October 30th, 2012 by Patrick Sturgeon
It was a brisk, wet, grey but totally absorbing day at Wembley Stadium on Europe’s Super Sunday. It was the perfect weather for a late October serving of NFL action – no matter where the game was taking place.
I’ve been to all the International Series games here in North London, and it’s has always been more than a football game: it’s an experience like nothing I have ever experienced. A huge tailgate party … without any cars.
I love the fact that NFL fans from all over Europe converge on London for the weekend and are so proudly show their colors by wearing all manner of gear from their favorite teams. I can safely say that even though the Patriots and Rams played the game on field, every team was represented off … even if some of the outfits were a combination of Halloween meets NFL retro. Seeing so many legendary names on throwback jerseys was great, I even saw a guy wearing an old Barcelona Dragons jersey from NFL Europe.
A sellout crowd of 84,000 was on hand to cheer the Pats and jeer the Rams as the teams entered the stadium. And to think St Louis gave up a home game to play here. London Mayor Boris Johnson welcomed the “Dissidents of European rugby union” to Wembley, which really got the crowd going, and when Welsh soprano Katherine Jenkins sung ‘God Save the Queen’, the place really erupted.
The Rams got the ball first, ran a little bit of no huddle and just like that QB Sam Bradford hooked up with rookie wide receiver Chris Givens with a pinpoint 50 yard touchdown pass to give the Rams a quick 7-0 lead.
The Patriots’ came out firing on their first possession. QB Tom Brady hit Danny Woodhead for a 24 yard gain to the St Louis 28 yard line; then Brady hit Brandon Lloyd with the touchdown in the corner of the end zone to tie the game midway through the first quarter [Lloyd pic right doing his TD dance].
So for a minute there, I thought we might have a QB duel brewing. OK, I was dead wrong about that.
After a Rams’ punt, the Pats wasted little time getting back into scoring position. Stevan Ridley ripped off a nice run and Brady hooked up with his favorite target Rob Gronkowski with two 25 yard passes to get the ball down to the St Louis 1 yard line. From there Shane Vereen bulled his way into the end zone on 4th down early in the second quarter to give New England a 14-0 lead.
The Patriots got the ball back again and continued their offensive assault. Or I should just say that Brady continued to find his man ‘Gronk’. The talented duo hooked up for pass plays of 17 and 32 yards to get the ball inside the Rams 10 yard line. On 3rd down and goal, Brady found his giant Tight End for a 7-yard TD, and Rob did his best tribute to the ‘Changing of the Guard’ by doing a little march back and forth as part of his own end zone celebration, within minutes, the planned celebration was trending as the “Royal Spike” on Twitter. Gronk is one of the best NFL PR guys there is.
The Rams desperately tried to get on the scoreboard again before halftime and drove to the Patriots 35 yard line. The drive stalled so they settled for a 53 yard field goal attempt. Knowing they needed touchdowns and not field goals to keep up with the Patriots on Sunday, the Rams tried a fake field goal, but New England were not fooled. The play resulted in a 9-yard loss and the Patriots got the ball on their own 44 yard line.
From there, the Pats moved the ball into the red zone, benefiting from two pass interference calls, including the last one coming in the end zone. Stevan Ridley scored on a two yard run and the rout was one as New England lead 28-7 at the break. Ouch.
The Patriots got the ball first in the second half, and the onslaught continued. Ridley came up with a bust out 30 yard run deep into Rams’ territory [Ridley pic right stiff-arming a Rams defender].
Gronk made another big catch to move closer to pay dirt and then Brady hit Lloyd with a 9-yard TD pass to give the Patriots a commanding 35-7 lead just over 2 minutes into the second half. Amazingly, New England scored touchdowns on their first five possessions of the game.
Moments later, New England parlayed two nice Ridley runs of 16 and 41 yards into another trip to the red zone, surprisingly the Rams’ defense held and the Patriots had to settle for a 26 yard field goal to extend their lead to 38-7.
At this point in the game day festivities, they got the fans in each end zone to pass two large Rams banners across their sections in some kind of race and much like the Rams’ day, the whole thing seemed a bit off.
On the Rams second possession of the 2nd half, St Louis showed some guts, when they went for it on 4th down on their own 31 with 6 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, which in football terms, means, they need to score every time they get the ball to get back into the game. They got the first down, but moments later Chandler Jones sacked Bradford for a loss of 17 yards forcing the Rams to punt.
During the next television timeout, the PA system played a crowd favourite, “One Step Beyond” by Madness, but to me it seemed like the Rams defense was “One Step Behind” chasing Brady, Ridley, Lloyd and Gronk all game long. Right on cue for London, it started to rain just as the fourth quarter was starting.
Perhaps inspired by the enthusiastic fans, the Pats put together one last scoring drive highlighted by another Brady to Gronkowski 16 yard gain, then Brady found Gronk on 14 yarder to make the score 45-7.
It was only at this point that I saw people started to leave Wembley as the PA system played around fan favorite, “Jump Around”, personally I think people were just trying to stay warm.
Brady had a stellar day, throwing for 304 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Rams had lots of trouble with running back Stevan Ridley who rushed for 127 yards and 1 touchdown. Rob Gronkowski was outstanding, catching 8 passes for 146 yards and 2 TD’s which certainly helped the Patriots and me, because he was on my NFL fantasy football team.
Top GameDay Performers
Passing: T. Brady (NE) – 304 YDS, 4 TD
Rushing: S. Ridley (NE) – 15 CAR, 127 YDS, 1 TD
Receiving: R. Gronkowski (NE) – 8 REC, 146 YDS, 2 TD
As you may have heard, the NFL recently announced they will be playing two regular season games at Wembley Stadium next season: Vikings and Steelers in September and Jaguars and 49ers in October.
In the words of Bart Scott of the NY Jets: “Can’t Wait.”
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