So, the 2017 NFL London series is complete after my favourite team, the Cleveland Browns, failed to secure their first victory of the season. Although they failed to achieve what I hoped they would, I still had a great weekend in London with my wife and then again at the game.
We decided to travel down on the Friday as we like to go and see a West End show on that evening to start the weekend off (does that make me a “Luvvy”?). After going to see the hilarious The Play That Goes Wrong last year whilst down in London for a game weekend, we decided we’d go and see the other show that same production company were putting on called, The Comedy About A Bank Robbery. This one is as completely silly as the other and both are brilliant. It’s not often I laugh out loud at the TV or stuff like this, but these two shows genuinely made me do so – I’d highly recommend both!
The Saturday was meant to be spent doing the whole Cleveland Browns fanboy thing in the Admiralty pub but, to be honest, after we went in there mid-afternoon and paid just shy of six quid a pint a few times, I thought “Nah, not staying here much longer”. I don’t really do the whole signature collecting/selfie-with-a-celeb thing anyway so it wasn’t a great loss to me. Hats off to the organisers though as they did an excellent job organising it all. I believe the main two were Kelly Burgess-Taylor and Steve Maybury who can be found in the British Bulldawgs Browns Backers group over on Facebook (I get the impression it’s their group). These are the same group that organise the Sunday Hippodrome room for Browns fans to watch Browns games with like-minded fans. They seem to do a heck of a lot to bring the UK fans of the Cleveland Browns together so hats off to them, well done guys!
Minnesota Viking @ Cleveland Browns – The Game
Last years game at Twickenham between the LA Rams and New York Giants had left me with a bad feeling towards the stadium but I felt that was more my fault as I’d not done any research into the ins-and-outs of getting to and from it and what it was like when there. With this game being a 1:30pm kickoff, we decided to get there earlier this year so we weren’t as rushed and flustered. I’d also done some research, mainly for my information on the stadium and how to get there for this website.
I would have to say though, even with giving myself more time to get there from the hotel we stayed in near Camden Town, I still don’t like the Twickenham or the journey to get there. If you’re spending the weekend there I find it nicer to stay more central to London as I do quite a few tube journeys back and forth but this makes the journey to the stadium on a Sunday a long one, which is then followed by a long journey (time-wise) on one of the shuttle buses before arriving at the stadium – getting out of there at the end takes way too long! I would say that the shuttle bus to Richmond is way better than the one to Hounslow as the roads are better and more suited to buses. The journey to Hounslow sucks as it’s through a residential estate with cars parked down either side of the roads making it a stop-start affair that takes a long time. That’s after having to queue for an hour just to get on one of the fecking things!
Anyway, I think I’ve made it clear in a few posts now that I don’t like getting to and from Twickenham and that I think it looks ugly, unwelcoming and dated, so on to the game itself.
Right, the game; I’d have to say that, after going to all four of the NFL London games this year, this Vikings v Browns one was the best game. I’m obviously going to say that as I’m a Browns fan but I think many of the neutral fans would agree. The first half was the best period of the game and ended with just one point separating them, 13-12 to the Browns. It would have remained closer had rookie kicker Zane Gonzalez not missed an extra point and field goal but that’s all “ifs buts and maybe’s” now.
The Browns started well after DE Carl Nassib tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage (he’s really good at that) and MLB Joe Schobert intercepted it. They capitalised on this by running it in from 26-yards out with RB Isaiah Crowell to give them the lead. My excitement was short-lived as this was the extra point that Gonzalez missed. There’s something annoying and untidy about a missed EP that bugs me. Carl Nassib continued to play well in the absence of Myles Garrett and helped himself to 3 tackles, 2 passes defended and a sack. Joe Schobert is developing into a great MLB and ended the game with 11 solo tackles and a defended pass as he was, once again, all over the field making plays.
The biggest problem for the Browns, of the many, could be said to be the inability of the offence to stay on the field. The defence just can’t keep up their fantastic play for the entire game when they are having to be on the field for as long as they currently are. You can definitely see the drop in their play as the game goes on and I put that down to the fact that they are knackered. This was evident during the lead-up to TE Kyle Rudolph’s TD as the Browns were giving away holding and defensive pass interference penalties that moved the Vikings into range of the endzone and a nice little pass to Rudolph. The defence is progressing nicely but they need serious help from their offence and a hell of a lot fewer 3-and-outs!
A disappointment for me in this game was rookie TE David Njoku. He was targetted seven times and only caught two passes. Not all were his fault but he did drop at least two passes he definitely should have caught.
It was good to see Isaiah Crowell have a decent game with his TD and 64-yards rushing and 54-yards in the passing game but I still want to see even more of the Duke! I did see that Duke Johnson suffered a suspected concussion and so thought we might get to see more of the promising Matt Dayes in future weeks but, thankfully, he has now cleared the concussion protocol. I’d still like to see more of Matt Dayes in the second half (probably fourth quarters) of games, though.
For the Minnesota Vikings, Adam Thielen was definitely their best player and, indeed, the games MVP. He’s such a great wide receiver that can make plays and be depended on. He did only catch half of his targets this week but that was largely due to some great defensive plays by the Browns secondary. He still ended up with 5 receptions for 98-yards and a TD. He was wide open in the back of the endzone after the Browns CB got no safety help on that play which saw Keenum nearly sacked.
The score ended up 33-16 in favour of the Vikings once the Browns defence had been on the field too long and has left me looking to the off-season again and what needs to be done to the roster. An obvious one is that we need a QB but I’m not sure if that will come via the draft as everyone is thinking. Now that Jimmy G is on his way to the 49ers, that’s one less suitor for the signature of Kirk Cousins….just sayin’.
DeShone Kizer showed the odd flash of good play again this week but he’s still nowhere near ready for the NFL and I doubt he will be next season either, but the team has absolutely nothing to lose now and should just stick with him. Who knows, maybe he’ll improve as he adjusts to the pace of the league and actually turn out to be ok (no-one knows, that’s who).
All in all, a good weekend was had and, even though we didn’t get the win, I came away with some positives and at least I’ve now seen the boys play – next step is to stop being tight and get my ass over to Cleveland to watch them over there and enjoy a proper NFL football atmosphere instead of the diluted one we get over here.
Did you go to the game? What did you think of the stadium and game? Let us know in the comments below.