Welcome back to another, and sadly final, round up of the NFL 2017 International series here in the UK. This year has been a real rollercoaster for the various teams that made the trip across the pond and we hope you have had as much fun as we here at ITEZ have attending the games at Wembley and Twickenham. But before we end this segment, lets rewind back to Sunday afternoon when the Minnesota Vikings took on the Cleveland Browns for Game 4 down at Twickenham Stadium.
This game at the beginning of the series was billed as a one sided walk in the park, and we as the neutrals were hoping that these predictions would be wrong!
The Early Start
The NFL tailgate party descended upon Twickenham once more featuring the events familiar attractions. With last week’s contest the only late game of the series and the clocks going back the night before this was the earliest kick off at the 2017 series, lining us up for a sweet afternoon of football.
This week was the turn of the Cleveland Browns to take over as the home team. Orange banners filled the stadium with the Browns catchphrase ‘United By Stripes’ proudly displayed. A nod to another Cleveland catchphrase ‘Dawg Pound’ (which lifts itself from a bleacher seating section in the east end zone in FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Browns) was shown when the Browns very own bull mastiff (named “Swagger”) was led on to the pitch and placed in his very own dog house on the side-lines.
Unlike many other teams the Browns don’t have a cheerleader squad so they kicked off the pre-game entertainment with their very own marching band the Browns Drumline who put on an impressive display.
A tribute was shown on screens to the UK Emergency services with members of each making their way on to the pitch and standing with the players for the singing of the National Anthems. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan joined in the coin toss and we were now all set for kick off!
Time For Kick Off – Cleveland Browns vs Minnesota Vikings
The Browns kicked us off with a punt from Zane Gonzalez heading all the way out and through the end zone for a touch back. The Vikings then took over on the 25 yard line for the opening drive of the game. With Case Keenum in at QB for the injured Sam Bradford things were bound to be a bit shaky but on the 6th play of the drive disaster struck for the Vikings when the pass intended for Kyle Rudolph was intercepted by Joe Schobert returning it for 8 yards. Deshone Kizer threw an 11 yard pass to David Njoku and the Browns had moved down to the Minnesota 26 yard line. That’s all it needed as on the very next play Browns Running back Isiah Crowell ran all the way in for a touchdown (unfortunately the extra point was no good) and we had the makings of a game.
After another unimpressive Vikings drive the Browns formed up ready to receive the punt, the 34 yard kick by Ryan Quigley was being received by Bryce Treggs who had a mare and fumbled down at the 59 yard line. The Vikings were first to react and it was recovered by Emmanuel Lamur. The Vikings then finally managed to get themselves on the board with a 35 yard field goal courtesy of Kai Forbath.
The Thielen Knee Slide
The scores would remain 3-6 deep into the second quarter when Keenum finally found his form as the Vikings went on the longest drive of the game so far (60 yards). He finally gave the Vikings a touchdown hitting Adam Thielen up the right for an 18 yard pass, with the Browns getting a little something back by blocking the extra point.
Not to be outdone Cleveland went on a monster 82 yard 2 minute drive and sealed it off with 1 yard run from Kizer to take back the lead 13-9. The Vikings then used a bit of clock management and managed to sneak in another field goal just before the break. This led us into half time with the scores tantalising close at 12-13 to Cleveland.
Time For The Second Half
The second half opened up with another field goal from each team and it was looking to close to call at this point, but then the game seemed to revert to what it had been billed as. The Vikings were in full swing on a long drive when the Browns gave away a costly pass interference penalty and the Vikings had a fresh set of downs at the 1 yard line. Jerick Mckinnon tallied himself up a double score with the touchdown and 2 point conversion. A browns three and out was followed by another crushing Vikings attack of 33 plays and chewing up nearly 5 minutes of game clock, ending with a cheeky 4 yard pass to Rudolph for the touchdown and Kai Forbath finally giving us an extra point.
The second half never really got more exciting than that until with just under 3 minutes left and the score set at 30-16 the Browns elected to go for it on 4th and 10th. The result … a 10 yard loss with the sack coming from Everson Griffen. Minnesota added another field goal to their tally and this one was well and truly wrapped up!
To give credit to the Browns they gave us a good and exciting game. They did their best to silence their critics which was reflected in the stats.
What Were The Stats?
The Browns outscored the Vikings in terms of rushing offence 115 yards to 88. But the key to the Vikings victory was their dominance in the passing game 287 yards compared to 161, even with backup Keenum in, he well and truly got the job done. The Vikings D also stepped up sacking the rookie QB Kizer 3 times.
74,237 people were in attendance on Sunday and, in my opinion, had witnessed arguably the best game of the series. I’m sure few would have predicted the Browns leading at half time but the Vikings fully deserved the win, coming back and making it look easy holding on.
Goodbye For Now London …
Well that concludes the recap for the International Series. We hope you have all enjoyed the Football down at Twickenham and Wembley this year and we are already counting down to next year’s match ups. In the meantime hit us up with your thoughts on who you want to feature in the 2018 fixture list on twitter @IntoTheEndZone_ & @Matt_ITEZ.