The first NFL International Series game of 2018 saw European fans again show their unwavering dedication for the sport as the Seattle Seahawks took on the Oakland Raiders, writes Dan Quarrell at Wembley.
Wembley still perfect venue for NFL
It had been very well advertised that the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium was supposed to be hosting this match, but Wembley stepped in at short notice after construction delays. For many fans, this was not an unwelcome move given how perfect the stadium remains as a home for NFL games in the UK. The atmosphere was surprisingly special as the Seahawks ran out 27-3 winners with the visitors reflecting afterwards on it feeling like a home game.
"It felt like a home game,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "Not only were they so much for us, they made it hard on the other team as well. I know that Germany supports us well and the people here in Great Britain supported us as well, and I’m sure there’s a bunch of other people who came, as well as our own fans who made the trip. We’re grateful for them, it made it a very special event today."
The Jacksonville Jaguars have particularly made Wembley their second home, but there is no doubting its suitability for hosting the masses of UK and Europe-based NFL fans regardless of their team affiliation. From the 'tailgate' zones and the fan plazas to the stadium entertainment itself, Wembley is still the ideal place to enjoy the NFL's UK jaunts.
'The Black Hole' and '12th Man' travel well
The fans who attend NFL games in the UK tend to be a very varied bunch, with shirts of all 32 teams visible and a simple enjoyment of the occasion regardless of who is playing. But what was particularly striking in this game was the presence of the '12th Man' Seattle fans and 'Black Hole' Raiders supporters who made the trip. Particularly so, it became abundantly clear that the majority of the 84,922 people in attendance—a record for the NFL’s London series game—were Seahawks fans.
While there are many Seahawks fans based in the UK and Europe - yes, they are massively popular in Germany - there were also a surprising number of ardent '12s' supporters over from Canada and Seattle who had seized upon the opportunity to travel to London for the game, despite the game being played nearly 5,000 miles from CenturyLink Field.
It made for a pretty unique atmosphere with new and established fans of both teams coming together.
Seattle Seahawks fans go wild inside Wembley Stadium during their game against the Oakland Raiders
Image credit: Getty Images
Quarterback Russell Wilson added: "To come out here, it was an amazing experience. It was kind like a Super Bowl atmosphere. The energy was amazing, it was as loud as can be. It was an amazing atmosphere from an amazing crowd at an amazing stadium in Wembley.
To see how many Seahawks fans traveled all the way from Seattle, how many fans around the world—there were fans from London, Seattle, New York, Germany—all these different places to come see us play. Seahawks fans travel the best in the world. It was just an amazing experience to play in London. When you’re a young kid growing up, you never think you’d being playing football in London.
Australian Dickson's punting a phenomenon
It is very rare for a punt to create a hush around a stadium, but such was the intrigue at times when Australian Michael Dickson stepped back to let fly. With his background in Aussie Rules, there has been a great deal of hype around the former Texas Longhorns punter since he arrived in the NFL - and it's clear to see why.
With his unique technique and unerring ability to pin the opposition back in their own 10, Dickson has become a superstar of sorts for his position. The rookie was a bold Draft pick from the Seahawks, but the way he delighted the Seahawks coaching staff, players and fans with his latest performance again demonstrated it was inspired. The reaction inside the stadium to his booming kicks was quite something.
Lynch a hero for both sets of fans
No matter how acrimonious some of his behaviour became in Seattle, Lynch will always be a legend for Seahawks fans. An icon in the Super Bowl XLVIII winning team, the powerful running back produced some of the most famous plays and performances in the team's history and, as such, will always be adored. That much was very clear when he emerged from the tunnel pre-game and when he jogged over to a huge pocket of Seahawks fans.
It was, therefore, a pretty unique and special atmosphere every time he touched the ball for his hometown team with both sets of fans wanting to support and appreciate him. Lynch means a great deal to both fan bases - and he could hardly have been received better by all of the fans inside Wembley Stadium as he faced the team for whom he became a legendary figure and world champion for the first time.
Shaquem Griffin an international inspiration
Shaquem Griffin is an inspiration to fans the world over - that much is clear after the Seahawks linebacker was shown just how much European fans admire him.
Among the shirts dedicated to the many stars involved, the name 'Griffin' and '49' appeared on a large number of jerseys.
A particular role model for many due to becoming the first one-handed player to be drafted in the modern era of the NFL earlier this year, Griffin clearly relished being at Wembley and seeing how much he is appreciated and supported by the NFL fans in the UK and beyond.
The final two International Series games to be held in London this season see the Tennessee Titans taking on the Los Angeles Chargers on October 21 and the Philadelphia Eagles facing the Jacksonville Jaguars on October 28.