Welcome back to another, and sadly final, round up of the NFL 2018 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. But, before we end this segment, lets rewind back to Sunday afternoon when the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, took on the Jacksonville Jaguars for Game 3 down at Wembley Stadium.
This game at the beginning of the series was billed as the most high-profile clash of the three games but after last week’s huge touchdowns from the Chargers and last-minute drama from the Titans it sure had a lot to live up to!
The Pre-Match Entertainment …
The NFL tailgate party descended upon Wembley once more featuring familiar attractions around the ground such as the Jaguars zone, NFL Lab and dash, plus the main tailgate. With the clocks going back the night before this was the earliest kick off at the 2018 series, lining us up for a sweet sun-filled afternoon of football.
After having our full fill of activities and spending shed loads of cash we headed into the stadium about an hour before kick-off. After some more issues at the security check (this time #foodgate), we were finally in and watched the two teams warm up and of course got the beers in!
To kick us off, US and UK serviceman came on to the pitch and unveiled a ‘Walking with the Wounded’ charity flag, whilst a video played on the screens showing the charities’ involvement with veterans within the community. The Jaguars entertainment army then kicked into full swing. Their famous D-line band; Roar of the Jaguars cheerleaders and mascots Jaxson DeVille and Union Jaxson got us pumped with some spectacular performances.
The D-Line is a group of some of the finest rudimental drummers in the Jacksonville area who aim to provide the fans a great game day experience with visual and audio entertainment (unfortunately they came out to some boos by the many Eagles fans in attendance). The Jacksonville cheerleaders better known as the Roar of the Jaguars are made up of 34 stunning and talented cheerleaders who got the crowd ready for action. Jaxson DeVille is known for his awe-inspiring bungee jumps from above Wembley stadium and this year was no different! Union Jaxson is the Jaguars United Kingdom mascot and joins Jaxson De Ville each year to celebrate their London home game.
Once the players had taken to the pitch there was a moment of silence observed for the tragedy at Leicester football club on Saturday night with our thoughts going out to all those who were affected by the helicopter crash. This was then followed on a brighter note by two children’s choirs performing the US and UK national anthems, whilst serviceman from each nation presented huge flags that covered most of the pitch, as always a spectacular sight. All eyes then turned to the multiple captains of each team and the refs for the coin toss. Jacksonville won the toss and chose to kick off first and we were finally ready for some football action!
It’s Time For Kick Off
The Jaguars kicked us off with a punt from Josh Lambo heading out all the way out and through the end zone for a touchback. The Eagles then took over on the 25-yard line for the opening drive of the game. Things were looking good for Philly marching up the field until disaster struck on the 8th play of the drive when QB Carson Wentz fumbled the ball on the Jacksonville 33 yard line, being recovered by Telvin Smith Senior.
Jacksonville then took over and less than a minute we had another fumble! This time QB Blake Bortles managed to correct his mistake by recovering allowing them to continue their drive. They drove up the field up to the Eagles 32-yard line where the drive stalled. Josh Lambo then put up a low but impressive 51-yard field goal to post the first points of the afternoon.
The Eagles next drive shows why this Jags defense is so formidable when Jalen Ramsey intercepted the pass meant for Joshua Perkins in the Endzone not only denying the Eagles a touchdown but also allowing the Jags to take over on their own 25-yard line. Unfortunately, they could only manage a three and out from the drive that took us into the second quarter.
The second quarter bought us back and forth points. On the Eagles first drive they went for a 13 play drive totaling 7:13 topped off with a field goal from Jake Elliott from 31 yards out. The Jaguars then instantly responded with an 8 play drive ending in another monster 57-yard field goal from Josh Lambo.
Philadelphia after registering a 3 and out made up for it when they forced a fumble on Keelan Cole after receiving a 13-yard pass from Bortles. The Eagles then took over on the Jacksonville 44 yard line with a minute drive of 4 plays resulting in the first touchdown of the day, courtesy of a 32-yard pass to Dallas Goedert. The first half then ended with Chris Long of the Eagles sacking Blake Bortles.
Some Comedy Got Us Through Half Time
After the amusing halftime show put on by comedians Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan the teams took the field again for the second half. Jacksonville this time the receivers, started with a lacklustre 5 play drive before punting away. Philadelphia then showed some of that championship-winning magic with a 95-yard drive composed of 71 passing yards and 24 rushing yards resulting in another Wentz passing touchdown; this time a 36-yard pass to the left to Wendell Smallwood. After the extra point by Elliott, the score stood at 17-6 to the Eagles.
Not to be outdone by their NFC counterparts the Jaguars put up their own impressive 75-yard drive culminating in an 11-yard pass up the middle to Dede Westbrook from Bortles for the touchdown. The Jags then went for two but were no good. After their miss, around the stadium you heard a giant chant E A G L E S ….. EAGLES, it was clear which set of fans were enjoying themselves more. That would be the end of the points for the third quarter with another Eagles three and out to finish us off.
With the fourth quarter in full swing, Jacksonville put up more points courtesy of another Lambo field goal this time from 33-yard line. This took the scores to 17-15 and after last week we thought anything could happen!
Jacksonville fans hopes were then seemingly dashed when Philadelphia showed some clinical form with a 3 minute, 6 play drive ending in another touchdown to the big tight end Zack Ertz. The Jaguars managed to close the gap with another Josh Lambo field goal and still had seven minutes remaining. After another three and out by the Eagles, this was their chance! They went for it on fourth down with Bortles scampering up the left for a 4-yard rush. However, it just wasn’t meant to be as on the next fourth down it ended with an incomplete pass to Donte Moncrief and that was that. The Eagles took the win 24-18 much to the delight of what sounded like their thousands of travelling fans.
The scoreline and stats would agree this was a relatively close contest. Each quarterback threw for 286 yards with 20+ completions. Wentz managing three passing touchdowns and one interception compared with Bortles one touchdown. The Eagles also took advantage in the rushing play where RB T.J Yeldon could only manage 7 yards from two carries whilst Eagles Josh Adams posted 61 yards from nine carries. It just highlighted how much the Jaguars have missed Leonard Fournette who should return after the bye week. The Jaguars now drop to the bottom of the AFC South with a record at 3-5 and will be hoping to get back to winning games after losing four in a row, can the bye week help push the reset button? The Eagles move up to 4-4 and second in the NFC East behind the Washington Redskins and are hoping winning abroad will help kickstart their mixed season start.
Unlike the Chargers game last week this again seemed like the ‘home’ team was the least supported team of the day which was surprising as the Jaguars are London veterans now. I suppose this highlights how popular a team can be when they win a Superbowl!
It’s Been A Blast …
Well, that concludes the recap for the International Series. We hope you have all enjoyed the Football down at Wembley this year and we are already counting down to next year’s matchups. In the meantime, hit us up with your thoughts on who you want to feature in the 2019 fixture list on twitter @IntoTheEndZone_ & @Matt_ITEZ.