Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

01 Nov 2010

Bill Barnwell's London Game Report

by Bill Barnwell

Before the season, it might have made sense to put the 49ers and Broncos on display for a potential future market. The Niners were a consensus playoff pick, and the Broncos were a competitive team in 2009 that had a built-in London fanbase from years of John Elway games.

Unfortunately for those teams, the fans in attendance, and the NFL, this year's International Game mirrored the performance of the Broncos and Niners before the game: Dire and disappointing. Before a fourth quarter marked by big mistakes livened things up, the teams traded punts and served as a wonderful advertisement for the merits of rugby and soccer.

Even before the game actually kicked off, it was difficult to find signs of interest around the city. In the three days before the game, I saw a grand total of three pieces of NFL attire being worn by people around London. And two of those were jerseys being worn as Halloween costumes. While there were plenty of fans in jerseys on the Tube ride to the station -- I counted jerseys from about 15 different teams, including a J.T. O'Sullivan jersey on the girl/O'Sullivan family member sitting next to me -- we were met at the station by a wall of ticket touts desperately offering up what appeared to be face value tickets, an hour before gametime.

During the game, the heavily pro-49ers crowd had their interest steadily drained out of them. Although the majority clearly had a good idea of the game and knew when to be excited, fans were still told to "WAVE YOUR FLAGS" for atmosphere on kickoffs. Some booed an announcement that a measurement would be taken, which I took as a protest on behalf of the metric system. During the third quarter, the stadium got a rather impressive Mexican wave going; they really could not have been much more bored. There was no Olympics Closing Ceremony-style talk during or after about how this had been the best International game yet; when they announced an attendance in excess of 82,000, the league merely thanked the fans for their "patronage", while NFL UK Managing Director Alistair Kirkwood described the first half of the game as "dull". He was not alone.

For me, the experience was my first time in an NFL press box, and I was really intrigued to see what I'd pick up on that otherwise wouldn't be apparent from television. The two things that really stood out had to do with the passing game: I got a much better idea of how effective receivers were at running routes, and I went from having no idea of what the safeties were doing to gaining somewhat of a clue. While reading basic coverage concepts wasn't too difficult -- it was easy to see the Broncos play a lot of Cover-1 -- understanding the interplay of different defenders and the responsibility of each player in the secondary was close to impossible.

There are some specific things that stood out to me -- some were probably apparent from television coverage, while others were made clearer by being able to see all 22 players. In no particular order:

Taylor Mays is not yet good. The Broncos repeatedly used Mays as a target, and it resulted in several big plays. They ran several dig routes in front of Mays to pick up completions to Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Lloyd for first downs. They actually threw for a touchdown on a flea flicker where Mays got caught between two minds, but it was called back for a chop block on Knowshon Moreno. (Several members of the press box were confused as to what a chop block was.) A 70-yard pass to Lloyd came when Orton looked Mays off and created space for Lloyd behind him. On the penultimate drive, Orton hit Lloyd down the sideline for a big gain by pump-faking and freezing Mays.

The most obvious play, though, came when Demaryius Thomas picked up 31 yards on a screen. Thomas broke one tackle, but embarrassing attempts at tackles by Shawntae Spencer and Mays extended the play. Spencer ended up saving the game with an interception on the final drive, which was a surprise because...

Will James is still not good. The 49ers ended up, somehow, with James spending most of the game matched up on the left side of the offense against Lloyd. That would have been a great matchup for the 49ers in, say, 2004; on Sunday, it was a disaster. Lloyd's touchdown catch was a breeze, a fade that saw Lloyd just go right over the execrable James for a touchdown. On the final drive, the Broncos went to Lloyd against James on just about every play before finally going to the other side of the field, resulting in Spencer's interception.

Mike Singletary may be deliberately oblivious. I made sure to attend the Singletary press conference after the game, because I had lots of questions about the second-half turnaround that I was sure other folks were going to ask. One was on the pump-fake pass to Lloyd, which Singletary challenged and lost. Unfortunately, no one asked about it. He blamed two early second half timeouts on radio issues with Troy Smith's helmet, but credited Smith for doing "...a great job of keeping everyone in the huddle calm." Like it was a terrorist threat or something.

