Jacksonville Jaguars 34 Buffalo 31 (25th October 2015)
I’m not a massive fan of the NFL by any stretch, but this was my third NFL game, after seeing a game in New York and at Wembley within a week of each other last September. In fact, after a long day going visiting Halifax the day before, I wasn’t too enthused, but I’m glad I went.
The selection process for these Wembley games does tend to mean UK fans get to see teams in the what in England we’d call a “transitional phase”. While NFL fans like to hail their league as the home of the greatest athletes in the world, the truth is that the lesser of its 32 sides are liberally scattered with the gridiron equivalents of Eric Djemba-Djemba and Adi Akinbiyi.
Top candidate in this bracket for this game was the Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel who (according to a brief peruse of Bills’ message boards) wasn’t exactly filling fans with confidence prior to the game. It’s safe to say he didn’t help his standing on Sunday.
In six 2nd quarter minutes Buffalo conceded four touchdowns against a team tipped to be among the worst teams of the year, and three of them we directly linked to mistakes by the hapless EJ.
First he got caught out being tackled, dropping the ball, and allowing Jacksonville to run the ball over for a touchdown.
From the very next play after the kick off, EJ threw a pass to a Jacksonville player, who carried the ball past a limp as lettuce Bills defence for Jacksonville’s third touchdown, which came, according to the game clock, just seven seconds after the 2nd.
He then waited a whole two and a half minutes for the next blunder, again throwing another intercepted pass. No direct touchdown this time, but it duly came a minute and half later, to cap a four minute turnaround from a 3-0 Bills lead to a 3-27 deficit.
Buffalo did manage a touchdown of their own, but had added a couple of field goals to bring it to 16-27 as the game entered what looked to be the formality of the closing stages. Two touchdowns, 72 seconds apart in the last six and half minutes turned the game on its head though, and somehow Buffalo found themselves 31-27 ahead with just five minutes left, looking at a completely unexpected got-out-of-jail victory.
Instead it was just to be another temporary reprieve, with the Jaguars, who’d lost their previous two games at their Wembley home from home, scoring a late diving touchdown in the corner with two minutes left to win the game.
I’m not sure if I’ll go back next year. I was only tempted this time round by a cheap seat in Row A of the top tier, but I could be. I think it’s safe to say that anyone from Buffalo, be they players or the impressive number of fans who made their way over, will be too thrilled at the chance of repeating this experience.