So that’s that then! The NFL circus has been and gone for the second time this season, leaving behind it a lot of satisfied customers who have already turned their thought eagerly towards the 3 London games of 2014. With the euphoria of the day still high, it’s time to reflect on a great day.
As a Vikings fan the first game of 2013 brought with it a lot of tension and the realisation of a dream, but day was focused entirely on hoping that AP could inspire my team to the win that was so badly needed. This second match promised to be enjoyable in a completely different way: much less tension and fretting about the result and much more focus spent on enjoying the day and the unique atmosphere of Wembley on NFL match day.
One of the great aspects of the day is the chance to mingle with fans of all teams in the Tailgate party: everywhere you turn there is a myriad of jerseys representing all the NFL, numerous teams from NFL Europe and even the odd one or two representing their own teams. Where else could you see such diversity mingling happily with one another, with everyone simply enjoying the chance to experience the brilliance of regular season action in its full glory.
The undoubted highlight of the Tailgate was the chance to see Dwight Clark and Joe Montana re-enact ‘The Catch’ from the 1982 NFC Championship game – albeit a slower paced and less energetic version. At least he caught it!! Even better was just before kick off, when the two legends walked straight past us – literally in the presence of greatness!
The game itself arrived with its usual razzmatazz – but with the pregame show out of the way it was time to introduce the teams and get on with the action. From my vantage point at the front of the Jags endzone it was great to be able to see the players up close and personal as they entered the field, ready to see if they could upset the form book and record a much needed and morale boosting win.
Unfortunately that dream was over almost before the anthems, as the 49ers took instant control of the game. Touchdowns from Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick (in the corner right in front of my seat!), combined with the stuttering play of Chad Henne and the Jags offence ensured that San Francisco were quickly able to build up a game winning lead. When Vernon Davis and Kaepernick (again) added TDs before half time, the game was very much over as a contest and the Jags arrived at half time with only a field goal to show for their efforts.
Although the second half was closer in terms of scoring, as the Jags put up one score to the 49ers two, it was the efficiency of the latter’s offence and defence that was most impressive. Faced with Kaepernick, Gore and Kendall Hunter the Jags were powerless as they allowed over 200 yards and 4 TDs on the ground. Their defence seemed unable or unwilling to account for the read option and there were plenty of holes for all three to exploit. Much of the Jaguars offensive production came in the 2nd half, when the 49ers could already be excused for thinking about the plane journey back to California with the job safely done.
In reality this game was never going to be close. The 49ers are on their way back to the postseason and on a run of great form, whilst the Jaguars continue on their downward spiral towards a very high pick in next year’s draft. San Francisco showed that they have the potential to push for the Superbowl again this year and were clinical in possession. Jacksonville proved only that a great deal of rebuilding is needed in the offseason if they are to be competitive next year.
If this does turn out to the be first home game of the ‘London’ Jaguars as some people think it might be then the franchise and fans will have to hope that Wembley becomes a fortress for them. It is certain that next season’s game against the Cowboys will prove another tough test for them in front of another full house.
Despite the one sidedness of the game the atmosphere was great throughout the game as the fans took advantage of being able to witness one of the great NFL franchises performing at near to their peak. As fans in the UK we must continue to be appreciative for the opportunity to watch NFL regular season action. Thoughts are already turning to next year and the next instalment of the International Series – I for one can’t wait! Roll on 2014!!