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The National Football League returned to its London spiritual home this past Sunday for the third of this year’s four games in the capital city. The excursion across north London to Tottenham for the first two games of this season’s London games were well received by all, so much so that going back to Wembley Stadium felt like something of a throwback, a return to the comfort zone that has been British home to gridiron for nearly 40 years. Yes, we had the brief run in Twickenham while the Tottenham Stadium was delayed in its delivery, but we knew that was a temporary location.
Wembley has its charm and appeal. Always will. The history is all literally written on the walls as you approach the stadium. Is it now starting to lose some of its shine? Now the north London neighbour has opened its doors and shown a future that is not only bright but puts some, if not most, of the NFL stadiums back in the States in the shade.
Despite another large attendance, just short of 84,000, there was a worry that this game would have a poor turnout. The tickets were selling cheap in the last few days and this perhaps swelled the crowd at the last minute. There could be a few contributing factors to this. A mix-up over season tickets being prioritised and not allocated correctly was a common theme amongst diehard fans. The teams involved didn’t inspire many casual fans, and maybe some are now picking and choosing the games they wished to attend as opposed to trying to go to them all.
In the end though the crowd was sizable and they were still full of the excitement that an NFL game brings. As also stated across social media, fans in the United Kingdom should be thankful that we still have games here so we should make the most of them when we can, even if the endgame is a possible franchise in the future.
The Los Angeles Rams were hosting the Cincinnati Bengals for this Week 8 clash. The Bengals were winless and the Rams had won their last game, ending an alarming three game losing streak that had threatened to undermine the solid start to the season that came off the back of a Super Bowl appearance last February. After a slow start, both teams exchanging field goals. The Rams then started to show glimpses of why they are the current NFC Champions. QB Jared Goff was finding open receivers with relative ease, and his primary target on the day was Cooper Kupp, who would go on to have a London record day 220 receiving yards. However it was another target that got the evening’s first touchdown, Josh Reynolds taking in a Goff pass and completing a 31-yard scoring play.
The Bengals responded with a touchdown of their own. QB Andy Dalton has blown hot and cold all season, but he was on form as he orchestrated a drive that ended with Joe Mixon plunging over from a yard out to level the scores. A piece of trickery led to the Rams taking the lead before halftime; a reverse flea-flicker play that had been in the playbook for a couple of weeks was finally let out and when Kupp turned upfield he raced for 65 yards untouched up the right sideline. It was a lead that was extended in the third period for the only score of the second half. Todd Gurley II ran 3 yards to put the Rams clear by two scores. This was enough to put the game to bed as the Rams defense took over and sealed the win, 24-10.
It was a game that was short on thrills, but the Goff-Kupp partnership showed true excellence in the passing game, something that both reflected on after the game. “What’s the record for the NFL? We were wondering most ever, 300 something? So, yeah, when he got 220, we were like all right we need to go for 300 right now,” Goff quipped, “I thought Cooper played well. And its cool he has that record now and next time we come to London we’ll have to go beat it.” When asked about his career day Kupp was surprised he had the big numbers, “Something like that only comes about when you’ve got 11 guys on offense executing and doing what they’re supposed to do. All these plays come in, its starts with Jared making sure were in the right look.”
Records are of course made to be broken, and as good a day as it was for Kupp and his Rams, the Houston Texans will come into London next weekend boasting their own QB-WR tandem that could have a big day. If Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins can exploit the Jacksonville Jaguars defense then who knows what could happen in the final game in this year’s London outings.