Five Wide: 2022 Week Eight

By Thomas Willoughby

And just like that, it was over. Three games over five Sundays, two stadiums, between six teams, of which one made the trip over for the first time. We laughed, we cried, we hurt our feet standing in the queue for a pint. The London games are away for another year.

The frivolities don’t end, of course. The NFL stops for no man, and the league rolls on as it always does. We do have a trip to Munich on the horizon, which I’m sure will be class for all heading over. Right now, however, we in the UK get to have a bit of a nap, and not worry about replacement rail services for the time being.

We’re about halfway through the season at this stage, and I don’t think we’re any clearer as to how this thing is going to shake out. Before we step fully into the second half of the season, let’s have another look back at the week that was!

Home Of Terrible Football

Well, that was disgusting. After three years away from the home of English football, we finally got to come back to Wembley Stadium for some NFL action. The game we got was NOT deserving of its surroundings.

I think what summed the game up was Trevor Lawrence’s first interception. With the opportunity to put his team up 17-0 in the second quarter, Lawrence rolled to ihis right, and launched the ball directly at Justin Simmons to end the drive. The Broncos then remembered they have a Pro Bowl quarterback now, and somewhat ignited their offense. From there, it became a puntapalooza. We can’t even turn around and say the defenses were good, because they weren’t really. Just really stale and predictable offense. 21-17 to the Broncos was the final score, and we all left the stadium worse for the experience.

A couple of ducks were maintained and broken, mind. Russell Wilson is now 2-0 in Wembley, following his win with Seattle in 2018. Trevor Lawrence and Doug Pederson are now 1-1 in the UK. It was kind of cool to see Latavious Murray become the first player to score two TDs in London for two teams in the same season. Something that you’d like to think will be broken in the next year or two if my prediction of “multiple Jaguars games at Wembley moving forward” hits.

Let’s just hope they’ve got a better team next time.

Aaron Ontiveroz-Getty Images

Home Comforts

I just want to mention how much more comfortable the Wembley experience is. I appreciate that everyone is going to have different travel experiences, but the increased number of travel links shortens the day significantly. You’re in a better mood having been on a train for just over an hour, rather than a train, 2 underground lines, and a half-hour walk just to get to the ground. 

The game day experience is definitely different, though. With the lack of space around White Hart Lane, your pre-match is limited to some food stalls, smallish pubs, and “soaking up the atmosphere”. Which isn’t fun if you get there “early” early. There’s a little more space around Wembley, but the big space usually reserved for the tailgate is now a building site. The “Beer and Bites” zone isn’t a particularly exciting replacement, so that’s probably something to look at moving forward.

I’d love to grumble at the prices, but both stadiums aren’t exactly cost-effective. £7.30 for a pint? No thanks. At least with Spurs you have the option for something from their in-stadium microbrewery. Over £7 for a can poured into a cup isn’t exactly value for money. The food’s better, too, but I did hear good things about the hot dogs, though.

We’re guaranteed 2 games at White Hart Lane a season. The Jaguars signed a multi-year deal to play at least one game at Wembley for three seasons, earlier this year. I’d also welcome other sides pursuing games at the stadium as well. If for no other reason than to get me home before 10pm on a school night.

Broken Game

I, like so many of you, subscribe to NFL Gamepass. I have done for years. It’s a nifty little concept; you pay the price of admission, and in return you get access to just about every NFL game live, the NFL Network live, and a bunch of NFL programs shows (Hard Knocks, A Football Life, etc). It’s a straightforward relationship we have. Rather, it’s a straightforward relationship we should have. In recent years, we the subscribers have been getting the short end of the stick.

This past weekend, as the nation (and, indeed, the continent) looked to tune into the early slate of games, countless subscribers were met with the same issue. The service’s various apps were not working. Some were ok, but it felt like the majority of users were faced with either a constantly loading screen, or had been logged out with no ability to log back in. Personally speaking, I was unable to log in while I was heading home after Wembley, however I chalked that down to the lack of service available on British railways. My colleagues at The Touchdown confirmed, however, they too had similar issues.

