Welcome back to another ITEZ round of up of the International Series.
Game two was played between the New Orleans Saints and the Miami Dolphins and was the main event after a weekend where NFL mania took over the capital with NFL on Regent Street on Saturday.
After such a high scoring game (for one team anyway) at Wembley last weekend this fixture was being hyped up as a potential thriller with the return of London-born Jay Ajayi back home to take to the hallowed turf.
Wembley’s pre-match entertainment
Similarly to last week the build up to the game included the NFL tailgate party on the site of Wembley’s usual yellow car park, hosting a multitude of events. This week the site of the Jaguars zone was renamed and badged to represent the Dolphins, who were Week 4’s home team.
The 2017 NFL London Games Fan Mobile Pass presented by Subway was again the best way to make the most of the build-up events with free products being won left right and centre!
The NFL has teamed up with Sport Relief this year and opened the game with an impressive display. Giant Sports Relief letters were spelled out by coloured bags held up by the crowd around the stadium, the rest forming a sea of red and white, accompanied by some excellent pyrotechnics and a short speech by Tom Daley officially opening the partnership. Sports Relief is an excellent charity and you can contribute here.
Time for kick off …
After the initial excitement we moved on and the two teams entered on to the pitch. The Saints team showed unity by kneeling as one pre-anthem, with only a handful of Dolphins kneeling for the actual American anthem. After a spine tingling presentation of the UK’s anthem bolstered with tens of thousands singing from the stands it felt like this had all the makings for the glorious matchup we had been promised ever since the series had been first announced (boy were we in for a shock). It was finally time for FOOTBALL!
The Saints won the coin toss and elected to kick with Wil Lutz providing the first action of the game, the kick being returned by Marcus Williams for 22 yards. The Dolphins opening drive was to be a perfect start, Jay Cutler and Jay Ajayi combining for a total of 90 yards (minus the penalties) all was going well and looked like guaranteed points on the board until….. the Saints interception by Ken Crawley. Cutler at his old tricks again!
Now on to the Saints opening drive, pretty much a mirror image of the Dolphins start. Well placed passes by Drew Brees chewed up the yards all the way until it came to putting some points on the board, again they were nowhere to be seen thanks to Wil Lutz missed 41 yard field goal attempt.
The first half never really got any better from that. For the neutral, this was turning into a massive disappointment but as regular fans will know not every game always lives up to its hype.
We had to wait until the last drive before half time to get some point-scoring action. With another dire drive by the Dolphins, the Saints received the punt and started out on the 50 yard line with 1:18 on the clock. This particular drive was nothing special and culminated with the Saints electing to go for the field goal with 4 seconds left handing Wil Lutz a chance to redeem himself, obliging with a 43 yard field goal. Points!!
After the break, the Saints came out looking like a different team and didn’t look like losing the game. An impressive 11-play, 72 yard drive ending with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas for the touchdown. This finally breathed some life into this game and it looked like we were finally in business.
The Dolphins had other ideas. In keeping with their first half performance, the Dolphins couldn’t even mange 100 yards of total offence in the second half. Cutler never looked settled at Quarterback and Jay Ajayi couldn’t have imagined a worse return to the capital! This poor combination resulted in a Saints walk over.
The Saints maintained their 10-0 lead into the 4th quarter where they were able to extended it courtesy of a 45-yard field goal from Wil Lutz field goal and another passing touchdown, this time up the middle to Alvin Kamara for a 12 yard score INTO THE END ZONE!! That is how the game would remain with the final score 20-0 and the first shutout ever in the 10 year history of the International series – sorry, Dolphins fans!
What were the stats?
The stats for this one reflect the game-play perfectly with all the games’ top performers coming from the Saints. Drew Brees topped Jay Cutler with 268 yards and 2 touchdowns to 164 yards and 1 interception.
Alvin Kamara’s average of 5 yards per run outshone Ajayi’s 3.8 and Michael Thomas with 89 receiving yards and a touchdown couldn’t be matched by DeVante Parker with only 69 yards total.
Goodbye Wembley …
So that sums up International series Game 2 and another year of NFL games at Wembley Stadium. It may not have been a gunslinger as promised, but NFL coming to the UK is always an awesome occasion from start to finish, so bring on the next game at Twickenham when the Rams host the CARDINALS!!!! (I’m not biased I promise…)
We hope to see you all down at Twickenham Stadium for hopefully a great divisional match-up. Until then, follow us at @IntoTheEndZone_ on Twitter for all the latest news.