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Monday, 6 November 2017

Event Review: NFL International Series - Minnesota Vikings @ Cleveland Browns

twickenham-stadium, nfl, london
Image: Lorna Holland
The Cleveland Browns - over recent years, undeniably the team with the worst record in the entire NFL and a team which consistently finishes at the bottom of the table.

The Minnesota Vikings - relatively strong contenders looking to top the NFC North and harbouring playoff dreams. Can 2017 be their season?

The Venue - the home of British rugby, Twickenham Stadium has played host to several NFL International Series games in London over the past few years. Despite a series of complaints and unfavourable comparisons to both Wembley and the impressive US stadiums, two games in the 2017 London series were held at Twickenham.

The Match-Up - Largely touted as a complete walkover and a dull game in the making, sports fans and commentators alike almost wrote the game off before any players even stepped foot on the field.

The Cuteness Factor - Over in the States, the Browns have a real-life mascot, the adorable Swagger. Since he was unable to make it over the pond with the rest of the team, the Browns were instead led out by Swagger's British cousin, Otto. After a lap around the field, Otto sat out the rest of the game and lapped up the attention from the comfort of his very own pitch-side dog house.

The Game

Despite a largely purple-jerseyed crowd and the ongoing series of criticism from the experts, the Browns defied all odds to start the game in a strong position. With the lure of an elusive win and the glamour of playing in a new city, new field and new country, perhaps London could be the charm to finally break the team's bad luck spell.

In fact, the entire first half was great, enjoyable to watch and exciting for fans of both teams as the score stayed too close to call. As the players trooped off to the locker room at the half, there was only one question on everybody's lips - could this be the day the Browns finally get a win? As one diehard Browns fan, straight off the plane from Cleveland, put it when was the last time the Cleveland Browns were leading their opponent at the half?

However, it seemed the elusive win just wasn't to be. After the half, the players just seemed to lose their nerve. Quarterback Kizer seemed to panic and the team followed suit, losing all the fluidity and smart play-making that set them up so well in the first half. Sadly, once things started to unravel the ball just kept on rolling, allowing the Vikings to flatten the downtrodden Browns yet again.

The Aftermath

With a disappointing final result of 33-16, even the Vikings fans seemed a little downbeat after the game. There was none of the usual post-game banter and enjoyable atmosphere that usually follows a football game - instead, fans dejectedly collecting their belongings and hurried away from the stadium and another Browns loss.

Everyone loves an underdog and when a team has a record as poor as Cleveland (0-8 and counting) you just can't help but hope for one of those rare miracle moments and a long-awaited victory.

Cleveland, it was a valiant effort, but in the final game of the 2017 International Series in London, it's clear that the Vikings were the rulers of the field.

Did you watch the game? Are you a fan of the NFL? Let me know in the comments below!

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