NFL London 2021: Atlanta Falcons v New York Jets - Five takeaways from Tottenham Hotspur Stadium spectacle
Five takeaways from Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as the Atlanta Falcons beat the New York Jets 27-20 on Sunday in the return of the NFL to London after the International Series had to be cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In week six, the Jacksonville Jaguars host the Miami Dolphins in their showdown with the Jags playing for an NFL-record eighth occasion in London.
Kyle Pitts #8 of the Atlanta Falcons celebrates after he scores the first touchdown during the NFL London 2021 match between New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
After a season in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the NFL's international schedule, London welcomed back the action for the week five clash between the Atlanta Falcons and the New York Jets - and the fans certainly relished the return with a party atmosphere and much fanfare.
While in week six, the Jacksonville Jaguars host the Miami Dolphins playing for an NFL-record eighth occasion in London, the Falcons and Jets were each making only their second trip across the Atlantic, ensuring that both fan bases were suitably excited about the occasion. But, as with all NFL UK games, it is always a festival feel for fans of all teams.
A packed crowd and a match which was competitive into the final five minutes of the fourth quarter certainly delivered for the fans who have waited so long for the NFL to return to London. It was a fine comeback for the hugely popular event and, with the second match still to come next Sunday, served as a taste of what is to come.
A stunning spectacle
So far in the 28 regular-season matches in London since 2007, there has never been a game between teams with two winning records. But that somewhat disparaging statistic mattered for little as a capacity crowd witnessed a thrilling spectacle as Marisha Wallace belted out the 'Star-Spangled Banner' from the roof of the stadium, accompanied by a thrilling RAF flyover and fireworks.
With no Premier League fixtures due to the international break, the biggest sports crowd in Britain on Sunday was found for the NFL, and it was treated to a remarkable pre-match display. The NFL certainly knows how to create serious pre-game buzz and the fans loved every second.
A general view of the stadium as a flypast takes place during the NFL London 2021 match between New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Image credit: Getty Images
A tale of two 2021 Draft stars
Both the Falcons and the Jets benefited from top-five picks in April's first round, picking tight end Kyle Pitts and quarterback Zach Wilson, respectively. With it being just week five in the season, both sets of fans were understandably keen to see their new stars in action.
Wilson, the second overall pick, struggled early on as the Jets played in London for the first since 2015, but he found a bit of rhythm late on to help give the team's boisterous fans something fleeting to cheer. Meanwhile, Pitts electrified the Falcons-heavy crowd with a touchdown in the first half and continued to make big play after big play. The tight end ended up with the man of the match award and the undeniable star of the contest.
The expansion drive doesn't rest
The NFL's drive for international expansion does not cease and that was further demonstrated with the announcement that three cities in Germany would be confirmed as finalists on October 12 ahead of the 2022 season. Beginning in 2007, there have now been 29 NFL International Series regular season games with the Green Bay Packers the only team yet to participate.
While the NFL remains committed to continuing to establish its already hugely impressive footprint in London, games in Mexico and Germany would further bolster the international reach of the league. With four international games to be played every season from 2022, the expansion is only going in one direction.
The NFL has found its UK home in Tottenham
Wembley Stadium and Twickenham have both hosted NFL International Series games over the years but the fact that Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was specifically built with this event very much part of the considerations is apparent.
From the famous interchangeable pitches to the bespoke touchline facilities - and even the roof deck from which national anthems can be delivered in extravagant fashion by adventurous and courageous performers - it really is the perfect UK venue for NFL games for the long-term.