Forté steamrollers Tampa as Bears ground Bucs’ aerial attack

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 18 Chicago Bears 24

Despite a spirited fourth quarter fight-back by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium, the Chicago Bears‘ defense came through in the clutch as D J Moore snuffed out a last-ditch Bucs drive with a fourth interception of Josh Freeman with 37 seconds remaining. In an error-strewn game, the two teams combined for six turnovers, 15 penalties and a safety. Running back Matt Forté was the difference-maker for Chicago, rushing for 145 yards as the Bears joined Tampa on a record of 4-3 as both teams move into their bye week.

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The week in numbers: w/e 23/10/11

Simoncelli died in a crash at the Malaysia MotoGP on Sunday (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

24 – Age of Italian MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli, who died after a crash at the Malaysian MotoGP in Sepang. He competed in 34 MotoGP races for Honda, setting two poles and recording two podium finishes. It was the first fatality in MotoGP since Japan’s Daijiro Katoh died after a crash at the 2003 Japanese GP, while last year Japan’s Shoya Tomizawa died in a Moto2 race in San Marino.

7 – Britain’s track cycling team dominated the European Track Championships in Apeldoorn, Holland, winning seven gold medals in the 13 events. No other country won more than one gold. They won the men’s keirin (Matt Crampton), omnium (Ed Clancy) and team pursuit, and the women’s keirin (Victoria Pendleton), omnium (Laura Trott), team sprint and team pursuit.

1 – At the halfway point of the group phase in the Champions League only Real Madrid still have a 100% record, although ten out of the 32 teams remain unbeaten.

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NFL at Wembley: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Chicago Bears preview

The NFL returns to the UK on Sunday with its fifth regular season game at Wembley Stadium. This year sees a clash of two previous Super Bowl winners, as the Tampa Bay Bucccaneers (who won Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003) host the Chicago Bears (winners of Super Bowl XX in 1986).

The Bears come to Wembley with a 3-3 record, having trounced NFC North rivals Minnesota Vikings 39-10 last weekend. The Bucs (4-2) are tied for the lead in the NFC South with the New Orleans Saints, having held off a late Saints’ rally 26-20 last Sunday.

Let’s take a look at both teams, and the key players to watch out for on Sunday.

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The week in numbers: w/e 9/10/11

Vettel confirmed his second F1 title, the youngest driver ever to do so (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

0.009 – In seconds, the gap by which Sebastian Vettel beat Jenson Button to pole position at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, equivalent to an estimated 69 centimetres.

24 – Despite finishing third behind Button, at the age of 24 years 99 days Vettel nonetheless became Formula 1‘s youngest double world champion, breaking Fernando Alonso’s record from 2006 (when he was 25).

3 – Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored all three goals in the England under-21 team’s 3-0 win in Iceland.

13Nigeria, Cameroon and Egypt all failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations. They have won 13 of the previous 27 tournaments between them.

2Andy Murray won a tournament for the second straight week as he defeated Rafael Nadal in the final of the Japan Open 3-6 6-2 6-0.

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My sporting month: October 2011

Summer turns to autumn, the clocks go back an hour and our evenings grow dark, damp and cold. It can only be October. But as the leaves turn brown and fall from the trees, the world of sport is in full bloom as football’s domestic, European and international competitions kick into high gear, the Rugby World Cup heads towards its finale and the end is in sight at the end of long 2011 seasons in both Formula 1 and cycling.

Here are five events you will find me watching in the month of October – including one I will be attending live.

1. Tottenham vs Arsenal (2nd)

The first North London derby of the season sees Tottenham and Arsenal as evenly matched as they have been at any time during Arsène Wenger’s 15-year reign. Spurs have alternated good results with bad so far this season, and manager Harry Redknapp has already stated that a top-four finish in the league is his top priority.