Regarding his gameplan, Singletary noted that "...[the Broncos] do a good job passing the ball, but we wanted to take away the run and leave them one-dimensional." Now, you may notice that the Broncos are dead last in the league in rushing DVOA. I understand DVOA isn't really Mike Singletary's thing. But they're last in rushing yards. They're last in rushing yards per carry, at 2.9 per pop before Sunday. Denver ended up running the ball 11 times with Knowshon Moreno for 40 yards, but Kyle Orton averaged better than nine yards per attempt while the 49ers were worrying about the run.

Process is apparently irrelevant with the Niners if there's a good outcome. The game turned on a 38-yard catch by Delanie Walker that was born out of mad desperation; a scrambling Smith tossed up a prayer into double coverage as he was falling down, and Walker subtly (but clearly from our angle in the press box) pushed off on Brian Dawkins to come down with the ball on the Broncos 1.

Singletary, naturally, compared Smith to a very similar sort of player. "It's kinda like watching Brett Favre. I don't want to put [Smith] in the same light", Singletary said. "Sometimes he makes a decision and throws the ball ... I will say 'Be careful' but that's about it."

To his credit, Smith laughed off the Favre comparisons, but his logic in why he made the throw was a little weak. "What we work on is throwing to our guy and away from their guys. If there's a tight hole I can put the ball in, I trust that my guy is going to come down with the ball." Saying there's a tight window on a quick slant is one thing; lofting up a prayer into coverage is no hole.

Players and coaches invent narratives for winning more than most media members. At least, the 49ers' guys did. Singletary, Smith, and Frank Gore each attributed the team's victory to an improvement on offense in the second half, when the Niners scored three touchdowns on three consecutive drives. Smith pulled out a quote about rhythm that blew my mind, saying "The reason why we came out today was to get in a rhythm and be in a rhythm ... You have to be able to keep your head down and stay on an even keel."

Why did the Niners score on three consecutive drives? Look at the drive log. Their first seven drives, which produced a total of three points, came with an average starting position of their own 21-yard line. The three touchdown drives came from their own 44-yard line (good return), Denver's 48-yard line (a terrible 21-yard punt from Britton Colquitt), and Denver's 18-yard line (a strip of a scrambling Kyle Orton by the impressive Manny Lawson). That is unquestionably the most important factor in why they scored, and yet field position never came up once in any of those post-game speeches.

Also: If you're going to be attending a press conference after a game as a member of the media, maybe you shouldn't be wearing a Steve Young jersey. Just saying.

The Broncos are who the stats say they are. They can throw the ball, but they can't run the ball very well, and the defense is in shambles. They ran more 4-3 looks because they're so thin at linebacker, but the defensive line has the same total lack of push that they showed during the second half of last season. It wasn't quite as bad as last week against the Raiders -- and they had a couple of key stops on runs up the gut -- but the Broncos were on skates far too frequently.

While the pass defense was good last season, though, this year's unit looks awful. It was easy to go back over the past few weeks and attribute that to injury fill-ins like Perrish Cox, but the same veteran foursome that the team was built around last year started on Sunday, and they offered little resistance. The biggest target was cornerback Andre' Goodman. A sample play reveals why the pass defense has fallen off so much. On a third down, the Broncos big-blitzed and brought six guys, maybe even seven. The running backs didn't have time to declare whether they were blockers or receivers, though, because Goodman was playing eight yards off the line of scrimmage, and Smith just threw an instant quick slant to Vernon Davis for an easy first down. The Broncos just don't have a pass rush without Elvis Dumervil, and if they blitz to try and alleviate that, the secondary isn't strong enough to hold the fort. Despite playing against a mediocre offensive line and a quarterback that was prone to tucking and shuffling at the slightest hint of danger, the Broncos were unable to sack Smith even once.

Goodman was also responsible for the coverage on Michael Crabtree's 28-yard touchdown catch. After Crabtree ran a nice out in front of Champ Bailey to pick up a first down, Crabtree moved to the other side of the field and just ran a go route by Goodman for a touchdown. Goodman never turned around for the ball from the moment the play started; the first time he saw the ball after the snap was when it fell into Crabtree's hands.

