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NFL London 2018: Seattle Seahawks @ Oakland Raiders
The weather became less gloomy, but the game went the other way for the Raider Nation at Wembley. Gary Jordan (Words) and Gary Baker (Photos) report for The American
Words: Gary Jordan. Photos: Gary Baker
The National Football League once again rolled into London, waving its banner high and mighty in its now customary October slot on the United Kingdom sporting calendar. This annual fare, now in its twelfth year, has become such a custom that should it ever be absent it would raise eyebrows. The British NFL fan is now not just a curiosity, but a being of great knowledge and dare we say power.
The question still rumbles on as to whether a franchise will ever land here. Only those in the know in the corridors of the NFL offices in New York and London know the answer and they are staying tight lipped at present, although when you have executive vice-president Mark Waller suggesting that the UK is “ready to go” and that 2022 is “realistic” then you can assume the wheels are well oiled. The smart money would have the Jaguars being the team that eventually makes the switch to London. This could be a gradual change with the team’s schedule being split so that four games are played in London and the other four at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. Of course, this is all speculation, but one thing is for sure: the demand is here as tickets for this year’s International Series games again sold out in minutes.
The first of 2018’s three London games was scheduled to take place at English Premier League Tottenham Hotspurs’ new multi-million-pound stadium, that’s been built in the footprint of its predecessor in North London, not too far from Wembley. A delay in the finishing of the build led to the move to the tried and trusted surroundings of Wembley as Oakland Raiders hosted the Seattle Seahawks. This was the Raiders’ second visit for a regular season game having lost 38-14 to the Miami Dolphins in 2014. The Seahawks were in London for the first time and with them a whole set of new generation UK Seahawks fans, that outnumbered the old school Silver and Black in support.
After an early morning downpour in the London suburbs the game looked like it would take place underwater, but the heavens dried up and the game started in pleasant Fall conditions, even if the field was a little slick in some areas. The Seahawks took the opening kick off and promptly drove 82 yards in 14 well balanced plays to take the lead, Jaron Brown snagging a 5-yard toss from Russell Wilson. Oakland, now led by Head Coach Jon Gruden, didn’t offer much resistance and nor did they offer much in the way of offense in the rest of the quarter as they could only gain 18 yards in the opening period. A sack and fumble on their QB Derek Carr towards the end of the period led to the second Seattle score early in the second quarter. This time Wilson finding David Moore from 19 yards away for another touchdown strike. These early moments set the tone for the rest of the half as the Raiders continued to stutter and any threat they posed was snuffed out by either penalties or sacks.
‘Chucky’ Gruden is nothing if not bold in his play calling, but it backfired when he sent in a quick QB sneak which his team failed to convert and this led to a field goal for the Seahawks as time expired in the first half. At 17-0, with an Oakland team that looked like it was still back on the West Coast, the game as a contest was as good as over. As it went on, the fans saw more miscues from the Raiders, as well as some excellent pass rush from Seattle, and by the time the Mexican Wave died down at the start of the last quarter the ‘visiting’ team had added another TD, Wilson with his third scoring pass of the night, this time to Tyler Lockett.
Further proof of how big the game is on these shores came when the official attendance was announced at 84,922, a record for the International Series games. Unfortunately, many of those thousands had left before the game clock reached zero, such was the ease of Seattle’s 27-3 win. Nonetheless it was once again a huge success, and even though the opposing Head Coaches had very different evenings, they were full of praise as to how their visit went. “That was a great thrill for me to be here personally. I’ll be honest with you, I got excited getting off the plane. Unfortunately, I’ll always remember it in a bad way, if you know what I mean” was Gruden’s view as he faced the press. Pete Carroll was more upbeat coming off the win, “Well, it’s obvious the people here love football. That’s an incredible crowd. This would be a great place to have home field advantage. So, you know, whatever the league figures out, I don’t know, but it looks to be set up right. It’s a great venue.”
The International Series games in 2018 were rounded off with Tennessee Titans vs Los Angeles Chargers and the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles vs Jacksonville Jaguars, the Chargers and Jags being the ‘home’ teams.