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Suning get revenge on JD Gaming in League of Legends World Championship quarters

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Another regional rivalry took center stage in the 2020 League of Legends World Championship quarterfinals on Friday. Following the repeat of the 2020 LoL Champions Korea summer finals on Thursday, Chinese squads JD Gaming and Suning faced off in an all-LoL Pro League showdown.

The results did not necessarily go as expected, with Suning not only besting JD Gaming 3-1 but doing so convincingly through strong teamfighting and skirmishes.

Check out our recaps of the groups and play-in stages of the 2020 League of Legends World Championship as well.

Suning 3, JD Gaming 1

Unlike DAMWON Gaming’s series against DRX, where the two teams had played each other recently and DAMWON quickly stomped their opponent 3-0, Suning had not met JD Gaming since the second week of the LPL summer split.

Back then, it was a JDG 2-0 that Suning arguably should have won, but Suning were still in the beginning stages of building the team that is currently on the worlds stage; JDG also had a good understanding of how to stop Suning with vision control and flanks from top laner Zhang “Zoom” Xing-Ran or mid laner Zeng “Yagao” Qi.

That approach was what was expected from this series as well. Despite the fact that Suning had arguably looked better in groups — something that could also be attributed to not having DAMWON in their group — and were well-suited to the current metagame, JDG presumably had the upper hand in this series.

They didn’t.

Instead, we had the rare, shining moment where a much-lauded rookie player steps into the international spotlight and exceeds expectations in the best way. Most fans already knew of Suning bot laner Tang “huanfeng” Huan-Feng’s incredible journey to get to worlds thanks to an interview by the LPL broadcast team, but on Friday, he fully embraced his role as the LPL’s best up-and-coming bot laner.

Huanfeng’s Jhin in particular was remarkable, and he cemented his place as a king among Jhin enthusiasts with an ultimate from inside JDG’s base during Game 2 that went viral on multiple social media platforms.

Suning’s win was also a testament to jungler Lê “SofM” Quang Duy and support Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Chieh’s veteran leadership on the team, something that rookie top laner Chen “Bin” Ze-Bin has cited as the reason why Suning are such a strong squad right now.

A fond farewell to: JD Gaming

For the majority of the year, JDG were one of, if not the LPL’s best teams. They were smart, well-coordinated, drafted around their players’ obvious strengths and weaknesses, and supplemented this with remarkable 5v5 teamfighting.

Even in their quarterfinals loss to Suning, there were several times where JDG’s group engages were clearly better, and if they had a lead (especially in Game 3, which was pretty much over for JDG once Bin’s Gangplank got a Level 1 double-kill and took a Sheen to the top lane) at those times, they would have won those fights.

Although they won’t be moving on at worlds this year, 2020 JDG were a special team to watch and should still be remembered as one of the LPL’s best.

Every game in a sentence

  • JD Gaming 1, Suning 0: Although Suning have a scaling advantage, Yagao’s Zoe and Zoom’s Renekton take over the mid-game.

  • Suning 1, JD Gaming 1: Suning’s scaling works out well here while Yagao is unable to have an impact on Galio, and huanfeng’s Jhin steps into the spotlight.

  • Suning 2, JD Gaming 1: This game is over from Level 1, when Bin’s Gangplank gets a double kill and Sheen to start the laning phase.

  • Suning 3, JD Gaming 1: JDG take an early lead, but stronger dragon setups and huanfeng’s Jhin once again lead Suning to victory.


DAMWON Gaming 3, DRX 0

Quarterfinals got underway at the 2020 League of Legends World Championship on Thursday. The first series was a rematch of the 2020 LoL Champions Korea final between DAMWON Gaming and DRX that went in the exact same way that first matchup did: a 3-0 sweep for DAMWON.

The moment DRX were drawn against DAMWON Gaming, they were already considered out of the tournament.

We had already seen what DRX could do against DAMWON in their summer finals best-of-five ,and it wasn’t much. DAMWON were not only able to best DRX individually, but more importantly had much stronger objective setups and trading across the map. DRX had, however, looked a bit more cohesive in the group stage, particularly in their games against LoL Pro League No. 1 seed Top Esports.

