Sports

NFL International 2019 – The three best games played in London so far

Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium in London will host the first of the 2019 NFL International Games on Sunday October 6th, when the Chicago Bears will take on the Oakland Raiders, the game forming part of the 5th week of the 2019/20 NFL regular season.

Three more games are scheduled to be played in the UK – with the Carolina Panthers facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, again at Tottenham’s stadium, on October 13 – games then move to Wembley, where the Cincinnati Bengals will play the Los Angeles Rams (Oct 27) before the Houston Texans take on the Jacksonville Jaguars on November 3rd. A final international game is also due to be played in Mexico, with the Kansas City Chiefs due to play the Los Angeles Chargers on November 18th.

This will be 13th consecutive season that the NFL have played at least one regular season game in the UK. The first game, back in 2007, saw the New York Giants beat the Miami Dolphins 13-10. Although the game was dour, over 80,000 fans packed Wembley to see the game, and such was the overall success of the game, it is now a regular part of the NFL schedule. In 2013 the NFL increased the number of games to two – two years later and four games per season were played in the UK. Never has ANY game of this type had a crowd of less than 73,000, no matter which teams have been playing, and of the 32 NFL franchises, only the Green Bay Packers have not played in the UK.

A few games aside, the NFL International Games are usually exciting, high scoring affairs – here, we look at our favourite….best….three games from the 25 that have been played in the UK so far :

1 – WASHINGTON REDSKINS 27 – 27 CINCINATTI BENGALS (WEMBLEY – OCTOBER 30, 2016 Attendance : 84,448)

A tied game is quite rare in the NFL, and this game remains the only regular season tie ever to be played outside of the USA. The Bengals were the home team and were marginal favourites to beat the Redskins – but it was Washington who missed the chance to win the game, when kicker Dustin Hopkins missed a Field Goal to win the game in overtime, after both teams had spurned chances to claim a go ahead score. The game was filled with big plays, turnovers and drama, with Redskins QB Kirk Cousins (above) throwing for 458 yards and 2 TDs, whilst Bengals QB Andy Dalton threw for 284 yards and a TD. After the lead had flip flopped several times through the game and shared 54 points, the final 15 minutes of overtime was a breathless affair, with both teams driving and looking like they would win. The Bengals threatened to take it, but Dalton fumbled the ball and the Redskins recovered, before they drove back up the field to put Hopkins in with the chance to kick the winner. But he pulled his kick wide, and both teams went home with .500 of a game each. This game literally had everything, and will take some beating as the most memorable NFL game to be played in the UK.

2 – SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 32 – 37 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (WEMBLEY – OCTOBER 26, 2008 Attendance : 83,226)

After the opening game in 2007 which yielded just 23 points, a real shootout was needed in 2008 to showcase the offensive side of the NFL games – and the Chargers & Saints didn’t disappoint – putting up 69 points overall, including 34 in the second quarter alone. The Saints had stud QB Drew Brees and RB Deuce McAllister in hot form, whilst the Chargers showed off the talents of the likes of QB Philip Rivers, RB LaDanian Tomlinson (above) and TE Antonio Gates. Both Brees (1st) and Rivers (5th) would end the season in the NFL’s Top 5 QBs for Passing Yards, and they combined for 680 yards and 6 TDs on the game, in a spectacular display of passing football. The Saints scored first and built up a 37-20 lead just into the final quarter, before Rivers lead a spirited Chargers fight back to get his team within a score. But the Saints had the final possession, and Drew Brees deliberately fumbled the ball out of the end zone for a safety – giving the Chargers 2 points but no time for anything else. The crowd went home more than satisfied at what was a superb exhibition of exciting football – exactly what was needed to secure fan interest for years to come.

3 – BUFFALO BILLS 31 – 34 JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (WEMBLEY – OCTOBER 25, 2015 Attendance : 84,021)

Another scorefest, but what was remarkable about this game was the application of a phrase usually used in soccer “a game of two halves” and a comeback of staggering proportions. Both teams came into this week 8 fixture having had bad seasons so far – the Jags standing at 2-5 and the Bills one game better off at 3-4, but both showing losing records. Neither team had shown that much offense on the season to date, and the game wasn’t expected to be a classic. But the Jaguars blew the Bills away in the first half – building up a 27-3 lead, with their defence taking two turnovers (one fumble and one interception) back to the Bills end zone for touchdowns. But, crucially, the Bills picked up a TD and FG late on to give the half time score a semblance of respectability at 13-27. The 3rd quarter was scoreless and the Jags looked to be cruising to a win. But the Bills blew up in the 4th quarter, rucking up 18 unanswered points, with QB EJ Manuel (above) hitting WR Marcus Easley on a 58 yard pass for a TD to spark the fightback. The Bills took the lead and held it with less than 3 minutes left to go, before the Jaguars WR Allen Hurns broke the hearts of the Bills fans, by connecting with QB Blake Bortles for a 31 yard pass to snatch the lead – and the win. NFL drama at its absolute best and showing that games are never over, no matter what the score at most stages of the games.

We hope you agree with our choices and cant wait to see what the 2019 games bring!