Friday 26 April 2019

US captivated as Chiefs and Rams produce TV blockbuster


This was the night all of America watched live on primetime as football changed, possibly forever (stock picture)
This was the night all of America watched live on primetime as football changed, possibly forever (stock picture)

Ed Malyon

It was a game tipped as a potential rehearsal for a Super Bowl but as it turned it out this LA Rams-Kansas City Chiefs clash might have been much more than that.

It would be a surprise if the Super Bowl is half as good as this 54-51 romp that produced the third-most points of any game in NFL history, the first time two teams had scored north of 50 in a game and laid a marker down not just for this season but for the next decade.

Even within a game of such electric offensive might a few defensive stars shone brightly, most notably Aaron Donald, a household name and best in the league on that side of the ball, and Samson Ebukam, who few have heard of outside his own household but who is a key part of the Rams' defensive unit. Ebukam scored two touchdowns and tipped a pass that helped secure the game for Los Angeles.

Nobody knew him before but his name's in the record books now - the first player since records began to get a sack, interception and multiple touchdowns in a game.

Quarterbacks Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes racked up eye-bulging statistics and the only regret was that both side's star running backs were nullified.

And yet the striking thing about this topsy-turvy game was that the minute details, every single 'wow' moment that made it so entertaining, seemed to mean so little. LaMarcus Joyner's slip to allow Tyreek Hill a huge 73-yard touchdown, Gerald Everett splitting out wide from tight end to pick up a 40-yard score on a go route… they were all brilliant but meaningless data points on a very meaningful night.

Because this was the night all of America watched live on primetime as football changed, possibly forever.

One of the NFL's strengths is that it owns its sport in a way that no major leagues outside America do. The Premier League, for example, can't change the rules of football to improve the product but the NFL constantly tweaks its regulations to ensure the priority is always achieved: entertainment.

The rulebook alterations have slanted the game in favour of passing offenses by protecting quarterbacks. With more creativity, QB-friendly rules and some of the best athletes on the planet to throw to, defenses have no chance. Points totals, touchdowns and yardage rise year-on-year but this season is special, it is a huge leap and that is why this game was so significant.

The night of 1,001 total yards, 105 points, 56 first downs, 10 passing touchdowns, eight sacks, seven punts, seven turnovers, four lead changes and 35 points in the fourth quarter alone was broadcast to an enthralled nation. The offensive wave isn't going away.

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