Suggs lined up for Baltimore in London, but it was the score line that was Madness
Heading down from Manchester on a late summer Sunday, the weather increasingly improved as we descended into the south, so much so that the big coats and jackets were dumped pre-game, allowing our selection of NFL tees to run freely in the sunshine at Wembley Stadium.
Sadly for Baltimore, this was not the only thing that ran freely as the 1-1 Jaguars systematically took apart a supposedly feared Ravens…
All the talk pre-game was of Blake Bortles inadequacies as QB1 for the Jags and how the Ravens were likely to eat his mistakes for breakfast once the game began to flow. The consensus was that the Jags would put on some points, but in time the Ravens would figure out their game plan and ease away as clear winners.
Pre-game score prediction: Ravens 24 – 10 Jaguars
Oh, how wrong we were…
From the very off the Ravens were clearly not at the races, failing to capitalise on a dreadful out-of-bounds kick-off from Jason Myers which lead to them starting their first drive on the their own 40 yard line.
After a short 3 and out drive, the Jags gratefully received the ball back with the no points conceded and set to work moving up the field. Watching the team hold a mildly-amusing joint warm-up session pre-game (reminiscent of turf based synchronised swimming), we’d then seen them practice passing plays; on drive two of their game (after drive one had resulted in a field goal), their 7 play, 80 yards drive was capped by one of the very plays we’d witnessed; TE Marcedes Lewis jolting to the right bye-lie before receiving Blake Bortles double faked 17 yard pass over his left shoulder. The Ravens never saw it coming, yet we’d seen it twice…
0-10 to the Jags after the successful extra-point and over to Joe Flacco and the Ravens O to respond. Except they didn’t. Not at all. Not in this quarter. Nor the next. Nor the one after. In fact it took for the game to be dead, buried and Joe Flacco benched for them to register their first points of the day, with only 3:24 left on the game clock.
Flacco was as poor as the Jaguars were impressive, his arm clearly not healthy, his throws wayward from their targets all too often. The Jaguars D licked their lips and devoured his mistakes, inflicting some terrible statistics on the flailing Ravens by halftime: 15 yards of total offense (an improvement, at least, on the -1 at the end of quarter 1), Flacco with 8 yards of total passing, the scoreline: 0-23.
After the half, the Ravens were expected to respond. Which they did. Badly. They did finally manage to cross the halfway line for the first time in the game, but by the end of quarter three the score stood at 0-37. Flacco was benched at 8/18 for 28 yards; an embarrassing afternoon all round.
The much maligned Blake Bortles responded to his pre-game criticism with 20/31 and 244 yards and QB rating of 128.2. At running back, Leornard Fournette racked up 59 yards on 17 attempts. Before the game Super Bowl winning ex-Raven Ray Lewis was the toast of the Wembley crowd at the tailgate party, but afterwards it was Marcedes Lewis as the name on everyone’s lips, romping home with 3 TD’s.
Ryan Mallett made an appearance for the Ravens at QB in the 4th and for a while a spark seemed to have been delivered to their offense as they began putting a drive together.
But this was soon extinguished at the Jags 40 yard line as the defense stood tall and ended the 12 play, 38 yard drive as the Ravens turned the ball over on downs.
A 50 point haul and a shut out were beckoning but this wasn’t to be with Benjamin Watson scoring the consolation TD from a 6 yard Mallett throw, but all the same this was a truly incredible result for Jacksonville, the game finishing 7-44.
Is this the turning point for the Jaguars as a London franchise?
Until now the Jags have treated us to wins at Wembley, but not wins that have been paired with performances. In week 3 of the 2017 season, all this changed. This was a trouncing. A genuine embarrassment of the opposition. And not just any opposition: an opposition that was unbeaten and genuinely feared before the game. Fertilising stuff for a franchise looking to increase it’s roots into a passionate and growing UK fan base.
Jacksonville were not perfect (even with the game well in front of the Ravens and with them in complete control, they gave up silly penalties which a better team would have taken advantage of) but this was still a fantastic win; one for fans to cherish and to be held for UK fans in general as a talking point.
Teams will not enjoy visiting the Jaguars at Wembley now and will hopefully begin treating this trip with increased respect: the Ravens only flew in on Thursday which seems a woefully limited amount of time to acclimatise, practice and prepare for a franchise who are experienced in the nuances of making the London trip and hold an upper-hand because of it.
This was a great day for the NFL in the UK in general, and paired with last seasons Washington vs Cincinnati clash, we’ve now held two quality games of football within 12 months in London. A plus point for all NFL fans based in the UK and Europe and hopefully a sign of much more to come.