After a successful first NFL game in London last year, between the Miami Dolphins & New York Giants, the NFL had the New Orleans Saints & San Diego Chargers travel over the pond to square-off. The stadium was packed, and 81,000+ seats were sold out well in advance. The Saints were considered the "home" team at Wembley stadium in London. During the UK national anthem, "God Save the Queen", the entire stadium sang along with "Joss Stone" (cute singer) - something you don't really see at American stadiums.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spoke with the game's commentators, explaining that he has committed the NFL to at least one game in London in each of the next two seasons (possibly more!). Goodell's main concern is to not take away from the home fans in the states. One of his solutions would be to possibly take away two preseason games, and add them to the regular season schedule, making it an 18-game regular season. Eventually, Goodell would like to have one overseas game for each team, every year. There is already a positive response from teams for an 18-game season, which should help Goodell's plans of globalization. He said he is very interested in the globalization of the NFL, and even commented that he would love to see an NFL team in London in the future.
On to the actual game, which was filled with lots of passionate play. Both teams were coming off road loses last week, so obviously neither wanted to have back-to-back loses, especially with bye weeks coming up. The Saints were at a slight disadvantage with Reggie Bush being inactive due to injury recovery. Why it is only a slight disadvantage is because they had Deuce McAllister starting, who is the Saints all-time rush leader, and can still play hard when called upon.
The Saints came out strong, with a long opening drive. It only resulted in a field goal, keeping the Chargers streak of 22 games without allowing an opening drive touchdown alive (longest active streak).
There was no defense or pass rush from either side. Both quarterbacks, Drew Brees (Saints) and Philip Rivers (Chargers), had all the time in the world to make their passing decisions. The Saints offense dominated time-of-possession, and the Chargers defense in the first half. The score was close even though the Saints had the upper hand into half-time (Saints were up 23-17).
Saints got solid rushing out of McAllister, and LaDainian Tomlinson had a break-out game for the Chargers himself. Brees went to several receivers, spreading the field, and throwing lots of short passes to open up the middle of the field.
Chargers' defense was on the field way too long. Rivers had a good game, although he was a little wild at times, throwing passes behind/ahead of his intended receivers. Antonio Gates had a really easy time having another good game against the Saints, as the Saints' secondary had no answer for him.
Both teams had a lot of pretty catches from their wide receivers. Saints' Lance Moore had an incredible diving catch for a 30-yard TD reception; while Chargers' Malcom Floyd had a great catch where Rivers literally just threw it up high for him, and he got up on his ladder to grabbed it out of the air.
The Chargers were struggling through three quarters to make it a close game, score-wise, but they took over in the fourth. After a field goal, the Chargers successfully ran a fake on-sie kick with 9:35 left in the game. Quite frankly, I was surprised/impressed the Saints were not expecting it - literally only one man on the Saints special teams went for the ball. The ensuing Chargers drive resulted in a beautiful stretched-out TD catch from Vincent Jackson. Saints challenged that his feet were not in bounds, but the ruling on the field stood after review.
There true turning point was at 5:32 left in the game, which could have made it a completely different outcome. Chargers' strong safety, Eric Weddle, picks off Brees off an under-thrown ball. At the time, the Chargers were only down 30-37, and the momentum was definitely in their favor. Saints challenges the ruling on the field, suggesting that the ball was not cleanly caught by Weddle. The interception was over-ruled after reviewing, as Weddle did not have complete control of the ball. Even still, the Saints did not do much with the possession, and gave the Chargers another chance to tie the game up.
The Chargers now have less than three minutes to come back from their 7-point deficit. In my opinion, this was going to be cake. Rivers was having a solid game, Tomlinson had his break-out game of 2008, and Gates was owning up the Saints' secondary. As expected, the Chargers trotted down the field, which started with a big pass play to Tomlinson. Rivers is leading the offense, picking up some nice yardage with a series of well-timed, well-placed passes. As they approached the red zone, it really looked like this game was going into overtime. But wait...this is the Chargers we are talking about! Rivers throws a ball in the middle-of-the-field, intended for Chris Chambers. The ball was tipped by the Saints' secondary, which was surrounding Chambers like I would surround the Saints' cheerleaders, juggled a bit, and eventually ended up in the hands of Saints' Jonathan Vilma. Nail, meet coffin. Nice try, Chargers.
This was a really entertaining, high-scoring game. Aside from the Eagles & Cowboys Monday night game in week two, I have not watched a more exciting game this season. I hope those limeys were happy with this game, because I sure was, even without being the die-hard Chargers' hater that I am. Aside from that, commissioner Goodell's comments during the game are exciting to hear, and I look forward to the NFL expanding it's product.