NFL London: Seattle Seahawks right ship on overseas trip

With the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders struggling mightily five games into this NFL season, a 10-hour flight to Europe was bound to be a welcome change for one team and a nightmare for the other.

Such is life at the NFL London Games.

Seattle, it turns out, will take home fond memories of Britain, while the Raiders will try and regroup.

Thanks to a stingy defense which sacked Derek Carr six times and three touchdown passes from Russell Wilson, the Seahawks put away the Raiders 27-3 on Sunday night at Wembley Stadium. The win lifts the Seahawks to a respectable 3-3 record and back in the playoff hunt.

“It’s terrible to lose,” Raiders rookie defensive tackle Maurice Hurst told CNN Sport after the game, “it’s a tough flight home.” 

Different paths

Before the game Seattle coach Pete Carroll was all about business — and was aware of the sprawling city’s geography.

“How is London?” a member of the press asked on Friday, at the team’s facility in Watford, just outside London. “I have no idea,” he said. “I’ve not been anywhere near it.”

The 1-5 Raiders, meanwhile, will play the rest of their season mostly as a feeling-out process for coach John Gruden’s second stint in Oakland.

Perhaps sensing the gravity of his trip, Gruden was a little more comical about the two NFL teams based furthest from London competing on foreign soil.

“It was a great flight, I have these great flat beds, I got to sleep next to (cornerback) Daryl Worley and (linebacker) Emmanuel Lamur,” he laughed. “I really enjoyed it.”

Gruden — who took a 10-year break from coaching before his comeback this season — also expanded on his love for the Rolling Stones (he has seen them live seven times) and that Rodger Moore is his favorite James Bond.

“He was as cool as cool gets,” he said.

Raiders linebacker Tahir Whitehead was making his third visit to London, after a win and a loss in London as a member of the Detroit Lions, and was a big proponent of the league’s international games, which include yearly visits to Mexico.

“it’s a good feeling to know the sport in and of itself is growing and I enjoy it, it feels good,” he said of Wembley’s tradition of fans dressing in the jerseys of their favorite teams and players, regardless of whether they are playing that day.

“It’s definitely grown, it’s grown a great deal,” he said. “The more we continue to travel and play in different places like here, the bigger the game is going to get.”

Growing pains

The opposite trajectories post-London are nothing new in the NFL.

Sunday’s match — played in wet conditions at Wembley Stadium represented the 22nd regular season matchup under the NFL London Games banner.

Partly because their timing approaches the season’s midpoint, and partially because teams are granted the following week off to rest, the London games have often proved pivotal for team’s fortunes.

The inaugural meeting took place in 2007 when the New York Giants beat the “home team” Miami Dolphins in an ugly 13-10 game played on a muddy field in Wembley.

That Giants team went on to beat the perfect 18-0 New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Dolphins finished 1-15.

In their return to London in 2016, the 3-3 Giants beat the 3-3 Los Angeles Rams, who had only just adjusted to moving from St. Louis back to their original city. The playoff-bound Giants would finish the season 11-5 while the Rams won just one more game in their 4-12 campaign.

London would prove fortuitous for the Rams last year, after beating the Arizona Cardinals 33-0 at Twickenham Stadium. The Rams went on to finish the year 11-5 before losing in the first round of the playoffs.

All four winners of the 2017 London Games would in fact make the playoffs. Minnesota beat the Cleveland Browns, on their way to another 0-16 season. While New Orleans blanked the Dolphins 20-0.

Last year the Jacksonville Jaguars finally turned the corner on several disappointing seasons, pounding the Baltimore Ravens 44-7 on their way to the AFC Championship Game.

If London does have a home team, it is certain the Jaguars, whose owner Shahid Khan is still waiting to hear back on his bid to buy

Wembley and who are committed to playing in the capital for another two seasons.

After next week’s game between the Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Chargers, the Jaguars will be back in London to play the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles at Wembley.

If history is anything to go by, the winner will have something to look forward to back home.