Spot On: London Calling
By Brandon Fazzolari
Special to Pro Football Guru
When the Chicago Bears take on the Oakland Raiders in London this Sunday, it will mark the 25th time a regular-season NFL game takes place in that great city. The site of this season’s first London game is the spectacular Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and kickoff is set for 6:00 pm local time. Let’s take a look back at the best games ever played in the United Kingdom.
5. Los Angeles Chargers 20, Tennessee Titans 19 (2018)
The Chargers used the big play on offense and one big play on defense to upend the Titans last season. Playing without Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles totally depended on their passing game. Philip Rivers was excellent, spreading the ball around and hitting a few bombs which was the modus operandi of the 2018 Chargers. Trailing 3-0, Rivers hit a streaking Tyrell Williams for a 75-yard touchdown. Early in the second half, Rivers found Mike Williams running alone for a 55-yarder.
The Titans came right back thanks to a long kickoff return by Darius Jennings and a 21-yard completion from Marcus Mariota to Dion Lewis. Derrick Henry punched it in from the one and the Chargers lead was cut to 17-13. It was 20-13 when Tennessee started their last drive with 4:55 to play. Lewis and Henry dominated the possession, but it was lightly-regarded Luke Stocker with the score that trimmed the margin to one. Head coach Mike Vrabel decided to go for the win, but failed not once, but twice thanks to a holding penalty. He was criticized for the calling pass plays especially from the one-yard line with Henry in the backfield. The loss was crucial as Tennessee just missed the postseason.
4. San Francisco 49ers 24, Denver Broncos 16 (2010)
Expectations were low when the 1-6 49ers took on the 2-5 Broncos on Halloween back in 2010. If nothing else, the game turned out to be quite intriguing. Mike Singletary’s team was forced to use Troy Smith at quarterback because Alex Smith injured his shoulder and David Carr was ineffective. Over the first 48 minutes of the contest, the Niners were unable to do much of anything save a few Frank Gore runs. It was 10-3 in favor of the Broncos thanks to a Tim Tebow touchdown when the game got zany.
San Francisco’s inept offense exploded for 21 points in five minutes as Smith utilized Delanie Walker and Michael Crabtree effectively. A fumble by Kyle Orton put the 49ers in position for their last score, a run by the sensational Gore. Orton was gallant in his comeback effort, finishing the game with 370 yards passing and a touchdown pass to Brandon Lloyd. It looked like Denver would have the opportunity to tie the game late but Eddie Royal’s scintillating punt return was called back due to a holding penalty. Orton’s last pass was picked off by Shawntae Spencer and the Niners stole a win across the pond.
3. Detroit Lions 22, Atlanta Falcons 21 (2014)
Hmmm. Atlanta failing to hold a lead of 20-plus points. But this was the autumn of 2014 when the Falcons imploded in a game that summed up their season.
In the first half, Matt Ryan could not do a thing wrong – completing 14 passes to seven different receivers, two for touchdowns. Atlanta’s struggling defense played their best half of the season as they shut down Detroit’s running game and made Matthew Stafford look terrible. In the second half, however, Stafford connected with Golden Tate for a 59-yard score and the Lions came to life. The Falcons became so ineffective on offense that even a team with ultra-conservative Jim Caldwell as their head coach had enough time to climb all the way back.
Late in the game, Theo Riddick scored to make it a two-point game. After a Julio Jones’ drop on third down, Atlanta punted the ball back to the Lions with less than two minutes remaining. Stafford, Tate and Riddick keyed the dramatic drive and Matt Prater drilled the winner on his second attempt. His miss was nullified because the Lions committed a delay of game penalty.
2. Cincinnati Bengals 27, Washington Redskins 27 (Tie) (2016)
A game featuring the likes of A.J. Green and Jordan Reed at full health was as bittersweet as the results were to these two football teams. While a tie usually does not feel great for either team, the Redskins had to be left especially jilted after this one.
Washington came back twice in the fourth quarter to ultimately tie the game with one minute remaining. Kirk Cousins had a remarkable game throwing for over 450 yards and his clutch overtime drive gave the Redskins an opportunity to win in on a 34-yard field goal. Unfortunately, Dustin Hopkins' kick was wide to the left.
1. Minnesota Vikings 34, Pittsburgh Steelers 27 (2013)
There is so much talent on the field and so many big plays in this ball game, a brief description does not do it justice.
Matt Cassel in his first start in a Vikings uniform was excellent, twice hitting Greg Jennings for long touchdowns. Adrian Peterson added two scores including one of his patented 60-yard bursts that leaves one breathless.
The Steelers were gutty in their efforts to stay in this game with Ben Roethlisberger throwing for nearly 400 yards while being under constant siege from Jared Allen and the Vikings’ defense. Two touchdowns by Le'Veon Bell had the Steelers in a position to steal this game late. However, Everson Griffen sacked Roethlisberger at the 10-yard line forcing a fumble with just 10 seconds left in the game.
Brandon Fazzolari (@spot_bills) is a lifelong Buffalo Bills fan and a Vegas sports reporter for Vegas the Network.