I arrived home around halftime of that early slate of games, and was able to get on for the second half of the Falcons/Panthers slugfest, but I cannot confirm that was the case for everyone. Regardless, the damage had been done. Still, at least we got an apology.

The NFL Gamepass service has been pretty rubbish for a few years, now. In 2017, following a developer change, users made mention of a noticeable downtick in quality. The price increased, while the product worsened. I started my Gamepass subscription in 2010, paying £60 to watch only the Falcons. In 2022, you can only pay £150~ a year, regardless of what you’d use it for.

All this would be palatable if there was some level of support. However, there isn’t. A couple of years ago the only line of communication for the product, its Twitter account, was deactivated in favour of a ticket system, which doesn’t even guarantee you a response to whatever issues you may have. For something that costs a fairly significant amount of money, that simply isn’t good enough.

I don’t expect a pro-rated refund, I don’t even expect any further acknowledgment of the product we’ve spent a significant sum of money on being fixed. All we ask for is that the service’s primary function actually works at the time it needs to work. Can’t be that hard, right?

The Tragedy Of Eddy Piñero.

Spare a thought for Eddy Piñero. The fourth-year kicker has been pretty solid through his short career, kicking for Chicago Bears and the New York Jets for a time, before landing in Carolina earlier this season, to replace an injured Zane Gonazalez. He’s looked pretty fine, probably earning him a few more years in the league. Until this weekend.

I’m not going to rehash the game’s story; you know full well what happen between the Falcons and the Panthers this past weekend. So let’s get to the business end. With mere seconds on the clock, PJ Walker connected with DJ Moore to tie the game at 34-34, with the PAT to put them ahead. Moore celebrated, which was simply too much for the NFLs stellar officials, who threw a penalty flag. The Falcons opted to have the yardage added to the PAT attempt, giving Piñeiro a 48 yard attempt to win the Panthers the game. He did not do that, and we headed to overtime. 

The Falcons received the ball, and immediately handed the ball back to Carolina thanks to a Marcus Mariota interception. The Panthers got down to Falcons territory, to set up a 33 yard redemption kick. He was not redeemed. The Falcons took the initiative and set up Younghoe Koo for his own game-winning attempt. He does not miss.

The thing is, yes he could (and probably should) have made both kicks. But if DJ Moore (and friends) had kept his (their) helmet(s) on, the initial PAT is a gimmie, and we’re talking about how the Falcons blew another one. Instead, we’ve probably seen Eddy Piñeiro kick his last ball in Carolina. A brutal business.

John Amis-AP

Lost Vegas Raiders

Man, what the hell are these Raiders? Fresh off a playoff appearance that could have gone either way last season, they loaded up. Devante Adams, an elite receiver by anyone’s metric, was added to the offense, and Josh McDaniels was named their head coach in an attempt to sprinkle some of that Patriots magic onto the franchise. Sure, the AFC West is a wild one, but they should have enough there to be relevant late in 2022, and maybe into 2023. Things were looking up!

Things have actually been pretty bad. 2-4 heading into this weekend, albeit off the back of two wins from their previous three. They’d turned a corner, we thought. A trip to New Orleans should be fairly straightforward, we thought. We thought wrong. From the first to the last, the Raiders were utterly shambolic, losing 24-0 to a team barely alive in their own sorry division.

They’re 2-5, on the road to the equally sorry Jaguars, and it feels like we’re at a turning point for the franchise. Failure to improve and progress over the second half of the season, and we might be seeing the final throws of the Derek Carr era. McDaniels might not see another season as a head coach, and the city of Las Vegas might be subjected to a tear-down far sooner than it anticipated. Huge ramifications, for me.

Features Image Credit: Ian Walton-Associated Press

Thomas Willoughby