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Thursday, 28 September 2017

Event Review: NFL International Series - Baltimore Ravens @ Jacksonville Jaguars

american-football, nfl, wembley
Image: Lorna Holland
First things first, before I get into my review of the game, there's an important issue which needs to be addressed.

The Politics

Following former 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick's 2016 protests against racial inequality, particularly with regards to the US' police system, 'taking the knee' became a symbol of protest within the NFL. When more and more players started to follow Kaepernick's lead, current US President Donald Trump caught wind of the protest, and in typical Trump fashion, managed to twist what was formerly a peaceful protest and turn it into something that it was never meant to be about.


Trump decided that taking the knee is disrespectful, saying that players who chose to take the knee were disrespecting their national anthem, their flag, their country and those who died fighting for it. Irrespective of the facts and refusing to listen to the players themselves, he went on to say that, in a nutshell, any player who takes the knee should be sacked. As if that wasn't enough, he then urged the public to boycott both the league and teams who participated in the protest - something which, sadly, some of his followers appear to have taken to heart.

The Protest

In a combined show of defiance, teams, players and coaches across the NFL proudly stood together and took the knee before Sunday's games. All but one of the Steelers stayed in the locker room and refused to come out onto the field during the national anthem. Players, coaching staff and even team owners stood and knelt on the field, linked arms, and displayed a sense of unity that rose above the usual inter-team rivalries. Even across the pond at Wembley, Jaguars owner Shahid Khan came out and stood arm in arm with his players, conveying his message and showing his support. On Sunday, the NFL stood as one to defy Trump's incendiary, bigoted views and to support the real cause behind the movement.

To President Trump and those following his lead: it's about time you opened your eyes to the real issues facing your country at this moment in time. And let me tell you - football players exercising their right to a peaceful protest is certainly not one of them.

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The Game

Now that we've got the politics out the way, on with the review and the real reason for this post.

My fourth NFL game and the first in the 2017 London International series, the Baltimore Ravens were visiting Wembley as guests to their hosts the Jacksonville Jaguars. London's adopted team were looking hot and feeling fresh, coming off the back of their recent run of good luck over here in the UK, yet the Ravens were still widely tipped to be the victors in this match-up.

Somehow, though, the Ravens didn't seem to have arrived by the time of kick-off. Maybe they were jet-lagged (despite reportedly crossing the pond by boat) or maybe they just weren't used to playing outside the US, because the Jaguars had them by the scruff of the neck from the get-go.

Featuring some outstanding Jags plays, passes and runs, by the end of the game, the home team had racked up an impressive 44 points. Compared to their opponent's measly 7, the Ravens' score came in the final stages of the game at the tail-end of the fourth quarter - too little, too late. In scenes similar to the 2015 International Series game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Detroit Lions, one team was easily able to overpower and dominate the other.

The Result

Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles had a fantastic game, but his Ravens counterpart, Joe Flacco, couldn't have had a more different game if he'd tried. Suffering from incomplete pass after incomplete pass, not to mention the humiliation of sacks and two interceptions, the Ravens just couldn't seem to hit their stride.

A comfortable win for the Jags leaves them 2-1 in their season so far, yet Baltimore's lacklustre performance also leaves them 2-1 heading into week four. Wembley may have been a walkover win for Jacksonville and a disappointment for the many excited Ravens fans who travelled especially for this game, but from Ravens coach John Harbaugh's mouth, we're unlikely to see a return trip from Baltimore again in the near future.

Did you see the game? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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