On Sunday the NFL returned to London for what was the first of four regular season games to be played outside of the United States in 2019 and what was to be the first game to be played at the newly built state of the art Tottenham Hotspur Stadium — the first purpose built venue for American football outside of North America. After losing at home to the Green Bay Packers on opening night the Chicago Bears went into their game with the Raiders on a 3 game winning streak and must have believed they were going to come away from their international ‘business trip’ with an improved 4-1 record. Instead John Gruden put on a coaching clinic and redeemed his head scratching trade of Khalil Mack to Chicago in 2018 in the process, keeping the famed Bears defence on the field for most of the first half by pounding their defensive line with rookie RB Josh Jacobs time and time again. Conversely, the Raiders defence managed to do just enough to stop a later game comeback by the Bears, picking off Chase Daniels late in the fourth quarter to seal a famous win for what is an exceptionally young team.
Yet despite the game proving to be somewhat of an unexpected spectacle, it was the atmosphere that caught most seasoned NFL fans off guard. Put simply this game could have been mistaken for a Chicago Bears home game (for the record it wasn’t). In truth the games played at both Wembley and Twickenham are often attended by a variety of people; ranging from genuine fans of both teams, fans of other teams, casual fans and individuals who just want a good time. The issue with having such a mix of people would be the genuine lack of game day atmosphere, but this game felt ‘different’. I heard one fan say it was due to the sheer volume of fans making the trip over to the UK, whilst another attributed the improved atmosphere to the quality of said game. However, having experienced the game for ourselves it is almost impossible not to recognise the impact of the venue, which was co-financed by the NFL due to the sheer growth of the game over the past decade. In many ways this game felt like it was a ‘vindication’ of sorts for UK fans who long for a franchise to be based in London. Still, although they may have to wait a little longer for this to come to fruition, after witnessing the very best London has to offer, one has to believe this is now a question of when rather than if. J
Be sure to check out some of our photos from the big game below and let us know whether you attended the game, your thoughts and whether this could indeed convince the NFL to have a franchise based in London. Enjoy.