Although Top Esports won both of those games due to stronger teamfighting, there was hope for DRX. Despite the team’s reliance on mid laner Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon and a back injury hindering bot laner Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu, the team seemed like it might have improved enough to give DAMWON more trouble than they were able to in that quick summer final sweep.

More: Suning evolve into League of Legends World Championship dark horse | Is the gap closing between minor and major regions in League of Legends? | Ten years of worlds: A League of Legends World Championship oral history

I had hoped to say that this series wouldn’t play out as expected — that DRX would be able to take at least a game off of DAMWON. They could not. The series ended in similar 100-minute fashion, with DAMWON too strong to allow DRX even one game. DRX came closest in Game 2, but a clutch engage from DWG top laner Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon on Ornn flipped the game back into DAMWON’s favor, and they didn’t give DRX any advantages afterwards.

DAMWON will now go on to the semifinals to face either the team that knocked them out of worlds in 2019, G2 Esports, or another fellow South Korean squad in Gen.G. DAMWON should be favored in both matchups with how strong they’ve looked at this tournament.

A fond farewell to: DRX

For most of the 2020 LCK season, DRX were a fun team to watch and always near the top of the standings. They had interesting drafts (which sometimes hurt them more than they helped), and the continued evolution of Chovy was one of the highlights of the season. In 2020, the mid laner grew from a 1v1 outplay king who somewhat relied on favorable matchups from his team to a legitimate team player with much stronger teamfighting skill and engage sense, making DRX a legitimate threat against any team not named DAMWON.

DRX have two standout young players that people watch going into 2021, too, despite some rough performances Thursday. Jungler Hong “Pyosik” Chang-hyeon and, in particular, rookie support Ryu “Keria” Min-seok have a lot of potential going forward in future LCK seasons.

The saddest part of DRX’s exit: The revelation about Deft’s back injury. The bot laner’s been one of the best in the world and competed professionally since 2013. He hasn’t mentioned retiring, but given the physical setback and length of his pro career, we’ll hope that this isn’t the last time we see Deft in an international showdown.

Quote of the day

DRX coach Kim “cvMax” Dae-ho reflected on the season after Thursday’s sweep, giving credit to both Chovy and Deft for helping coach the team.

“Thanks to Chovy and Deft, the core players, Keria, Pyosik, and Doran were able to soak in all of the game knowledge and experience,” cvMax said via a translator. “Also, Chovy and Deft were even coaching better than the real coaches. Maybe they were the realistic coaches of our team leading the team so well. I also learned so much by watching them doing feedback for the players. Compared to myself in Griffin and this year, I think I’ve become better at coaching, and it’s all from Deft.”

Every game in a sentence

  • DAMWON Gaming 1, DRX 0: DRX are unable to get their Caitlyn ahead early and DWG have stronger objective setups overall, even when it looked for a short moment like DRX would be able to poke them down in the mid game.

  • DAMWON Gaming 2, DRX 0: A big teamfight in mid where Nuguri controls the entire fight with Ornn makes the difference for DWG.

  • DAMWON Gaming 3, DRX 0: Another limited-to-no-engage composition harms DRX as DAMWON are easily able to jump on them and, despite Doran’s Vladimir doing relatively well early in top lane, beat DRX in the mid game.

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Sources: Vikes ship Ngakoue to Ravens for picks

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The Vikings have traded defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Ravens, Minnesota announced Thursday.

Sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the Vikings are receiving a 2021 third-round draft pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick. The Vikings did not disclose the picks involved in the deal.

Ngakoue will fly to Baltimore in the next 24 hours to go through COVID-19 testing so he can be ready to join his new team next week after it comes off its bye and returns to start preparations for its Week 8 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Baltimore has attempted to acquire Ngakoue multiple times in recent months, according to Schefter. Ngakoue hoped to land in Baltimore all along. He grew up in Bowie, Maryland, and starred at Maryland before being drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2016.

The Vikings had acquired Ngakoue in August by trading a 2021 second-round pick and 2022 conditional fifth-round pick to the Jaguars. Ngakoue, who had been given the franchise tag by the Jaguars in the offseason, agreed to a one-year, $12 million deal with the Vikings — instead of his franchise tender of $17.8 million — to complete the trade.

