Why we loved the 2021 NFL London Games

Phenomenal. Incredible. Unbelievable. Electric. Rocking. Insane. Awesome.

Those were all words used by NFL players and coaches in the moments after the back-to-back games played at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in October. The two exciting, one-score contests were played out in front of sell-out crowds totaling more than 121,000 fans. The Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins combined for 1,198 yards, nine touchdowns and 90 points.

The first game saw Falcons three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Ryan complete the 5,000th pass of his illustrious career, while Jacksonville head coach Urban Meyer and quarterback Trevor Lawrence recorded their first wins in the NFL a week later.

But the two contests were about more than just statistics and milestones. It was a celebration of the NFL's return to London after a pandemic-enforced 707-day absence. And the atmosphere was electric before a pass had even been thrown or a tackle made.

Ahead of Atlanta's 27-20 win over New York, it was Jets of the flying kind that were on the mind of Atlanta's Ryan as he recalled: "It was probably one of the best fly-overs I've ever seen. Those planes were tight to the stadium. That got my juices going before the game. I've done this twice and it's always a special event. This is not just another game – it feels different."

The Falcons raced out to a 20-3 halftime lead with Ryan throwing touchdown passes to tight ends Kyle Pitts and Hayden Hurst. Atlanta held a similarly-positive halftime lead when they played at Wembley Stadium in 2014 but lost on a last-second field goal.

Although the Jets did provide a fourth quarter scare, pulling to within three points with 6:55 remaining after touchdowns from Ty Johnson and Michael Carter; the Falcons found a way to hang on. They responded to New York's late rally with a nine-play, 75-yard drive capped by a Mike Davis touchdown run.

Ryan was superb throughout the contest, throwing for 342 yards and two touchdowns. Pitts enjoyed the breakout game of his rookie year by catching nine passes for 119 yards and one score, while do-it-all star Cordarrelle Patterson racked up 114 yards from scrimmage.

After the game, Patterson said: "It's awesome to play in London because everybody is always so excited."

There was more pre-game excitement seven days later as Jacksonville's mascot, Jaxson De Ville, bungeed off the roof of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to the delight and admiration of the onlooking fans, players and coaches. And then it was Miami who jumped out to a 13-3 lead courtesy of Tua Tagovailoa's touchdown pass to rookie receiver Jaylen Waddle and a pair of Jason Sanders field goals.

But in the best game of his young NFL career to date, Lawrence brought the Jaguars back into the contest on a 28-yard touchdown strike to Marvin Jones Jr. James Robinson's 1-yard touchdown run gave Jacksonville a 17-13 lead in the third period.

With the game heating up, Miami re-gained the lead on Waddle's second touchdown catch from Tua and the Dolphins protected that lead until Matthew Wright produced his 'bend it like Beckham' 54-yard field goal to tie the scores with 3:40 remaining.

The young kicker – who won a competition for the job with veteran Josh Lambo leading up to the London game – then delivered the game-winner from 53 yards out as time expired, sending the Jaguars fans into rapturous celebrations as the club snapped a 20-game losing streak.

"I'll never forget this the rest of my life," insisted Jags head coach Urban Meyer.

Lawrence added: "I love that the Jags play this game, at least one every year, so I'm excited to come back. The American football fans in London are awesome. It was a really cool experience and to get my first win out here, it's special – I'll always remember this one."

Us too, Trevor. Us too.

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