The one bright spot for the Broncos was that Ryan Clady played well. He was probably the only offensive lineman who can walk away saying he had a good game; most of the pass pressure from the 49ers came up the middle, with left guard Russ Hochstein in particular looking overmatched. Zane Beadles continues to start ahead of Ryan Harris at right tackle, with Harris not getting on the field for a single snap. Whether that's related to Harris's ankle injury or not is up in the air, but Beadles was erratic at best as a pass blocker. And at this point, all the Broncos really should concern themselves with is being able to pass the ball.

In the end, it was two bad football teams living up to their records. Most of the breaks went the 49ers' way, and they came up with the two jump balls (Walker's catch and Spencer's interception) that defined the game. For the NFL, it was a dismal presentation for fans that deserved better. If there is an International game next year, I have to imagine that the NFL will send a "guaranteed" good team like the Colts, Ravens, or Falcons. If the league wants to sell its product to Europe, it needs something better than the mediocrity on show Sunday in London.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 01 Nov 2010

50 comments, Last at 04 Nov 2010, 12:38pm by sebajoe1

Comments

1
by Podge (not verified) :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 11:22am

I liked this article. Nice to read an at the game review from an FO perspective. Maybe FO writers could be encouraged to make similar observations when they attend games.

If every game was like the Chargers Saints game a couple of years ago it'd work. England wants to see exciting offense, rather than a defensive struggle (or just flat out incompetence). Next year: Texans V Bills or something.

2
by AnonymousA (not verified) :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 11:29am

"While reading basic coverage concepts wasn't too difficult -- it was easy to see the Broncos play a lot of Cover-1 -- understanding the interplay of different defenders and the responsibility of each player in the secondary was close to impossible."

This is why people post comments on Word of Muth just to say how awesome it is, and this article has only one comment on it so far. Aren't you a football writer? Shouldn't you, say, know things? About football? If not, advertising it in the article is probably not the wisest move ever.

4
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 11:47am

Well, you would think at very least that someone who admits such a deficiency in knowledge might also display some more self-awareness and avoid being harshly judgmental, dismissive and self-satisfied...

38
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 10:56am

Well that's the pot calling the kettle black.

40
by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 12:54pm

Hey Karl, remember all those long discussions we had this summer about how the Niners were going to stink because Alex Smith would sink back to his normal level of performance, Vernon Davis would not produce at as high a level, the defense could easily decline and Crabtree was far from a certain answer for offensive woes? I'm sure I came across as self-satisfied and dismissive then as well...

Anyhoo, I agree with the original poster: people love Muth's column because he never says "Gosh, I sure didn't understand what was happening out there" And I stand by my assessment, any professional writer who says as much should not be as dismissive and self-satisfied as Barnwell. Really, is anybody defending Barnwell's opinions and aggressive "great or sucks" labels? Does anybody love how frequently he ignores FO's own numbers and how long he holds on to his opinions even after reality has squarely moved away?

I'm just saying, humility never hurt anybody, especially arm-chair QB's with no real expertise in the area in which they are commenting. And, of course, I'll accept the criticism, too...

42
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 1:36pm

I don't think that Alex Smith has sunk back to his 'usual' level of performance, he's been more like the player from last year. In my opinion the main issue that the niners have had is not a lack of talent, they lose because they're horribly coached.

I just don't get why people slag off the writers here, it's free for crying out loud. Should they slavishly parrot DVOA, which has its flaws as well as its benefits. I don't find Barnwell to aggressively say anything and everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

Basically, why not play nice?

48
by jimbohead :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 4:31pm

I agree on both points. Alex hasn't been terrible. He's thrown a lot of interceptions, but my casual observation has been that a lot of those were tipped, or miscommunications; he hasn't really made the crazy bone-headed reads that he made a few years ago. The line hasn't been nearly as bad as last year (FOA was concerned about continuity). The real regression has been on defense, where it feels like they can't stop anyone, or mount a pass-rush. That along with truly terrible coaching has been the downfall of this team. My biggest concern is that the front office will be convinced that Troy Smith is the future, and Singletary needs another chance with T. Smith at QB. It's time to draft Luck, hire a decent HC, and move on with life.

