NFL Wembley game between New England Patriots and St Louis Rams was quality show, says Neil Reynolds
Neil Reynolds blogs on Wembley's winners, London fans, Brady the legend and the Gronk's spike!
Last Updated: 29/10/12 11:17am
The New England Patriots put on a masterclass in offensive football with star quarterback Tom Brady throwing for 304 yards and four touchdowns en route to a 45-7 hammering of the St. Louis Rams in front of a sell-out crowd of 84,004.
Here - with a heavy bias towards London and the UK - are my thoughts on Week 8 in the NFL.
NFL on the rise
The popularity of the NFL continues to grow and the fans flocked to London for a weekend of entertainment. I was fortunate enough to host the NFL Fan Rally in Trafalgar Square on Saturday afternoon and it was quite a sight to see 45,000 supporters take over the heart of the capital without a hint of trouble or animosity.
At that Fan Rally, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft reiterated his desire to see an NFL franchise in London in the near future. Based on this past weekend's support, I would say that is a distinct possibility.
Then on Sunday, I hosted the Tailgate Party at Wembley Stadium before heading inside to work on the Sky Sports' coverage of the game. I can honestly say it was a privilege to spend time with so many fans of the sport here in the UK over the weekend and to witness how the fan base is welcoming many youngsters into the fold.
The NFL is on the rise and we'll all get to enjoy two games by this time next year.
A legend of the game
I said this several times over the weekend and during the course of our Sky Sports broadcast on Sunday night - New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is not only one of the best in his era - he is one of the very best of all time.
Having played in five Super Bowls and won three of them, Brady has always been in the same bracket of people like Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas in my mind. I have seen him play twice this year and he never fails to amaze me with the way he can dissect a defence.
Incredibly accurate and intelligent to boot, Brady picked apart the Rams at Wembley Stadium and once he got on a roll, this was never a contest.
What a character Rob Gronkowski has become for these New England Patriots. His face was on the cover of Sports Illustrated this summer, he was the talk of the week leading up to the Super Bowl in February and he stole the show at the Fan Rally on Saturday.
While we were interviewing him on stage, the crowd started chanting "Spike the mic, spike the mic" and big Rob duly obliged. He slammed the microphone down onto the stage with an ear-shattering boom and the crowd roared in delight. The American media immediately dubbed his actions as "The spike heard around the world."
But there is substance to Gronkowski and he is not purely a showman off the field. We saw on Sunday just how dominant he can be as a tight end in the NFL. He is the best in the business and bullied the Rams secondary to the tune of eight catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
Of course, he celebrated his first touchdown with another spike of the ball - this time after impersonating the royal guards who stand on duty outside Buckingham Palace.
Falcons continue to soar
Tom Brady is an undoubted long-time star of the NFL, but the hottest player in the league this season might just be Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
Ryan is flourishing this season and threw three first half touchdowns to inflict a damaging 30-17 defeat on the Philadelphia Eagles. While the Falcons are soaring as the last remaining undefeated team in the NFL at 7-0, the pressure is mounting on the under-performing Eagles.
Andy Reid has long been a successful coach in the NFL but his message might be getting old in Philadelphia now. While I think he would be snapped up by another team very quickly, Reid might be on his way out in Philadelphia. He was told in no uncertain terms that last year's 8-8 record was embarrassing and unacceptable yet he may end up doing even worse in 2012.
Only a strong finish and an extended playoff run can save Reid now.
The Miami Dolphins went into the 2012 season as the whipping boys of many pundits and commentators of the NFL. Many predicted a tough campaign ahead for first-year head coach Joe Philbin but his team have shown tremendous spirit and could easily be 6-1 right now had their kicker put his proper shooting boots on during losses to the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals.
Miami got their revenge on the Jets Sunday to the tune of a 30-9 thrashing that saw production from all three phases of the game - offence, defence and special teams.
And the Dolphins won despite losing their rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a leg injury. While coaches such as Reid and San Diego's Norv Turner are sitting on ever-warming seats, Philbin deserves credit for the job he has done with the 4-3 Dolphins in the first half of this season.
One of the biggest disappointments of this 2012 NFL season has been the Kansas City Chiefs. I expected them to be a lot better. They dropped their fourth consecutive game on Sunday night, tamely losing at home 26-16 to the Oakland Raiders.
The problems for Kansas City lie at the quarterback position.
Brady Quinn was handed the chance to be the long-time starter heading into this game. How does he repay the faith of head coach Romeo Crennel? He completed just two passes for one yard before exiting with an injury.
So the Chiefs went back to former starter Matt Cassel, who proved - once again - that he is not the long-term answer at that position. With a mauling offensive line, a decent running game, some offensive weapons in Dwayne Bowe and a decent defence, the Chiefs are a prime example of why having a good quarterback is essential in today's pass-happy NFL.