Week 8 Review: The International Series

Another International Series game down and the NFL has left London for the year. But when they come back next season, they’re here for 3 games! Until then we have a whole half a season ahead of us to watch and enjoy. Anyway let’s start with the big game in London.


San Francisco 49ers 42 Jacksonville Jaguars 10

All week we’ve had Gentlemen at pretty much every media event. From Jags & Niners practices to Referee workshops, we have been a part of the NFL’s promotion in London all week and we would like to thank the NFL for the access we received.

But what of the actual game? I think it would be fair to say we were expecting a blowout (despite the exceptionally optimistic views expressed on this week’s Podcast) and that’s exactly what we got.

For the Niners there was a distinct business trip feel to the whole affair. After having fun in the build-up to the game with visits to the Spurs training facility and Harbaugh leaving American Journalists googling ‘Foyle’s War’, the business of the game was very serious and the mantra seemed to be ‘run it down their throat’. Frank Gore kicked the proceedings off with a touchdown run reminiscent of Matt Forte’s when the Bears played at Wembley and managed to snag another one later on in the game. Kaepernick continued where he left off and gained first downs with his feet when the option to pass had been taken away and did so with ease as the Jags Defence failed to come up with an answer to the Niners game plan. This was again evident when the Jags would line Will Blackmon up on Anquan Boldin, who used his size advantage to gain first downs and draw an obvious Pass Interference call and eventually Alan Ball was put on the oversized Receiver. Vernon Davis had his usual game as a match up nightmare and used his size and speed to gain some decent yardage. I think at this point you’ve got to start looking at how good this team is at creating mismatches. Anquan Boldin is too big for Corners, Vernon Davis is too quick for Line-backers, Frank Gore combines both speed and strength to bust through lines and Colin Kaepernick is a match up nightmare in pretty much every aspect of his game. This Offence will keep you guessing is the point and they certainly did that with the Jags, as they put 4 touchdowns up on the winless team before half time.

On Defence they had the usual dominant Niners game we have come to see over recent years. The Line backing corps for this team have been a dominant factor this season, led by Bowman and Willis and this was no exception. Willis forced a fumble from Marcedes Lewis and fellow Line-backer Dan Skuta took it to the end zone. Bowman took control of the Defensive side of the game with 10 tackles and almost single handedly stopped the Jags from even having the smallest chance to win it. In the Secondary Eric Reid continued his Rookie of the year push with another great game and Donte Whitner (I refuse to call him Hitner), managed to assert his dominance in a quiet yet strong performance.

This team is finally hitting its stride, yes this one was against a team that is providing competition to be the worst of all time, but still they handled it and never took their foot off like the Broncos did a few weeks back. A win at Wembley could be just what this team need when they come out of the Bye Week to face an inform Panthers team that is set up in a very similar way. This Niners team can draw confidence that the Super bowl in recent years has been won by a team that gets hot at the right time and puts together a win streak that takes them into the playoffs towards the end of the season, which is exactly what is happening with this team. A tough run of games against the Panthers, then away to the Saints could see their mettle being tested, but if they keep playing like this they will more than likely be playoff bound.

What we witnessed on the other side of the ball however was less encouraging. I have a number of things to say about what this game meant for the future of a franchise being placed in the UK. Firstly it is generally believed that if this happens then it will be the Jaguars that are London bound. But to do that they need to increase interest in the game, for which the Vikings, Steelers game was perfect, it was close, exciting and both teams have a decent fan-base in the UK. Whilst it is good that the Jaguars are playing teams with big fanbases in this country (Niners will be followed by the Cowboys next year), it won’t create interest in the Jags being the UK team if it is constantly going to be a white wash and the Jags never feel like the home team. Even for the players, it has to be demoralising to travel this far in games where they are the heavy underdogs. However I do think it is set to change, with The Jags this year obviously in a rebuilding year it shouldn’t take too long before we are witnessing a dominant home side which should lead more fans to follow the team that looks set to frequent these shores.

As for the game. I think The Jags look awful, but not without hope for the future. On Offence they look to be a QB away from being decent competitors. Up until this game I was seriously worried about the O-line, but in this game they seemed to do a decent job, but Henne couldn’t get it done. MJD lacks the burst we had seen from him in previous years and it might not be too long until we see a trade take place so they can replace him with someone younger. Shorts and Blackmon continued to impress making plays that seemed to be impossible, but the Jags would seriously benefit from a deep threat. One final thought on Offence is although Lewis is a serviceable Tight End they’ll need to upgrade to improve and find their Jimmy Graham.

On Defence the team is a mess and could do nothing to stop the Niners advance. What I saw before the start of the season was a dominant front 4, now I see a mess in the whole front 7 that is in drastic need of an upgrade. It does appear there is some potential in the Secondary but it might be some time before we see that realised, if they are constantly going to be put in bad positions.

This team is not completely without hope and I refuse to believe they are bad enough to go 0-16, but I do believe it will get worse before it gets better.