Also, for serious, whining about Barnwell is really old. Getting after him about not being able to diagnose all the complexities of a coverage scheme at one glance is beyond silly.

5
by John (not verified) :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 11:47am

You do know that Muth can watch the tape multiple times to analyze the line interactions, right? Good luck doing that with the pass coverage when all of it is off-screen.

Barnwell's admitting the obvious: without knowing what the defense is supposed to be doing on any given play, without having tape on the defense to review before the game, sorting out the details in real-time is challenging.

Also, don't be a jerk.

6
by tally :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 11:52am

Football writers should know things? Really? Where do you read your football articles?

I expect booth analysts to know things. I expect studio analysts to know things.

I don't expect Barnwell to be able to break down coverage responsibilities at a glance when half the QBs in the league probably can't do so either.

7
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 11:59am

But he's talking about cover-1, not Dick LeBeau's zones blitzes. Cover-1!

10
by tally :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 12:24pm

It wasn't Cover-1 that he had trouble identifying.

31
by roguerouge :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 7:32am

"Me fail English? That's unpossible!"

3
by ammek :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 11:46am

Like the Giants and Dolphins, both the Niners and the Broncos have name recognition and a solid fanbase from the 1980s, the boom period of the NFL in the UK. The league was trying to capitalize on that by scheduling those teams — hence the appearances of Terrell Davis, Roger Craig, Jerry Rice and, um, Marisa Miller (who dat?). But as Bill points out, most of the spectators are 'neutrals' who are more interested in an exciting game than in either team. It might indeed be a good idea to schedule the Colts, but the biggest coup would be to send the Bears or Cowboys on a good year.

I think the way the London game is marketed in Europe is still not very smart. It's presented with an uncomfortably delegational feel, as if it's selling America rather than football. By extension, it seems distant and peculiar and rather tacky. The European market is quite mature now, as the involvement of Rice and co proves, and while there'll always be a place for gawping at helmets and eye paint and (alas) Marisa Miller, there are also a large number of Europeans (and not only Britons) who play the game and follow it avidly. I think it should be marketed more as a great sporting occasion, and less as a worthily cultural one.

11
by fek9wnr (not verified) :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 1:23pm

I think part of the difficulty is pairing up a team that's internationally known and/or successful with a team that won't be a total drag but doesn't mind giving up a home date. Thus far, all the "home" teams in the international series have been teams that weren't assured of selling out every home game back in the states ('05 Cardinals, '07 Dolphins, '08 Saints, '09 Bucs, '10 49ers).

To get a team like the Bears, Cowboys, or Colts to play internationally, you'd have to use one of their "road" games against a team who isn't a guaranteed sellout at home, and it's finding a team that is in the latter category yet is internationally known and competitive that is the challenge.

14
by Dean :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 2:35pm

If you have to ask who Marisa Miller is, well, I hope you're female. I strongly recommend googling her.

16
by rfh1001 :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 2:37pm

Marisa Miller is less famous in the UK than Frank Gore, and that's saying something.

8
by Captain_Slog :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 12:05pm

I was somewhere over the other side of the stadium from the press box Bill. Not the range of team Jerseys around the stadium like last year - although with my Peterson 28 Jersey, the whole of the NFC North was represented in my carriage on the tube going back to Baker Street.

I expected the four quarters to resemble the fourth quarter in terms of points and the game didn't seem to get going until Troy Smith's fortunate lob to Delaney Walker at the 1 yard line.

Although most of regular fans realised the first half was pretty dire, the uninitiated people sat with me quite enjoyed the whole event which has possibly turned out to be good news for Commissioner Goodell and his global expansion plans.

