Belfast American Football Writing

I write a column on American Football for a local paper - here you can read the reports a couple of days before they go in print; and my confused waffles...

Friday, September 30, 2005

Saints trying times

The New Orleans Saints have been struggling with adversity since Hurricane Katrina.

Sicee then the franchise has worked to instill some spirit for the beleagured Louisiana people. But it hasn't been easy. Joe Horn has railed against the NFL's attitude in forcing them to play at the Meadowlands last week against the Giants - an indignity compounded by the fact New Orleans got kitted in the opposition changing room, when it was supposed to be gtheir home tie.

To read some of the other trials they face find out about the walk to watch videos here.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Tortilla Bowl?

Mexican flavour to NFL

IT’S Fútbol Americano in Mexico City! When the Arizona Cardinals take on the San Francisco 49ers tomorrow night in Mexico City, the game will be an NFL first -- the first time that a regular-season contest is played outside the US.

American football has been played in Mexico since 1890 when a game was played in Xalapa, Veracruz. Mexico has the most NFL fans outside of the United States.

It is also a week when four teams are trying to stay unbeaten. Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay and Washington have 100% records, but every player on those clubs is saying, “Hold on, let’s not get carried away.”

“Three games is nothing when you play a 16-game season,” said quarterback Carson Palmer of the 3-0 Cincinnati Bengals. “It’s great to have this start. But we still have a lot of games – a lot of big games – ahead of us.”

The numbers prove Palmer right. In the past five seasons, 10 clubs began the year with at least 3-0 records yet did not reach the playoffs.

“It feels good, it feels real good,” says tackle Kenyatta Walker of the 3-0 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “But I’m not patting myself on the back just yet.”

Meanwhile, there is Week 4 to contend with when the Bucs host the Detroit Lions. Lions’ defensive coordinator Dick Jauron will try to do what three teams have failed to accomplish this year – slow down Bucs rookie running back Carnell Williams.

The first-round draft choice from Auburn leads the NFL in rushing (434 yards, the most ever in a rookie’s first three games) and last Sunday, with an NFC season-high 158 yards, became the first rookie in history to start a career with three consecutive 100-yard rush games.

Tampa Bay quarterback Brian Griese leads the NFC in completion percentage (66.2), but confronts a defense constructed to limit the long ball. The Lions allow the conference’s fewest passing yards per game (159.5).


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It's only week two - don't get your hope up!

JUBILANT fans may be celebrating undefeated starts to the NFL season, but celebrations are premature - over the last three seasons 12 teams that had a 2-0 start failed to make the play-offs.

And it is a warning echoed by Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy.

"Two games is one-eighth of a season," he said. "We're still a long way away."

Indeed last year's Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots kicked off their season four years ago with two losses and still managed to land the Super Bowl.

The Patriots, however, face another early stiff challenge, when they travel to Pittsburgh in a replay of the AFC Championship game from last year - a game that hinged on New England's defensive capability in snuffing out whatever threat Steelers' QB Ben Roethlisberger may have posed.

But this year Pittsburgh have a new offensive weapon in the shape of Willie Parker, who has taken the leading role in the rush offence. The Patriots lie will be under considerable pressure to contain Parker.

Unlikely successes are a mark of the early season, and there are few pundits that would have predicted that the Cincinnati Bengals and Chicago Bears would be heading to their week three clash with 840 combined offence and both having managed to restrict opponents to 21 and 15 points respectively.

And worryingly for both sets of quarterbacks they can boast a combined total of 10 interceptions from week two.

Cincinnati's Carson Palmer and Chicago's Kyle Orton will need to show maturity beyond their years if they are to record any success.

But while both sides are on a high right now, the Bengals 10-year veteran tackle, Willie Anderson knows that the mild September evenings are no true indication of the season ahead.

"You're judged at the end of the year, " he said, "whether or not you're in the play-offs playing in cold weather, or at home watching TV."

