFL season, for that matter! I'll bet many people wished that this had been the Super Bowl game that these two teams played seven months and change ago, instead of the somewhat dull game that we got instead.

I had predicted the Panthers to win this one and, for much of the game, it indeed looked like Carolina was going to get some small measure of revenge by defeating the Broncos at Mile High.

Yet, the Broncos really came on later in the game, overcoming a 17-7 halftime deficit to play extremely sharp. The defense was not quite as dominant and suffocating against Carolina's dangerous offense as they were in the Super Bowl game that these two teams matched up in, although they got the job done when necessary.

In the end, the Panthers still had a chance with time running out. Late in the fourth quarter, Cam Newton was trying to drive his team to field goal range, and indeed, he managed to do so. It was a long field goal attempt of 50 yards, but with the higher elevation in Denver, this seemed manageable. Indeed, the first attempt by Carolina placekicker Graham Gano was good, but the Broncos had managed to call a timeout just before the field goal attempt, nullifying his first kick, which sailed through the uprights. They called timeout to try to ice the kicker, make him feel the pressure. Also, make the other Carolina players on the field feel their nerves, including the snapper and holder.

It worked. 

On the ensuing kick, the ball sailed a bit high. The placekicker tried to steady it, and the field goal attempt got off, but this time, it missed badly, and the raucous Denver home fans went wild, and the Broncos preserved their lead for a narrow 21-20 victory, escaping the Panther's attempt to avenge their Super Bowl loss.

One note, however, concerning Cam Newton. While he looked very good, and realistically did everything to put his team in position to win the game, he also received a lot of hits. In part, that might have something to do with the Carolina offensive line needing to tighten up and toughen up. However, there were a lot of...well, at best, borderline hits that Broncos defenders placed on him, which could easily have been called. Time and time again, the refs seemed to look the other way. I mean, how could they miss that many. The impact on Newton became obvious when he was writhing in agony on the field in the fourth quarter, and considering the controversy with head shots and concussions that the league has been grappling with, it is kind of surprising that they allowed that many vicious hits, particularly for someone of Newton's stature. Let us hope that the NFL cleans up it's act and does something about this, before it gets as out of hand as it did last night.

The Broncos once again start the season 1-0, with new starting quarterback Trevor Siemian showing why he won the starting position. Siemian kept calm, cool, and collected, as he completed 18 of 26 passes for 178 yards and once touchdown, as well as two interceptions. Considering he had never thrown a pass in a "real" NFL game (preseason does not count), and that his debut came against a tough and highly motivated Carolina team looking to avenge their Super Bowl loss, he looked very good, and performed exceptionally well under the circumstances.

US Open Tennis

Karolina Pliskova shocked Serena Williams, and once again, Williams was denied the season ending grand slam title at the U.S. Open. 

Last year, she was shocked by Roberta Vinci in the semifinals, which cut short her attempt to win the calendar Grand Slam.

Now this year, once again, Williams falls short in the semifinals, losing to Pliskova 6-2, 7-6 (7-5), and will have to watch the women's final on television, like the rest of us.

In the process, she will now lose her number one ranking. She was also denied a chance to break her tie of career grand slam titles. She and Steffi Graf were tied at 22, with Williams being favored to win #23 in this particular tournament. She was also denied a chance at breaking Graf's recrd of 186 straight weeks atop the rankings, once again settling for a tie with Graf in that regard.

Pliskova will now play Angelique Kerber in the Women's Final tomorrow. Kerber managed to hold down Caroline Wozniacki in the other women's semifinal, 6-4, 6-3, and will take over the number one ranking from Serena Williams.  

The men's semifinals are taking place as I write this, with Djokovic, the world's number one ranked player, having taken the first set against Frenchman Gael Monfils. In the other semifinal slated for later this afternoon, Stan Wawrinka will try to keep his US Open hopes alive against Kei Nishikori, who pulled off a stunner in the quarterfinal by knocking off world number two Andy Murray.

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