It's an intersting point about having a guaranteed good team at Wembley. I think that was the plan this year when the fixture was announced but the 49ers and the Broncos failed to live up to preseason expectations by the time they got to Week 8,

29
by iapetus (not verified) :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 6:49am

Actually, I'd say the range of jerseys was better than last year - we actually managed to spot every single team, though I'm not sure who won the battle of 'my ex-Jaguars player sucks more than your ex-Jaguars player' as my Leftwich passed someone else's Nelson (in my defence, my Scobee alternate jersey was in the wash at the time...)

Last year it was only the Texans who we couldn't find represented. Still thin on the ground this year (along with Chiefs and Bills, who proved quite tricky to track down as well...)

33
by Sander :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 7:46am

I saw every team´s jersey; except for a Lions jersey. And for some reason I saw more Bucs jerseys throughout the weekend than last year when they actually played.

9
by BJR :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 12:24pm

Sports coverage in the UK begins and ends with football (as in soccer). Everything else is minority. So you cannot underestimate the achievement in getting 83,000 people to turn out. Outside of the occasional big international rugby fixture, no other non-soccer sporting event in the UK would be played in front of that size of crowd. It's a good effort to do it for the fourth consecutive year, and I applaud the NFL for it.

However, I'm not sure what they'll do next. The novelty will have worn off for a lot of casual fans now, and I suspect they might have difficulty selling Wembley out next year unless they get a real marquee fixture. They should probably take a regular season game to Germany or Holland because those countries always participated more than the UK back in the days of NFL Europe.

28
by Mr Skinner :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 5:25am

umm, Rugby Premier league final, Heineken cup finals and even some league games hosted at Wembley and Twickenham get 80,000 for rugby games.

12
by Ken (not verified) :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 1:56pm

Surely the bigger question is whether there's a game to take to London next year?

As far as the atmosphere goes - well, there was a good deal of NFL excitement at the Trafalgar Square rally on Saturday, though I suppose that Bill wasn't there if he didn't see many NFL jerseys. On that point, too - it's important to remember just how big a city London is. When I've been in, say, New York, I haven't seen _that_ much NFL kit on display (not that I've tried to quantify it); one thing that was interesting going back down to the South Coast was how many NFL jerseys there were on my train. 84,000 turning up for the game is easily lost within a city of several million!

Inside the stadium, I thought there was a great sense of anticipation that wasn't backed up by the play. Yes, it's a regular season game, but the conservatism of the 49ers gameplan was enough to send a committed fan like me to sleep. The NFL can't do much about the quality of the play, but when the gameplan seemed to be to hand-off to Gore to run up the middle, with an occasional screen pass, the crowd wasn't given anything to get excited about. When the game opened up in the 4th quarter, everyone got excited again and the atmosphere really started to lift.

As far as development goes, though, the NFL has consciously decided not to try and build this up as a continuous progress thing, at least in popular narrative. There was a lot of fanfare for the first game - since then, the emphasis has been much more on this being a natural thing, not something that needs to be especially hyped. They're right about that - most NFL fans in the UK are just excited to have the chance to see a real game. The danger is overextending. Goodell often mentions bringing multiple games, but that would ruin it. Once a year is just right.

22
by DGL :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 5:00pm

"When I've been in, say, New York, I haven't seen _that_ much NFL kit on display..."

You've obviously never been in Pittsburgh, where typically every fourth person you see will be wearing a Steelers jersey.

On a Tuesday.

In March.

But then, that's the city where "Formal" means "The black Steelers jersey" and "Semi-Formal" means "The white Steelers jersey."

23
by Sander :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 9:36pm

That Trafalgar Square fan rally thing was embarrassing. Even without the horrifyingly slow-moving entry line hindered by pointless frisks, the whole event was just tacky and stupid. Everyone I´ve spoken on the thing agreed on that: it was rubbish.

The game itself was eh too. The quality of play was never good, and the biggest cheers were heard each time the Jaguars-Cowboys score was announced. Either everyone hates the Cowboys, or the Jags should move to London right now.
Still, you could really see why the NFL likes the passing game: every time a QB threw a ball deep the crowd got excited.

26
by Eggwasp (not verified) :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 5:09am

Either? Both!

