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Friday, 9 November 2018

Event Review: NFL International Series - Philadelphia Eagles @ Jacksonville Jaguars

nfl, london, wembley-stadium, american-football, jacksonville-jaguars, philadelphia-eagles

This autumn I continued the tradition I have developed over recent years in going to watch NFL International Series games in London. This year, I opted for just one game - the Philadelphia Eagles taking on the Jacksonville Jaguars!

As the Jaguars are London's unofficial home team, I've seen them play a number of times before. Each time, the Jags left the field with a victory over their opponents - despite not always playing the most exciting of games.

The Eagles, on the other hand, were uncharted territory for me personally. They're not a team I follow, but I was nevertheless excited to see the 2017 Super Bowl champions in action, especially given some of the mediocre London games of past years.

So, what happened on game day?

The Game

The third and final consecutive London game of the 2018 International Series was played at iconic Wembley Stadium on 28th October. The Philadelphia Eagles hit the road to travel and visit the Jacksonville Jaguars, playing at their second home across the pond.

From the end of last season, this game was billed as an impressive match-up, with two top-quality teams due to battle it out at Wembley. However, despite a Super Bowl winning side and a playoff-calibre team crossing the Atlantic, it's clear that both the Eagles and the Jaguars are not the teams they were last season.

The first half of the game was a tight one, with both teams fighting to gain ground above their opponents. This was a game of defensive skills, with both team's defensive players having to pick up the slack from rather lacklustre performances on offense. Fumbles were the order of the day, which coupled with interceptions and some highly questionable failed passes, led to a lot of frustration among the watching fans.

Philadelphia led going into the half and kicked off the third quarter with a few impressive plays from quarterback Carson Wentz. It seemed this was the beginning of the end for the lumbering Jaguars, who seemed to be having communication problems between their own quarterback, Blake Bortles, and the rest of his offense. Bortles has always been a one-way-or-the-other kind of quarterback, but this really wasn't his day at all. With a number of silly mistakes, Bortles and the Jaguars were left outmatched and outclassed, with many questions being raised over Bortles' future at Jacksonville.

Final score: Jacksonville Jaguars 18 - Philadelphia Eagles 24

With another disappointing loss on their record, the Jaguars are now finding themselves under increasing pressure to regain past form and get some more wins safely in the bag.

The Experience

NFL game day at Wembley Stadium always brings a wonderful atmosphere and a rewarding experience for fans of the game. However, out of all the Wembley NFL games I've been to, this was undeniably the one with the worst atmosphere.

Usually, I'd estimate that around 50% of all the attendees are neutrals (ie. fans of the game but not fans of either team playing). This means that the crowd is a sea of jerseys from all 32 teams and often, people are just there to see a game rather than support a team. In contrast, most of the fans at this game were Eagles fans.

Philly fans have a bit of a reputation over in the States (just look at what they did to their city after last season's Super Bowl win) and it seems that this carried over into their London game. The Jags (the supposed home team) and their cheerleaders were frequently booed throughout the game, with things kicking up a notch as the Eagles drew out in front. Although things remained mostly peaceable in our area of the stands, there were reports of violent outbursts and aggression from both US and UK Eagles fans. Not exactly the message you want to leave, Philadelphia!

On the other hand, the Jaguars weren't entirely without fault either. In the early hours of Saturday morning before game day, four Jacksonville players were arrested for allegedly refusing to settle an impressive £50,000 bill at a West End club.

With the last game in this year's trio of London games ending on a rather unsavoury note from both teams, could the UK's recent love affair with the NFL soon find itself on the rocks?

Did you catch the game? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

2 comments:

  1. Interesting! I never really thought of what it would be like watching two NFL teams play without at least one bunch of "home" fans. How fun, though!

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    1. It's certainly a unique game day experience! x

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