Bears and Raiders give London an NFL game to match the occasion at Tottenham
PUBLISHED: 07:30 07 October 2019 | UPDATED: 07:30 07 October 2019
The NFL returned to London for another year on Sunday, bringing with it the start of a new era for the sport in London.
In welcoming the Chicago Bears and the Oakland Raiders, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium played host to the pomp and glamour of the gridiron for the first time as the NFL returned to London for a 13th year and its 25th game.
While the first match at the stadium may be a year later than planned, it was certainly worth the wait.
Across the pond the series can sometimes be considered a mere novelty, but in this stadium - the only one outside of America purpose built to host the sport - it was anything but.
The International Series staples were still there: jerseys of every club and bygone eras inside the stadium, an appearance from football's leading NFL fan Harry Kane, but more than anything, a sense of celebration at the chance to watch American football live.
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On paper this may have been a home game for the Oakland Raiders, looking for their first win in London at the third time of asking, but in truth it was Chicago that took over the capital: on the tube, on the streets, and in the stands with vociferous support.
That support silenced as the Raiders jumped into a 17-0 lead at the half. Josh Jacobs and DeAndre Washington rushed through Chicago's touted defence, which looked to have jetlag, and it was the Raiders defence asking questions of the Chicago attack.
Whatever happened in the Bears locker room at half-time did the trick. The vaunted defence came back almost immediately in the third quarter, with Khalil Mack recovering a fumble against his former side at the end of a bizarre mistake from Derek Carr and Jacobs.
Back came the wall of noise from the Bears support. The North Stand practically sucked David Montgomery into the endzone to start the comeback. It grew louder as back-up quarterback Chase Daniel connected with Allen Robinson for the first passing touchdown of the evening, and it deafened as Tarik Cohen's 71-yard punt return set up another Daniel-to-Robinson touchdown to give them the lead.
What the London crowds appreciate more than anything though is a competitive game. Oakland's fourth-quarter rally, another Jacobs touchdown and another lead change gave them just that.
While Daniel's killer interception inside two minutes busted the narrative for more late drama - the Raiders leaving London with a much-needed win did nothing but whet the appetite for London's next three games.