30
by iapetus (not verified) :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 6:56am

Speaking as a Jags fan who cheered those scores (and the fact that they showed the TDs from other games this year was awesome) I'd rather the Jags stayed where they are, thanks.

39
by Ken (not verified) :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 12:30pm

Yes, I fully accept that the rally was rather rubbish, though it was cool to see Jerry Rice. But the point there is that if you're going to say 'I didn't see much interest' then you have to at least account for the rally. Also, most NFL fans in the UK and Europe are soccer fans too. On a Saturday, they'll be wearing their EPL colours.

And yes, I deliberately chose New York because my experiences in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are a lot different! :P

44
by Sander :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 4:00pm

That's true, lots of people at the rally and lots wearing team colours (me too). On gameday there were a lot of people throughout the city wearing team colours too, so I don't really get the point.

And as I kept wearing my Bucs jersey throughout the weekend as I was going out I was constantly being accosted by people interested in the game. There was plenty of interest.

13
by B :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 2:32pm

I don't mean to be a stickler, oh wait, yes I do, but the English don't use the metric system for measuring distances, they measure it in feet/yards/miles.

20
by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 3:56pm

I've been wanting to comment on that for ages, but didn't want to be an ass about it. I've seen a bunch of those types of comments, and it's completely baffling. From where do some Americans get the impression the UK is evangelistically metric?

15
by Sergio :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 2:36pm

I still say Mexico is a far better country for this. Football (as in American) is a huge draw, we have more history with it, and we have a humongous base of casual fans, with a pretty decent base of dedicated fans.

But yeah, they can probably get more money in Europe. So there's that.

-- Go Phins!

17
by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 2:44pm

Yeah, I've always felt like if they're going to relocate a team, they should put one in Mexico City. It seems like a natural fit, especially if they're going to move outside the U.S. in other ways and put one in Toronto...

24
by BigCheese :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 2:32am

No question Mexico is a far better market for the NFL than England. Where else do you have every single MNF game playing on a dozen diferent movie theatres for several years running?

You also see people wearing NFL apparel reguarly, and not just on fall sundays. And you have NFL shops. And still the biggest attendance for an NFL game ever (even if Jerry sold standing-only tickiets to break the regular-season record. A record which was set on a day the Mexican National Soccer Team was claiming it's under-21 world championship while the game was going on. And soccer here is like a reigion).

- Alvaro

25
by Caw of the Seahawk :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 2:57am

For a second, I thought this was a zlionsfan template for bragging about a country.

18
by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 3:00pm

this year's [pass defense]looks awful. It was easy to go back over the past few weeks and attribute that to injury fill-ins like Perrish Cox

They traded 2nd round pick Alphonso Smith to Detroit for 7th round TE Dan Gronkowski. Smith is starting and playing at a high level in Detroit.

19
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 3:26pm

Nice review. More of these FO-centric game recaps would be lovely.

21
by BWV 1129 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 4:15pm

but it was called back for a chop block on Knowshon Moreno. (Several members of the press box were confused as to what a chop block was.)

Probably adding to the confusion was that the officials erred in charging Moreno with the penalty. Moreno's low block was actually the first block, and was completely legal -- it was Hochstein, in his eternal wisdom, who decided to "engage" a tumbling rusher high after Moreno had already made a successful low block.

27
by Eggwasp (not verified) :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 5:22am

I do think its important to note that this isn't a "London" game as far as fans are concerned, its a "UK" or even "European" game. Many if not most of the attendees would not have been in London the previous day, let alone week - they'd have travelled down from the rest of the UK on the Sunday.

Has the novelty worn off? I don't think so. 83k fans for the fourth of these is testament to that. The game was obviously dire for the first half but the atmosphere did pick up as the teams finally started doing something other than run-inside or dump-offs. Kudos to McDaniels for calling the post pattern that woke everyone up. At least I think it was post, I was front row at the other endzone from where all the TDs were scored! Despite that, in my group, my rugby-obsessed Dad was confirmed as having enjoyed his first game, whilst the rest of us obsessed with whose fantasy team Lloyd was on.....