Ngakoue had five sacks and two forced fumbles in six games this season for Minnesota, but the Vikings have stumbled to a 1-5 start.

The trade reunites former Jaguars teammates Ngakoue and Calais Campbell. They were on the field together for 1,829 snaps over three seasons in Jacksonville (2017-19) and were the starting defensive ends for the Jaguars in the 2017 AFC Championship Game.

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Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger, Titans’ Ryan Tannehill silence doubters by winning

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This time a year ago, Ryan Tannehill was supplanting Marcus Mariota as the starting quarterback of the Tennessee Titans after being cast away by the Miami Dolphins. Pittsburgh Steelers veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was less than a month into his rehab after season-ending elbow surgery to his throwing arm. Both of their futures were clouded with uncertainty.

Both quarterbacks came into the 2020 season with something to prove. For Tannehill, it was showing the Titans and their fans he was worthy of the four-year, $118 million extension he signed in March. And in Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger was intent on proving that he still had quality years left at 38 with elbow surgery behind him.

Through five games, Tannehill and Roethlisberger have their teams on top of their division and in contention for the best record in the AFC. Entering Sunday’s matchup of the 5-0 teams (1 p.m. ET, CBS), each quarterback and their squads are light years away from where they were in October 2019. The game will be the sixth matchup in the Super Bowl era between unbeaten teams, 5-0 or better. Of the previous five, the winner made the Super Bowl every time.

Tannehill: A return on investment

Tannehill produced an historically efficient season with the Titans last season. He led the NFL with a 9.6 yard average per attempt and finished third with a 70.3 completion percentage. Only two other quarterbacks (Joe Montana in 1989 and Sammy Baugh in 1945) in NFL history posted a 70% completion percentage while averaging at least nine yards per attempt over a full season. The Titans’ offense scored 25 or more points in eight of their 10 games with Tannehill as the starting quarterback.

Despite the success Tennessee had in 2019, many wanted the Titans to try to sign Tom Brady instead of bringing Tannehill back. There were concerns in the NFL world that Tannehill might regress to some form of the quarterback who couldn’t get it done in Miami.

But general manager Jon Robinson and coach Mike Vrabel knew Tannehill was their quarterback and he has shown why this season.

“He has the ability to coach players and leads them,” Vrabel said. “He explains to them the concepts that we are trying to accomplish and where he wants them. That’s the most critical part of the relationship between the QB and receiver. I think Ryan prepares the same and has kept a level head since the start of the season.”

Tannehill’s 13 touchdown passes place him in a tie for the fifth-most in the NFL, even though he has played only five games. Of his 13 touchdown passes, 12 have come in the red zone. In fact, the Titans are scoring touchdowns on 78% of their visits inside the 20-yard line. Since Tannehill took over as the starter in Week 7 last season, Tennessee has converted 83% of its red-zone trips into touchdowns. No team has scored at a higher rate inside the red zone over that span.

All of the players get involved in the offense. Everyone knows there is a good chance they’ll get the ball if they manage to get open. Tannehill has connected with five different pass-catchers on touchdown passes.

“Ryan has a good understanding of who those guys are as players,” receivers coach Rob Moore said. “He’s a QB that can go from read one to four in a heartbeat. They know they have to be where they are supposed to be and that he’ll get them the ball. He throws it to the open guy. As a receiver, you love playing for a guy like that.”

Tannehill has also proved to be a clutch QB for the Titans this season, having already orchestrated four game-winning drives. Per Elias Sports Bureau, Tannehill is the first quarterback to lead his team to four game-winning drives in the first five games of the season since the St. Louis Cardinals’ Charley Johnson in 1966.

When Tannehill steps to the huddle with the game on the line, his teammates have confidence he’ll lead them to victory.

“I am proud of our guys and the adversity we have faced being down in the fourth quarter now four times,” Tannehill said. “Every time we found a way.”

It’s safe to say things are pointing in the right direction for the Titans with Tannehill. The 32-year-old knows he’s a perfect fit for offensive coordinator Arthur Smith’s scheme.

