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Neil Reynolds: NFL has ‘unforgettable’ Germany debut, where Tom Brady’s Buccaneers finally struck the right balance


Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-16 in Germany on Sunday

Week 10 is in the books, with some amazing games played out across the league, while it was a really emotional time for me to be able to go out to Munich and cover the first ever NFL game in Germany, and that’s where I’m going to start this week’s column…

1) NFL’s debut in Germany a night ‘I’ll never forget’

It was just the most moving, incredible, enjoyable day I’ve had covering American Football. The game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks at the Allianz Arena was everything the NFL will have hoped for.

NBC Sports' Peter King claimed that the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers playing a regular season game in Germany was perfect for the NFL.

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NBC Sports’ Peter King claimed that the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers playing a regular season game in Germany was perfect for the NFL.

NBC Sports’ Peter King claimed that the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers playing a regular season game in Germany was perfect for the NFL.

It was something the fans in Germany deserved. They have waited for a game to be played over there for a long time, and so they soaked every last second out of it. They were still in the stands, 50,000 or so of them, some 15-20 minutes after the game had finished, still singing and dancing.

They didn’t want the party to end. And neither did we, myself and Jason Bell. We had a great time covering the game, though we couldn’t always hear each other! There was one long answer which he gave where all I heard were the words ‘Tom Brady’ and ‘Geno Smith’. But that was the fun of it all.

Tom Brady says it was an electric atmosphere for the first ever NFL game in Germany, after his Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-16.

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Tom Brady says it was an electric atmosphere for the first ever NFL game in Germany, after his Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-16.

Tom Brady says it was an electric atmosphere for the first ever NFL game in Germany, after his Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-16.

When the British fans sang ‘Sweet Caroline’ at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, that was a moment; on Sunday, it was John Denver’s ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’. I had goosebumps. I was very privileged to be there and it was simply a night I’ll never forget.

2) More balanced Bucs ‘ones to keep an eye on’

Staying in Munich, the game itself had everything too. A really good game broke out, with Seattle coming back into it late before ultimately losing 21-16.

Highlights of the Seattle Seahawks against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from Munich in Week 10 of the NFL season.

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Highlights of the Seattle Seahawks against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from Munich in Week 10 of the NFL season.

Highlights of the Seattle Seahawks against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from Munich in Week 10 of the NFL season.

I was struck by the balance of Tampa Bay. If this Bucs team can now show up the rest of the season, then they can still be a contender in the NFC. They’re in great shape in their division already, holding a one-game lead at 5-5.

They came into Sunday averaging just 20 run plays per game. They were north of 40 in this one. They had 161 yards on the ground, when they had been averaging an NFL-low of 61.

Also, watching it in the flesh, you can see that Tom Brady still throws a beautiful ball – even at 45 years old! He can still lead from the front, but the run game hopefully means he doesn’t have to do it all by himself.

Tampa dominated on the defensive line too, holding the impressive rookie Kenneth Walker in check. This was more the Bucs team we expected to see this season, so one worth keeping an eye on the rest of the way.

3) Vikings edge out Bills in ‘game of the year!’

It shows you just how much that Germany meant to me, when the third point on this list is the game of the year in the NFL!

I got back to my hotel room – I’m not the biggest party animal in the world – and it was pyjamas on, and just enjoyed watching the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills go back and forth.

There was a wild end to the game between Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings with the Bills defence holding up the Vikings offense on the goal-line, before gifting them a touchdown with a fumble and then somehow forcing overtime!

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There was a wild end to the game between Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings with the Bills defence holding up the Vikings offense on the goal-line, before gifting them a touchdown with a fumble and then somehow forcing overtime!

There was a wild end to the game between Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings with the Bills defence holding up the Vikings offense on the goal-line, before gifting them a touchdown with a fumble and then somehow forcing overtime!

The Vikings missed an extra point, then Dalvin Cook drops a certain touchdown on fourth down… then they get another play after a penalty on Buffalo, but Kirk Cousins can’t get into the end zone. And that’s before even the most incredible part of it all, the fumble by the Bills for the Vikings touchdown, and then the Patrick Peterson interception in overtime that helped set up the winning field goal.

It was a game that had it all. The greatest ever games are always back and forth between two heavyweights – which these two are – and they are full of incredible plays. And that’s without even mentioning Justin Jefferson’s catch (more on that in a moment).

4) The Dolphins capable of more than just the playoffs

The Miami Dolphins’ march continues. They have now won four straight and we’re starting to think of them as a serious contender in the AFC.

Highlights of the Cleveland Browns at the Miami Dolphins in Week 10 of the NFL season.

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Highlights of the Cleveland Browns at the Miami Dolphins in Week 10 of the NFL season.

Highlights of the Cleveland Browns at the Miami Dolphins in Week 10 of the NFL season.

A few weeks’ ago, I would have said that Buffalo and the Kansas City Chiefs are streets ahead, but on their day Miami can beat anyone – they haven’t lost yet this season when quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has started (and finished) a game.

