The NFL returned to London this Sunday as the New Orleans Saints ‘hosted’ the Minnesota Vikings at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the first of this year’s NFL London games and they certainly gave us a spectacle to kick off the international window.
The game was a close one throughout, which given some of the blowouts that we’ve seen in recent years was certainly something of a relief for the fans that paid their money to come to North London on a gorgeous afternoon.
But whilst it might come across as an event for some on this side of the Atlantic, at the end of the day it is still a regular season game with plenty on the line. But what were the big takeaways from the game? We break it down for you in 5 easy chunks.
Do the Vikings have a sneaky good 1-2 backfield punch?
What’s better than having one great running back? Having another one that you can rely on whenever you need to (although probably not too much as that means one of them is likely injured). Well with Vikings running back Dalvin Cook coming into this week with a couple of injury problems after their game against the Detroit Lions, the workload was shared between him and Alexander Mattison.
We already know what Cook can do, with three straight 1,000-yard seasons in the past three years and a status as one of the top running backs in the game, but with Mattison there to offer him some relief when and if they need, or just to operate ‘by committee’, the Vikings might have quietly acquired themselves the best tandem in the league.
Video: Alexander Mattison scores a touchdown for the Minnesota Vikings
The depth for the Saints meanwhile…
Let’s just say that it was less than stellar. Jameis Winston, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas were all missing for the Saints on the day, and whilst their replacements of Andy Dalton, Mark Ingram, Latavius Murray and the rest of the Saints’ receiving group put up a reasonable performance, the gap is just far too big in talent if they want to get anything out of this season.
Whilst they were able to pick up the win, it could have been a little more convincing if the main guys were there and given them more of a platform to work with moving forward.
The coming out party for a future star?
New Orleans Saints rookie wide receiver Chis Olave, fresh off taking home NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month, this past week, got his maiden score on the professional level as he brought the scores level midway through the second quarter.
Video: Chris Olave scores a touchdown for the New Orleans Saints:
He’s clearly shown in his first few games what he’s capable of, but now he’s finally off the mark and we’re sure there will be more to come, and there is an omen associated with scoring your first touchdown this side of the Atlantic.
For those of who who remember, the London Games also provided the springboard for antoehr young rookie, as Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell scored his first NFL touchdown in the UK, and he went on to be one of the best running backs of the 2010s.
The best atmosphere we’ve had
This one is hard to quantify or truly ‘measure’, but as someone who has been coming to these games since 2009 both as a fan and as a reporter, this was by far the best atmosphere that we’ve had at one of these games. Helped of course by how close the game was and some of the great plays that the players made, but Saints fans, Vikings fans, London fans, you guys and gals showed up.
And for those of you who didn’t make it this week, but are planning to show up either next week or at Wembley at the end of the month, you guys have got a lot to live up to.
This was just the appetiser
We’re going to cheat on this one a bit as we’re kind of looking ahead, but this game served as the perfect first game, as next week we get what many would consider the ‘main course’ of the NFL London Games.
Next week we get to see, for the very first time, Aaron Rodgers come to London for the very first time (we say at time of typing, praying that he doesn’t get injured tonight against the New England Patriots) as he brings his Green Bay Packers team over.