The NFL International Series officially began in 2016, with an annual NFL Mexico Game in Mexico City, and was quickly expanded, in 2017, to include NFL games held in London.
However, this came on the heels of more than a decade of games played before the passionate crowds in Mexico and England.
The first NFL regular season game outside the U.S. took place on 2 October 2005, at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, with the Arizona Cardinals defeating the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 31-14.
NFL 2021 London fixtures:
Sunday 10th October
Atlanta Falcons vs New York Jets (2:30pm)
Sunday 17th October
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Miami Dolphins (2:30pm)
When did London host its first NFL game?
Two years later, on 28 October 2007, the NFL debuted in London, at Wembley Stadium, with the Miami Dolphins ‘hosting’ the New York Giants. The first 40,000 tickets for the game were snapped up within 90 minutes, and a raucous crowd of more than 81,000 fans watched as an Eli Manning rushing touchdown, combined with 131 rushing yards from Brandon Jacobs powered the Giants to a 13-10 win.
The NFL has returned to London every year since (with the obvious exception of 2020). From 2007 through 2012, a single ‘London Game’ was played each season. In 2013, the series grew to two games, and was then expanded in 2014, to three games per season, though four London games were played in the 2017 and 2019 seasons.
Over nearly a decade and a half, some 28 NFL regular season games have been played in London, at Wembley, Rugby Football Union’s Twickenham Stadium (2016-17), and, since 2019, at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
London’s most successful NFL franchise?
The franchise that’s taken part in the most London games is the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are owned by Fulham FC owner Shahid Khan, and are a rumoured candidate for international relocation. Coming into the 2021 season, the Jags had taken part in seven games in London (they’ll play their eighth on 17 October 2021). Their three wins in London are tied by another franchise, with the New England Patriots – though the Pats have needed just three games for their three wins. The Jaguars’ four losses in London are also a record. The NFL franchise with the most London losses without a win is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with three.
The most points scored by an NFL team in London is 45. This was last done in November 2015 by the Kansas City Chiefs, in a 45-10 win over the Detroit Lions. They equaled a mark set three years earlier by the Patriots, in a 45-7 defeat of the Rams. This also set the record for margin of victory (38). An honorable mention is due to the 2017 Jaguars, who narrowly missed both of these marks in a 44-7 hammering of the Baltimore Ravens.
The NFL’s London record-holders
The single game record for non-passing touchdowns in an NFL London game was set on 24 September 2021 by former Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis. In that same game, Jags QB Blake Bortles threw four touchdown passes, equaling the single-game mark set by Tom Brady in October 2012.
On 30 October 2016, current Minnesota Vikings quarterback, Kirk Cousins, who was then with Washington, set the single-game record for passing yards, with 458. The previous October, Jets running back Chris Ivory set the London mark for rushing yards in a game, with 166. The record for receiving yards in a game, 220, was set in October 2019 by the Rams’ Cooper Kupp.
As he was the Jaguars’ quarterback for the past five seasons, Bortles – who’s taken part in five NFL-in-London games – is the leader in both passing yards (1,209) and touchdowns (9). Similarly, Chicago Bears star receiver Allen Robinson II, who began his career with the Jaguars, holds the records for both receiving yards (310) and touchdowns (4), which he accumulated over four games. The leader in both rushing yards (257) and rushing touchdowns (4) is Frank Gore, who’s played in London three times.