Next year? We've had Broncos, Fins, Niners, Giants. We need a name with UK recognition from the 80s who has a decent offense but can't sell out home games? Mr Davis are you listening???? (at least it would be a cheaper trip for me than that one to Oakland to see Kerry Collins stink the joint up in 2005)

32
by Sander :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 7:45am

Chargers, Saints, Bucs and Pats have appeared as well. The NFL´s just cycling through the entire set of teams now.

I wonder if they´ll try to get two games again for next year, for some reason they initially tried that ths year but it fell through.

47
by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 4:26pm

Hey, if the Eagles played in it, I'd fly over for the week. Sounds like fun, plus I've never been to England.

34
by Mike J (not verified) :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 9:13am

I think most NFL fans in the UK dont bother with this game anymore. Why go to a overpriced game with no atmosphere when you can stay at home and watch 4/5 games at once? No brainer.

The uk tv people seem to go on about the 'amazing atmosphere' a LOT for some reason....glad to see bill bringing some sanity to it all. The atmosphere sounded dead to my tv viewing ears, and was only slightly better at the saints-chargers game i went too a few years back.

36
by rfh1001 :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 9:41am

I suppose 80,000 bother.

45
by Sander :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 4:02pm

The atmosphere was good but got dampened by the lack of big plays throughout the first half. The atmosphere at kickoff was great, honestly.

The NFL is in a tough spot because it can't really predict all that well what will be exciting matchups, and it's tough for them to send one of their top-of-the-bill matchups to England like Ravens-Steelers or Pats-Colts.

35
by Mike J (not verified) :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 9:14am

I think most NFL fans in the UK dont bother with this game anymore. Why go to a overpriced game with no atmosphere when you can stay at home and watch 4/5 games at once? No brainer.

The uk tv people seem to go on about the 'amazing atmosphere' a LOT for some reason....glad to see bill bringing some sanity to it all. The atmosphere sounded dead to my tv viewing ears, and was only slightly better at the saints-chargers game i went too a few years back.

41
by spenczar :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 1:33pm

I'd wager that most NFL fans in the US don't even go to a single game a year. It's the same reasoning, too (apart from atmosphere, I guess).

49
by Shattenjager :: Thu, 11/04/2010 - 2:48am

I last went to one 16 years ago.

43
by Jimmy :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 2:45pm

I entirely agree with the point that it is a lot cheaper and more comfortable at home with a nice big TV and streaming games in HD to watch. It also helps that you don't have to pay £4.30 for a beer and that you can get a snack without waiting for half an hour. The catering at Wembley is clearly only geared up for two hours of football (ie soccer) which is a shame when you have 80,000 people who may well have been there for up to four or five hours. The price of the beer for such a long game is a bit of an issue as clearly some people have tried to avoid the problem by getting drunk before the game which leads to the occasional bout of trogloditism which is unfortunate.

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by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 10:55am

What I thought was a little wierd was that at the game I couldn't really hear much noise from the crowd. There didn't seem to be a critical mass of 49er fans that wanted to start a chant or make noise for the niner defense. However, when I watched the replay later you can hear an almost constant chant of 'Lets go Niners!' that I never heard at Wembley. Did the BBC, or Sky, or maybe some american broadcaster add this noise to create the impression of atmosphere?

With regards to the booing when the officials went for a measurement, my recollection is that this was due to the stadium announcer incorrectly saying the niners had a first down before the officials had made a decision. It was more of a pantomime boo.

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by Sander :: Tue, 11/02/2010 - 4:06pm

It was up and down. On third downs and when prompted by the announcer or screens there was a lot of noise, but there were plenty occasions

There wasn't a pro-Broncos chant but I got the feeling most people were simply cheering on who they were told to cheer for - which would be the Niners as it was their home game. There was plenty of excitement on the Broncos TDs too, just no noise for their defense.

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by sebajoe1 (not verified) :: Thu, 11/04/2010 - 12:38pm

Suprised to hear this was Bill's first time in an NFL press box. Shouldn't FO have enough readers for their writers to be able to get press passes to NFL games? I thought the first hand observations were great and I'd love to read more from other FO writers in the future.