Nearly 4,800 miles and eight time zones separate London from Seattle. Yet for the Seahawks the murk and mizzle of this grey Wembley evening felt like a home from home as they pummelled the Oakland Raiders 27-3.
It rained, a lot, as in the Pacific north-west. And there were large packs of fans in dark blue and lime green jerseys, who shouted “SEA!” then “HAWKS!” with ever greater urgency and booed if the Raiders looked like getting something going, which was not often.
To make things even sweeter, Seattle dominated both sides of the ball, with quarterback Russell Wilson throwing three touchdowns and their defence punching holes in the Raiders’ offensive line at will.
“It felt like we were playing at home, honestly,” said the wide receiver David Moore, who scored the second Seattle touchdown. “The rain, the fans, the atmosphere. It was great.”
The Seattle coach, Pete Carroll, agreed. “We had a great time,” he said, smiling. “As we got closer to the game we realised how much energy there was for the Seahawks. And the whole experience was great – it made for a special week.”
The 84,922 crowd was a record for an NFL game at Wembley but this was not a game to attract converts, largely because the Raiders, who arrived from Oakland only on Friday, were so off the pace they appeared lodged in a different time zone. Their only points came deep in the fourth quarter when the game was gone and the damp had long seeped into their bones and souls.
They also endured injury, with the wide receiver Amari Cooper sustaining a concussion after a sickening helmet-to-helmet contact with Bradley McDougald. Another wide out, Seth Roberts, also needed treatment. At least their quarterback Derek Carr, who was sacked five times, looked to be OK after leaving the pitch clutching his left shoulder.
One of the keys for Seattle was to establish their running game against a defence ranked 30 out of the NFL’s 32 teams. And that is precisely what they did, running the ball on their first seven plays before Wilson threw a play‑action screen to Rashaad Penny for 24 yards. That put them deep into Raiders territory and soon afterwards Wilson capped a 14-play, 82-yard drive with a five-yard pass to Jaron Brown.
When the Raiders got the ball they tried to copy Seattle’s running blueprint but with rather less success: after running three times in a row they were forced to punt. The rest of the quarter did not get any better as Carr fumbled the ball under pressure from Frank Clark and it was recovered by Jarran Reed for Seattle.
Soon Seattle were 14-0 up with another Wilson touchdown. Initially he was unable to retrieve a bad snap yet he still had all the time in the world to pick up the ball, look up and make a touch pass to Moore for a touchdown.
At the end of the first half the Raiders finally got the ball moving. Yet despite having two drives totalling 26 plays, they came away with no points. Seattle took advantage with Sebastian Janikowski adding a 44-yard field goal to put them 17-0 up at half-time.
The Raiders knew they needed to cut out the penalties and find a way to protect Carr. They could do neither. On their first drive Carr was sacked. Then, on the next play, Clark smashed into him and he fumbled the ball again.
Another Janikowski field goal extended the lead to 20-0 and by now Seattle were coasting. Soon Wilson had thrown his third touchdown pass of the game, to Tyler Lockett, to extend their lead to 27-0.
With less than 10 minutes remaining Oakland finally entered the Seattle red zone and got points on the board as Matthew McCrane hit a 43-yard field goal. But it was far too little, too late.
“We were really good on third down and Frank Clark had a great game with two forced fumbles,” said Carroll, who saw his team improve to 3-3 on the season. “I am really pleased with the whole day and experience. If we come back again to London I will look forward to it.”
Meanwhile the Raiders looked beaten up and deflated, slipping to 1-5. Inevitably there will be even greater pressure now on their coach, Jon Gruden, who was a TV commentator for nine years before being lured back to the Raiders by a 10-year contract worth $100m in January. He must have wished he had stayed in the booth.
The signing looked a questionable deal then. Now it is looking disastrous, the equivalent of Kevin Keegan returning to Newcastle. The fact he traded the elite pass rusher Khalil Mack to Chicago before the season has not helped. This thrashing will only add to the mounting rap sheet against him.
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