Thursday, September 15, 2005


THE American Football stadiums in New Orleans and Houston were the focus of much of the news coverage of Hurricane Katrina, and now the NFL is dedicating this weekend’s schedule to support the victims of the devastating storm.

Under the theme of “Recover & Rebuild,” the NFL, its clubs, network television and sponsors will use Week Two’s games in a special way as part of an ongoing initiative to raise funds and bring attention to the massive needs of the Gulf Coast region.

Every NFL game this weekend will include elements that will highlight and contribute to the national relief effort. The weekend’s activities will culminate with a fund-raising telethon from ABC’s Times Square studio in New York City.

The New Orleans Saints-New York Giants game, originally scheduled for the Louisiana Superdome on Sunday, will be played on Monday night at Giants Stadium.

On the pitch Week One got off to a wild start and fans can expect another topsy-turvy, season-long series of surprises.

Among the featured games this week will be the visit of the New England Patriots to Carolina. The last time these teams met they produced one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever – XXXVIII in February ’04.

A Super Bowl record for scoreless play at the beginning of a game was set in the first 26:55. The clubs then scored four times with 3:05 left in the half. In the fourth quarter, there were two lead changes and a tie.

“It was terrific to watch,” said winning Patriots coach Bill Belichick, “but not to coach.”

The emotional Monday night game, when the Saints got to Giants stadium, has the Saints come off a thrilling 23-20 road victory, a win dedicated to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. “We’re going to put those people on our backs and try to carry them through the season,” said Saints wide receiver Joe Horn.

- Don't forget, Blob fans are seeing this column two days before it appears in Ireland's Saturday Night

Monday, September 12, 2005

Off to a flyer!

Week One of the season got off to a flyer with the games on Sky! The Dolphins may flatter early on in the season, but I have a feeling their new coach is a winner and Ferrote looks comfortable at QB. While much of the US commentary team concentrated on Ferrote and, on D, Jason Taylor, I was impressed again by Zach Thomas. Not just because of his familiar blitzing, but also by his patient containment and concentration against a Denver side that have a system which uses the tight end as an effective outlet. Thomas' containment role meant the safeties were never called to cover as he had his linebacking corps so well marshalled!

As to the Cards visit to the Giants...God not another Manning! Pretty white boy Mr America, with talent, good looks and a love of the Almighty. NO, PLEASE NO! NEVER LET ONE OF THESE MEN WIN A SUPER BOWL!!!

As to the rest of the week one games. I'm currently mourning the defeat of my beloved Bears - can't u just leave me alone!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Sombre kick-off

THE NFL season kicks off this weekend on a sombre note - with images of Hurricane Katrina prominent in the minds of fans and players alike, especially with the New Orleans Superdome the focus for so much of the tragedy.

But the teams and fans are rallying around to both provide aid and get on with providing the public with a momentary distraction from the unfolding horrors the hurricane has left.

Arrangements are still being made to find homes for the New Orleans Saint and the Houston Texans, whose stadium has been used as a centre for those fleeing the devastation.

With those decisions still to be made, on Thursday the season kicked off with a typical fanfare with the Rolling Stones, Green Day and Good Charlotte among the rock acts opening for the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders.

Tomorrow (Sunday) sees the rest of the league shake off the pre-season dust and get down to action, in what promises to be an enthralling season, when all are chasing the Patriots.

The opening weekend poses many questions and seasoned pundits will be looking for clues in these opening fixtures.

Attention will be on a range of fixtures. Will Philadelphia be able to recover from their Super Bowl defeat, as well as the preseason squabbles between quarterback Donovan McNabb and star receiver Terrell Owens in time for the opener against Atlanta on Monday?

Will Indianapolis finally be able to find a defence to match the Peyton Manning led offence when they visit Baltimore?

For local fans the season's television coverage begins with the Denver Broncos visiting the Miami Dolphins and the Arizona Cardinals trip to the New York Giants - both live on Sky Sports, tomorrow night (Sunday).