Meanwhile, an Arsenal squad short of confidence and hampered by departures and injuries has had a slow start to what is already proving to be Wenger’s most difficult season in charge. However, everything is possible in a derby, and games between these two clubs have produced some classics in recent years, including a remarkable 5-4 Arsenal victory at White Hart Lane in 2004. To add extra spice to proceedings, former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor – a regular goalscorer in this fixture previously – will be playing in his first North London derby in the white of Spurs.

2. Euro 2012 qualifiers – Montenegro vs England (7th)

England‘s final qualifying game for Euro 2012 is effectively a head-to-head with Montenegro to become the winner of group G. Fabio Capello’s men need only to avoid defeat in Podgorica to guarantee automatic progression to next summer’s finals in Poland and Ukraine. Defeat would leave them dependent on the outcome of Montenegro’s visit to Switzerland four days later, with the prospect of being thrown into a two-legged playoff the worst case scenario.

Like England, Montenegro have conceded just three goals to date in this qualifying campaign. They returned from Wembley last October with a useful 0-0 draw, but they will be keen to chase a win here to keep them ahead of Switzerland in the race for second place. It is unlikely to be a high-scoring game – it will certainly be a tense one.

3. Cycling autumn classics – Paris-Tours (9th) and Giro di Lombardia (15th)

The 2011 European cycling season comes to an end with two contrasting one-day classic races, both more than 100 years old: Paris-Tours and the Giro di Lombardia (also romantically known as ‘the classic of the falling leaves’). The French race is run over a predominantly flat course and is generally won by either a sprinter or a member of a small breakaway. Spain’s Óscar Freire took victory in 2010 after Philippe Gilbert had triumphed the previous two years. This year Mark Cavendish will race in the rainbow jersey for the first time and seek to become the first reigning world champion – and the first British rider – to win Paris-Tours.

Il Lombardia’s route has frequently altered over the years. The 2011 edition starts in Milan (its traditional start point) but finishes in Lecco rather than at Lake Como, where the previous seven races had concluded. This is categorically not a day for the pure sprinters, featuring a number of tough climbs which would not look out of place in the Giro d’Italia before a final descent and sprint into Lecco. Gilbert won in each of the last two years, and will be hoping to conclude a dominant year by completing a hat-trick of consecutive wins, a feat which has not been achieved since the great Fausto Coppi won four in a row between 1946 and 1949.

4. Rugby World Cup final (23rd)

The group phase of rugby union’s quadrennial global competition concludes tomorrow (Sunday), at the end of which we will finally know the line-up for the quarter-finals. Ireland‘s 15-6 victory over Australia a fortnight ago was not a seismic upset, but was certainly unexpected. Most intriguingly, it looks likely to pitch the Wallabies into the same half of the draw as their fellow southern hemisphere powerhouses, hosts New Zealand and defending champions South Africa, setting up a potentially mouth-watering semi-final showdown.

The Aussies’ probable absence from the other half of the draw paves the way for one of the big northern hemisphere nations to benefit from an easier than expected path to the final. If England win their pool, they are likely to face France in the quarter-final and then either Ireland or Wales for a place in the final. Could Martin Johnson’s oft-criticised squad make it to a third consecutive final? And which of the Tri-Nations superpowers will await them in Auckland on the 23rd? After nearly a month of pool games, the serious business is about to begin.

5. NFL at Wembley – Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Chicago Bears (23rd)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers return to Wembley Stadium for the second time in three seasons as the NFL brings a regular season game to London for the fifth consecutive year. The Bucs will host the Chicago Bears in front of a sell-out Wembley crowd which last year saw the San Francisco 49ers complete a remarkable 24-16 comeback win over the Denver Broncos, thanks to a three touchdown barrage in the space of eight fourth quarter minutes.

Tampa have started the season 2-1, with all three of their games decided by seven points or less. Meanwhile, Chicago are 1-2, having lost back-to-back games against the powerful New Orleans Saints and defending Super Bowl champions Green Bay Packers. Neither team is considered among the favourites for a long playoff run, but both are solid squads who should put on a close and exciting game. And, for the fifth straight year, I will be there too. Look out for a post-game eyewitness report in the early hours of Monday morning.

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