They’ve also got great balance to their team, which they demonstrated in the 39-17 drubbing of the Cleveland Browns, rushing for 195 yards and two touchdowns. Jeff Wilson Jr. looks like a really good find since joining from the 49ers before the trade deadline.

Miami Dolphins running back Jeff Wilson Jr. catches a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

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Miami Dolphins running back Jeff Wilson Jr. catches a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

Miami Dolphins running back Jeff Wilson Jr. catches a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

We already know what receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle can do, but if they start now running the ball effectively and playing good defense – they held Nick Chubb to just 63 yards – then they’re shaping into a Super Bowl-calibre team. They could upset the apple cart in the AFC and be this season’s Cincinnati Bengals.

5) Eagles unbeaten start ended by Commanders

That’s the last undefeated team left this season, gone. The Philadelphia Eagles dropped to 8-1 on the season with defeat to the Washington Commanders on Monday night, with the Eagles looking a little flat and not the same team we’d seen through the first nine weeks.

Highlights of the Washington Commanders against the Philadelphia Eagles from Week 10 of the NFL season.

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Highlights of the Washington Commanders against the Philadelphia Eagles from Week 10 of the NFL season.

Highlights of the Washington Commanders against the Philadelphia Eagles from Week 10 of the NFL season.

I think they’ll be fine and will bounce back, but what they’ve done so well this season is run the ball and they were held to only 94 on the ground by the Commanders.

This is a spirited Washington team. They’ve overcome a slow start to sit 5-5… but they’d done that before, including last season, and then faded down the stretch. They’re in competitive mode right now, with Taylor Heinicke coming in at quarterback and playing so well while Carson Wentz has been out with a broken finger. Could this be yet another team set to move on from Wentz as their starter?

Player of the Week: Justin Jefferson

Is Minnesota Vikings star Justin Jefferson this best wide receiver in the NFL right now?

Is Minnesota Vikings star Justin Jefferson this best wide receiver in the NFL right now?

It’s crazy to think that the Vikings star is only in his third season in the NFL, still with eight games to play, and yet he has already had 20 100-yard receiving days – an NFL record in the first three years of a career – and he has already had seven 150-yard days. Another record.

I think we’re looking at the best wide receiver in the NFL right now.

Play of the Week: Justin Jefferson

Another one for Jefferson. His catch for the Vikings against the Bills might just be the best I’ve ever seen.

Justin Jefferson pulled in an incredible one-handed catch on fourth down for the Minnesota Vikings against the Buffalo Bills as they went on to win in an overtime thriller.

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Justin Jefferson pulled in an incredible one-handed catch on fourth down for the Minnesota Vikings against the Buffalo Bills as they went on to win in an overtime thriller.

Justin Jefferson pulled in an incredible one-handed catch on fourth down for the Minnesota Vikings against the Buffalo Bills as they went on to win in an overtime thriller.

Odell Beckham Jr’s for the New York Giants against the Dallas Cowboys a few years back was brilliant, but there were no defenders around him like Jefferson had to deal with – the Bills defender had two hands on the football!

The catch didn’t just defy logic, it defied science. Jefferson had only one hand on it to the other guy’s two and still he managed to wrestle it away from him – on 4th and 18!

As the ball was flying into that crowd of Bills defenders, I still thought Jefferson had a shot – and that says all you need to know about him. He is a machine!

Coach of the Week: Jeff Saturday

Whether you agree with the fact he’s the coach or not, he took on a lot of criticism – a lot of suggestions that the game was being disrespected – with his hire on an interim basis by the Indianapolis Colts.

Indianapolis Colts interim coach Jeff Saturday got off to a winning start against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday

Indianapolis Colts interim coach Jeff Saturday got off to a winning start against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday

He could only take the job that was offered to him, and he’s again showing, despite the distractions, that he’s a good leader of men.

He made an immediate decision to put Matt Ryan back in at quarterback, ending this nonsense of benching him for Sam Ehlinger. That paid off, and though we don’t know how the appointment will work out in totality, I’m glad Staurday got at least one moment in the sunshine.

On My Radar

What do the NFL do next, internationally? We’re getting three games per year in London – two a year at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and the Jacksonville Jaguars have their own deal with Wembley – and how can you watch Sunday’s game in Germany and think one game a year will be enough for that fanbase?

I think it’s important to note too that, though Germany is new and there’s a lot of excitement, fans in the UK should never be worried about the success of games over there. They are in addition to what is being done over here – and the London games are equally special. These games are going to run side by side.

Internationally, the NFL is in great shape. They’ve got many exciting options in front of them; we now have these extra 17th games for teams every season, so why not a Grand Prix-style tour of the globe, like in Formula 1? You could have a game in Paris, Munich, Frankfurt, London, Dublin, Brazil.

With the NFL and its international games, ‘never say never’ is the best approach to take. I can’t wait to see what they do next.

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