This week, it was all about Wembley - the players, the lights, the rain, the records, the mud, the cheerleaders, the mud, the spectacle, the rain, the 26 foot tall Jason Taylor, the mud, the 1972 Dolphins, the cheerleaders, the mud and the rain.
The game itself wasn’t much to watch. The weather saw to that. Torrential rain from just before kick off until just after full time made passing the ball a lottery, whilst the saturated Wembley turf, clearly unsuited to having real men play on it, cut up badly enough to make running difficult, too. Even so, the Giants were so dominant and the Dolphins so badly hampered by injuries that the 13-10 scoreline came nowhere close to reflecting the Giants’ dominance.
The game was worth attending for a number of reasons, though - the least of them being the historic nature of the occasion. First of all, after four years Eli Manning did something Peyton would never do - he ran more than 10 yards for a touchdown. Then there was the surprise emergence of a new star in the making, Fins running back Jesse Chatman replacing the injured Reggie Jones and being arguably the game’s MVP.
In all, though, it wasn’t a good day for the big name players. Jason Taylor was kept in check by the strong Giants’ offensive line. Eli, that run apart, only completed 8 of 22 passes. Plaxico Burress lived up to his ‘Plaxiglass’ nickname by going to pieces when put under pressure, whilst Jeremy Shockey was well marshalled by the Fins defence. Chatman apart, the Fins had nothing on offense, largely due to QB Cleo Lemon having a nightmare day which saw him fumble one snap and comically throw the ball backwards on another play.
The strangest thing about the whole day was that the Dolphins chose to spend most of the breaks in play promoting the fact that it is 35 years since they were the only team to go through a season unbeaten; they seem intent on honouring that achievement by going 0-16 this year.
Will there be another Wembley game next year? It is hard to tell. There are going to be 2 games outside North America next year. Buffalo have already said that they want to play one game a season in Canada, which may or may not count as one of these. Frankfurt will be claiming it is their turn after losing out to Wembley in the competiton to stage this game and there are other markets in the Far East and South America that the NFL is keen to tap. A crowd in excess of 81,000 and a fairly favourable time difference will count in London’s favour. The state of the pitch, the ignoramus who kept playing music over the top of the referee’s announcements and the fact that, despite all that money, the roof still flaming well leaks, will be votes against.
Oh, and the cheerleaders were very nice. Except the one stood in front of me, who was so skinny that you could see the bottom of her rib cage sticking out, making it seem like she had four breasts. Even in America, that’s wrong.
And in other news
Did you know it was the Superbowl this weekend? The Patriots and the Colts are in the same conference, so can never meet in the season’s most hyped and least entertaining game, but as the only two unbeaten sides in the NFL this Sunday’s match is surely a prequel for a championship decider in January. The Pats will be out to avenge last year’s defeat in that match and with both sides coming into the game off the back of crushing victories - the Colts ran riot in Charlotte to beat the Panthers 31-7, the Pats thumped the Redskins 52-7 - Sunday evening should be even better than last Sunday was;
The Rams season just keeps getting worse. Not only did they hand the Browns their first away win (27-20), but star running back Steven Jackson returned from a groin strain, only to leave the game with a back injury before halftime;
The Steelers beat the Bengals 24-13, the seventh straight time they have won in Cincinnati;
It was the battle of the back-ups in Giant’s Stadium. The Jets dropped regular starting QB Chad Pennington in favour of Kellen Clements, whilst former Bills starter JP Losman regained his place when rookie Trent Edwards went down with a wrist injury in the third quarter. Even a 13-3 win won’t have appeased Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr if the rumours that Edwards was only playing to save him paying Losman a bonus based on playing time are correct;
Big away wins for two form teams, as the Steelers win in Houston and the Lions in Chicago;
The Falcons’ DeAngelo Hall proves that some people never learn from their mistakes. The man who currently appears in a Reebok ad boasting that he knew he would become a professional sportsman when he got his SATs scores (i.e. he’s a bit thick) was fined $100,000 back in September with half of it suspended. Now, a second outburst, this time against the team’s owners and coaching staff for releasing a player, has cost him the suspended $50,000;
Old Man Favre is at it again, this time throwing an 82 yard touchdown pass in overtime to see the Packers to a 19-13 win in Houston;
Finally, sad news that the NFL’s most inappropriately named player is out for the season. 6’3”, 330lb (that’s almost 24 stones) Rams player Ritchie Incognito injured his right knee and won’t play again until 2008.