Ahead of Sunday’s first NFL London game of the season – when the Chicago Bears take on the Oakland Raiders, live on Sky Sports – we look back at the history of the International Series.
We are now into our 13th year of competitive football being played in the U.K., and we have seen almost every NFL team in action.
After the Houston Texans play the Jacksonville Jaguars on November 3, 31 teams will have played in London – with the Green Bay Packers being the only team remaining not to have made the trip.
Here, we look back at the good, the bad and the ugly from the 24 International Series games in London…
Giants 13-10 Dolphins
Sky Sports NBA Editor Lee Harvey, who was at the game, said: “The weather spoiled what should have been a celebration of all things NFL in front of more than 80,000 fans. In short, it rained and rained and rained.
“Fans refused to have their spirits dampened. I remember the 10-minute walk from the bus to the stadium. Jerseys of every team were on show as the UK’s NFL community came out in force for the league’s first competitive game in Europe.
“As for the game itself, the monsoon conditions dictated a run-heavy match-up, a damp squib in which the highlight was Eli Manning scrambling into the end zone for the Giants’ only touchdown.”
Manning threw for 59 yards in an ugly win over the 0-8 Dolphins, but little did we know, we were seeing that year’s champions as the Giants snuck into the playoffs and toppled the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
Chargers 32-37 Saints
After the low-scoring, rainy, mud-filled first game in London, we experienced a shootout in year two as Drew Brees and Philip Rivers (of the then-San Diego Chargers) went head-to-head.
There were five touchdowns in the second quarter, 860 yards of offense, and who can forget Brees throwing the ball out of the back of his own end zone in the closing seconds to take a safety and use up the final moments of the clock?
Patriots 35-7 Buccaneers
It was 10 years ago, but those Patriots were just the same as today’s ones. It doesn’t matter where and it doesn’t matter the opponent, the Pats are all business.
Against the Josh Johnson-led Bucs, New England ran out to a 21-0 lead in the second quarter and didn’t look back, as Tom Brady threw for 308 yards and three touchdowns.
Broncos 16-24 49ers
With San Francisco starting quarterback Alex Smith injured just days before the game, backup Troy Smith stepped in and led his team to a win in a battle of sides with losing records.
Running back Frank Gore led the way for the 49ers, carrying 29 times for 118 yards and a score. Future Hall of Fame back Gore, who became just the fourth player to pass 15,000 yards in his career last week, went on to make two more London appearances – with the 49ers again in 2014 and Colts in 2016.
Bears 24-18 Buccaneers
Sky Sports Presenter Hannah Wilkes recalled her experience in 2011, saying: “There’s always an awesome atmosphere for the London games, but with the huge UK fanbase the Bears have, this one had added electricity.
“The Bears stormed the first three quarters – Matt Forte’s 32-yard TD run got them started in style (although he later gave up a safety…mixed afternoon for him!) – but a Tampa comeback in the fourth kept the game going right to the end with the Bears defense having to do the business to close out the game.
“It was great fun to watch. On a personal note, it was the first game I’d ever been to and sparked the love affair with the sport!”
Forte had a memorable day at Wembley as he rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries – also adding 38 receiving yards for good measure. His tackle-breaking run will go down as one of the most exciting plays we’ve seen!
Patriots 45-7 Rams
When the Rams drove 80 yards on the first drive of the game to take a 7-0 lead, we thought we had a game. But, like their last appearance, the Patriots ran away with the game and it was over by half-time.
Brady led touchdown drives on his first five possessions and threw four touchdowns on the day as the Patriots “did their jobs” at Wembley.
Steelers 27-34 Vikings49ers 42-10 Jaguars
The Vikings held off Pittsburgh multiple times as they attempted to fight back, sealing the win when Everson Griffen forced a fumble on Ben Roethlisberger at the goal-line in the dying seconds. We also got to see two running back greats as Adrian Peterson exploded for 140 yards and two touchdowns, while Le’Veon Bell made his first NFL appearance, finding the end zone twice himself.
For the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick’s rushing attack managed 221 yards as San Francisco pummelled the Jaguars in their first London appearance.
Dolphins 38-14 RaidersLions 22-21 FalconsCowboys 31-17 Jaguars
The Raiders couldn’t spring a London surprise, losing their 10th straight game as then-rookie Derek Carr was injured and left the game. The Dolphins scored 38 straight points behind a strong game by Ryan Tannehill.
I’ll always remember Atlanta’s meltdown against Detroit, as ‘Matty Ice’ Matt Ryan gave his team a 21-0 lead at the half, but crumbled in the second. Matthew Stafford led a 22-point comeback, with Matt Prater’s 48-yard field goal ending the game.
Tony Romo was in fine form in the Cowboys’ first trip to London, as he had a 138.8 passer rating and threw two TDs to Dez Bryant in a roaring Dallas victory over the Jags.
Jets 27-14 DolphinsBills 31-34 JaguarsLions 10-45 Chiefs
Simon Carroll, College Football Editor for The Touchdown, remembered this year fondly, telling Sky Sports: “While all 32 teams are represented in the stadiums for these games, they all bought into the Jaguars being the home team – for what felt like the first time. It was a fantastic atmosphere.
“They got the lead [up 27-3 at one point] but the Bills started slowly creeping it back and got a go-ahead touchdown with not a lot of time left on the clock.
“But then came an iconic pass from Blake Bortles to a sliding Allen Hurns who grabbed the touchdown in the corner as he went over the line. The place erupted.”
Elsewhere, the Jets topped the Dolphins in our first ever divisional matchup, while Alex Smith was in fine form for the Chiefs as they matched the 2012 Patriots for most points scored.
Colts 27-30 JaguarsGiants 17-10 Rams (Twickenham)Redskins 27-27 Bengals
Like in 2015, the Jaguars fended off a fierce comeback – this time from the Andrew Luck-led Colts, who scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Again, it was a Bortles-to-Hurns touchdown that provided the crucial late points.
It was also a year of firsts as the Giants – thanks to an incredible pick-six by Landon Collins – toppled the St Louis Rams in the first game at Twickenham and the Redskins and Bengals played out an entertaining tie in front of a sold-out Wembley crowd.
Ravens 7-44 JaguarsSaints 20-0 DolphinsCardinals 0-33 Rams (Twickenham)Vikings 33-16 Browns (Twickenham)
Four games, plus our first two shutouts as the Saints and Rams came out with dominant wins. All four winning teams went on to make the playoffs, with the Jaguars and Vikings reaching the AFC and NFC Championship games.
In their fifth game in London, we got to see the best of a feisty Jaguars’ defense as they held Baltimore QB Joe Flacco to just 28 yards until he was replaced by Ryan Mallett, who managed just 36!
Seahawks 27-3 RaidersTitans 19-20 ChargersEagles 24-18 Jaguars
Continuing the previous year’s trend, all three of the winning teams from last year went on to reach the playoffs.
Last year’s memorable moment came from the Titans-Chargers game, as after pulling within one point in the final seconds, head coach Mike Vrabel elected to go for two points and the win rather than a tie. Marcus Mariota’s pass was broken up by Chargers’ safety Adrian Phillips and LA held on for the victory.
What is in store this year? We begin on Sunday as Khalil Mack and the Chicago Bears take on his former team – the Oakland Raiders – in the first ever matchup at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The Panthers and Buccaneers will meet at the same venue next week (October 13) before a Wembley double-header in on October 27 and November 3, when the Bengals face the Rams followed by the Texans vs the Jaguars.