For three days a year, the glitz and glamor of the NFL takes hold in London and gives UK-based fans a chance to celebrate the sport they love in person.
On Sunday, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, there was certainly a festive atmosphere. There were men in Viking helmets with faces painted purple and yellow. There were shiny black and gold jerseys. There were even a few who came from Germany for the game.
Wherever they traveled from and whoever they supported, fans were treated to a thrilling game of football, full of thrills and spills, in what was the 100th NFL game played outside the United States regular and preseason.
Often London fans were not treated to the closest encounters. But that wasn’t the case Sunday as, with time expiring, New Orleans Saints’ Wil Lutz’s 61-yard field goal hit the posts twice before bouncing out as the Minnesota Vikings beat the Saints 28-25.
In what was the second meeting between quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Andy Dalton in London — they played in a thrilling 27-27 tie at Wembley Stadium in 2016 when Cousins was with the then-Washington Redskins and Dalton was with the Cincinnati Bengals — it once was a thriller again.
In front of a 60,639-strong crowd — likely split between Vikings and Saints fans — the two teams traded punts back and forth, with Wil Lutz’s 60-yard field goal in the final two minutes tying the scores.
But as time expired, Cousins connected for a big pass to Justin Jefferson to allow kicker Greg Joseph to blast home a field goal to give the Vikings a late lead.
Lutz had the chance to be the hero though with his 61-yard field goal, only for it to hit both uprights before bouncing away in heartbreaking fashion.
Cousins described the drama of the final few moments and being on the winning team in London for once.
“I saw it go left, it hit the upright, then hit the crossbar and I thought it was bouncing back – but apparently it bounced forward. Crazy,” Cousins said during his on-air interview afterward.
“It was a tough sled all day finding ways to move the ball and in the red zone we kept stubbing our toe. But our defense kept getting us the ball back with turnovers and special teams were huge, all kinds of different plays – and we got a win.
“I already flew home once after losing overtime here and I didn’t want to do it again!”
The razzmatazz was far different to what is usually experienced at the stadium during English Premier League games.
Cheerleaders, colored smoke and a live halftime show all gave those in attendance a sense of what the game was like across the Atlantic.
And even though the game was missing some of its star players — the Saints were without starting quarterback Jameis Winston, running back Alvin Kamara, and wide receiver Michael Thomas — it didn’t stop the teams from putting on a show.
From the opening kick, the nominal away team – the Vikings – looked a well-oiled machine. With Cousins flowing from the start, they marched down the field on the game’s opening drive, capping a 13-play, 75-yard drive to score the game’s first points with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Alexander Mattison.
And just when it looked like Minnesota might make some noise, one of the Saints’ big offseason acquisitions stepped up.
Tyrann Mathieu, who signed from the Kansas City Chiefs, rushed from his safety position to grab Cousins, changing the momentum of the game in the process.
Saints backup quarterback Andy Dalton — filling in for the injured Jameis Winston — produced an efficient, well-constructed drive before connecting with rookie wide receiver Chris Olave to tie the score.
The Vikings could only settle for a field goal on their next drive but the vocal Minnesota fans got more to cheer just moments later, Dalton fumbled the ball with Harrison Phillips falling on the ball, giving them prime field position.
Again, a field goal by Greg Joseph was the final result, but it gave the Vikings a 13-7 lead going into halftime.
And in keeping with the game’s showmanship feel — with Jason Sudeikis of “Ted Lasso” fame in attendance — a performance by award-winning Yungblud kept energy high in the stadium with the players in the locker room.
In the second half, turnovers continued to plague the Saints and red zone issues continued to affect the Vikings.
A fumble by Deonte Harty on a punt gave the ball back to the Vikings. But Minnesota again had to settle for a field goal, with a star wide receiver dropping what would have been a touchdown.
In response, Dalton produced his best drive of the game, before Latavius Murray ran in the Saints’ second touchdown of the afternoon to make it a two-point game.
Joseph got his fourth field goal of the day to make it 19-14 going into the fourth quarter.
Not leading all game, the Saints took a fourth quarter lead when Taysom Hill ran in from close range and Jarvis Landry caught a two-point conversion to make it a three-point game with nine minutes left.
Vikings wide receiver Jefferson went in for a three-yard touchdown to give Minnesota the lead again. However, Joseph missed the extra point goal with just over four minutes left, the Saints trailing by three points, setting up a thrilling final.
It looked like the Saints’ chance to get the game going was gone when their drive stalled, only for Lutz to make a whopping 60-yard field goal – the second-longest in Saints history.