NFL International Series Sunday’s sixth instalment of the NFL’s international series at Wembley Stadium pitted much vaunted New England Patriots against Missouri’s St. Louis Rams who made their first voyage across the Atlantic.
The enthusiastic 84,000 crowd firmly backed the Patriots and their three-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady. Despite this match officially being an away game, had it been played stateside, the Pats definitely received most prevalent support inside the famous London arena.
The 2012 duel won’t go down in the annals as one of the all time greats unfortunately. After a 50-yard throw by third-year QB Sam Bradford gave the Rams an early ascendancy, however their defence was soon torn apart by a combination of statistically the League’s top rated offence and their inspired quarterback who threw for over 300 yards. He regularly dissected the Rams’ defence as the Patriots amassed 45 points during the game to easily overturn the opposition.
Rob Gronkowski’s performance at tight end was equally impressive as his eight receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns helped bury the hapless Rams defence. Sunday evening’s showdown demonstrated typical Patriot’s bullishness. Even during the first half their head coach Bill Belichick ordered his team to go for broke on fourth down instead of settling for an easy field goal.
Victory allowed the Patriots to wrestle back control of the AFC East whilst the Ram’s are stranded at the foot of the NFC East, with any forlorn playoff aspirations already looking hugely optimistic considering the manner in which the San Francisco 49ers are dominating that division.
Yet, the NFL International Series appears to be going from strength to strength. From next year, two games are scheduled for London; the Minnesota Vikings @ Pittsburgh Steelers meanwhile the Jacksonville Jaguars have signed a four year contract to London meaning the British faithful will be seeing a lot more of the Florida outfit in years to come.
London Mayor Boris Johnson also announced talks with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell regarding the possibilities of hosting one of the 2013 matches at the Olympic Stadium.
Despite the rising support of the game here it appears ambitious to believe a franchise stateside would take a permanent trip over the pond, despite rumblings relating to three or four teams. When Los Angeles still can’t obtain its own team seeing a franchise move to London would be deeply unpopular in some American settlements without the razzmatazz and everything an NFL franchise brings with it.
Only an expansion of the league, not seen since 2002 would allow for the logistics of a London based team. However the popularity of NFL continues to grow, with Wembley still full and the crowd as vociferous as ever, the NFL International Series can look forward to a bright future.