“Coming in, I expected to build off of last year. We had a lot of continuity,” Tannehill said. “For me, I am finding ways to win a game. Whatever the coaching staff and my team asks me to do, it’s my job to go out there and do it to the best of my ability.” — Turron Davenport

Roethlisberger: ‘Don’t feel like I’m done’

With two Super Bowl titles, six Pro Bowl selections and two seasons leading the league in passing yards, there’s not much Roethlisberger has left to prove.

But last year’s elbow injury in Week 2 and subsequent season-ending surgery gave him something to add to the list.

Shortly after three tendons ripped off the bone in Roethlisberger’s elbow, his wife, Ashley, told her husband she would support him if he wanted to retire, according to a docuseries produced by Roethlisberger’s agent.

But that was a nonstarter.

“I just didn’t feel like I was done playing football,” Roethlisberger said in August. “I really felt that I wanted to come back. I was excited about this team, and I just didn’t feel like I was, and I don’t feel like I’m done playing football yet. If it was a thought, it wasn’t a long one.”

Through five games, Roethlisberger is proving he can be an effective quarterback at 38 years old with a surgically repaired elbow — and that he can win.

The way he’s doing it, though, is a departure from his first 16 seasons.

His 7.04 air yards per attempt are Roethlisberger’s lowest through five games since ESPN began tracking the statistic in 2006. He’s also getting the ball out of his hands quicker, leading the league at 2.33 seconds to throw — his fastest mark since ESPN Stats & Info started charting it in 2016.

“You have to get the ball out quick,” he said Wednesday. “Sometimes we do what [offensive coordinator] Randy [Fichtner] says is get the ball in the hands of our playmakers — quick-throw short, run long.”

That Roethlisberger isn’t following the script that worked earlier in his career isn’t surprising. In the offseason, the Steelers added quarterbacks coach Matt Canada, known for using misdirection and RPOs, and Roethlisberger even said he was open to adjusting his style of play.

“I truly mean it when I say we have to do whatever we have to do to win football games,” Roethlisberger said in August. “Obviously as a quarterback, you know, you want to throw the ball. It’s just natural. But at this point in my career, especially with the group we have, it really can’t be about anything other than winning football games and doing that however we have to.”

Since coming back this season, Roethlisberger has been critical of himself week to week. After each game, he has pointed out something he needs to fix. And then he’s done that.

After one game, it was footwork. The next week, he used his day off to run through footwork drills with Canada. After another, he blamed himself for not having a strong enough connection with his receivers, and then emphasized that in practice during the week. Following the win against the Eagles, Roethlisberger said he wasn’t hitting on his deep balls as often. So before facing the Browns, he practiced throwing deep tosses with stacked trash cans in the end zone, a drill usually reserved for the younger backups and practice squad quarterbacks.

“What better time than at practice to drill some things — footwork, deep ball things,” he said. “I’ll just continue to try and get better. I don’t ever want to get worse, obviously. I want to try and find little ways and things I can do to keep improving my game.”

And it’s working.

Roethlisberger is nearly the most accurate he’s been in his career, completing 69.1% of his attempts for his third-highest rate through the first five games of a season. His QBR of 60.3 is his eighth-highest through five games since 2006.

“I’m not trying to prove anything to the outside world,” Roethlisberger said. “I just wanted to keep playing the game that I love with the teammates that I love for the fans that I love. That’s what’s most important in my mind.”

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Sources: Ravens finalizing trade for DE Ngakoue

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The Vikings and Ravens are finalizing a trade to send defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to Baltimore for a 2021 third-round draft pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Ngakoue will fly to Baltimore in the next 24 hours to go through COVID-19 testing so he can be ready to join his new team next week after it comes off its bye and returns to start preparations for its Week 8 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Baltimore has attempted to acquire Ngakoue multiple times in recent months, according to Schefter. Ngakoue hoped to land in Baltimore all along. He grew up in Bowie, Maryland, and starred at Maryland before being drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2016.

The Vikings had acquired Ngakoue in August by trading a 2021 second-round pick and 2022 conditional fifth-round pick to the Jaguars. Ngakoue, who had been given the franchise tag by the Jaguars in the offseason, agreed to a one-year, $12 million deal with the Vikings — instead of his franchise tender of $17.8 million — to complete the trade.

Ngakoue had five sacks and two forced fumbles in six games this season for Minnesota, but the Vikings have stumbled to a 1-5 start.

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