NFL London 2021
We take a closer look at last week’s game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins during the National Football League (NFL), and the pinnacle moments that made it
Writer: Marcus Kääpä
Across the US, American football stands as the most popular sport by a long margin. This comes as a surprise at first when you look at the level of active participation in the country (around nine million); the sport falls behind the likes of basketball (30 million), baseball (29 million), and even association football (or soccer, at 13.5 million). But take into account the way the game operates, the national pride that echoes in its name, and its commercial value, it isn’t hard to see how American football takes center stage when it comes to fan following and support. It exists as the favourite sport of around 37 percent of Americans. Widely regarded as a sport like no other, athletic potency, armoured bodies and a near martial level of strategy merge into a game with a depth of complexity in which no two moments are ever the same.
And within the UK, American football’s fandom is growing. This year’s NFL London 2021 has so far seen some incredible feats, and it would be remiss not to take a closer look at the recent climactic victory of the Jacksonville Jaguars over the Miami Dolphins.
JAGUARS VS DOLPHINS
Amid the stars of the show there was the Jaguars’ own Trevor Lawrence, the number one pick at this year’s draft and described as the ‘best quarterback of his generation’, who celebrated the first win of a much-expected glory-filled NFL future career.
Taking place at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the Jaguars and Dolphins didn’t enter the early game with many wins; the former came into the game with a 0-5 record, yet despite this, the game was seen by fans and players alike as highly competitive. The crowd was treated to witnessing the second-longest losing streak in NFL history come to an end, highlighted by kicker Matthew Wright’s field goal in the final play that hoisted the Jaguars to a 23-20 win.
The victory under head coach Urban Meyer meant everything to the Jaguars who had entered Sunday’s game with a 20-game losing streak – six losses off matching the 1976-1977 Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 26 straight loss record.
The Jaguars had twice come up from behind, managing to level with the Dolphins at 20-20 with a 54-yard field goal. Nearing the end, the crowd of over 60,000 looked on to what was inevitably to be overtime. But with the Jaguars on fourth and eight with only five seconds remaining, they ran the play, made the first down and called a timeout with a single second left on the clock.
The Jaguars’ comeback was driven by quarterback Lawrence and a defense involving many critical stops in the second half. Lawrence cut the team’s halftime deficit to 13-10 after hitting Marvin Jones Jr. on a 28-yard touchdown pass following a throw for 319 yards. The game’s final drive saw Lawrence’s completions of 12 and nine yards to Laviska Shenault Jr. set up Wright for a reputable and game-winning field goal kick at 53 yards.
While Wright’s late heroics allowed the Jaguars to snatch the victory from the opposition, Lawrence ended the game having completed 25 of 41 passes for 319 yards, the most the 22-year-old has managed in his career so far.
The Dolphins had relinquished the lead and made a play to bring it back. Quarterback TuaTagovailoa hit wide receiver Jaylen Waddle for a two-yard touchdown moving the Dolphins back in front with 10:25 left on the clock. Despite this, the team’s offense had limited success on their last two drives.
Before going on to win, the Jaguars tied the game with Wright’s 54-yard field goal. It had been a solid performance from Tagovailoa as his first game back from injury. The quarterback threw for 329 yards with two touchdowns and a single interception on 33 of 47 passing. Tagovailoa’s favored target throughout the game was tight end Mike Gesicki who caught eight of nine targets for 115 yards. Waddle capped off the game’s opening drive with a six-yard touchdown reception.
The Dolphins now own the league’s longest losing streak at 1-5 after winning their season-opener against the Patriots. The Jaguars vs Dolphins game was the 30th regular-season game in London since the NFL’s international series started back in 2007.
“We were desperate for a win,” Meyer commented in the aftermath. “There were a lot of things to fix.
“But you saw a young quarterback make a big-time play at the biggest time of the game, and then a young kicker that we just signed a couple weeks ago pop two 50-plus yarders, so it was a great win.”