For the first time in NFL history, an International Series game went to overtime. And for the first time since 1997, we’ve had two ties in a single NFL season. The Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals will head back across the pond contemplating the complex emotions that come with a game in which there was no winner.
Here’s what we learned from their 27-27 showdown on Sunday…
1. Now we see why teams aren’t afraid to dole out good money to consistent kickers. The Bengals-Redskins game could have been over several times if it weren’t for a missed extra point by Cincinnati kicker Mike Nugent earlier in the game or a hooked game-winning attempt in overtime by Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins. It will be interesting to see if there were any hot takes about field conditions at Wembley Stadium. Otherwise, an eight-hour flight home is a long time to contemplate a missed kick from 33 or 34 yards out.
2. Cincinnati tried not to linger on the unfortunate offseason injury to Tyler Eifert‘s ankle and did its best to construct an offense during his absence. But in his true season debut — Eifert played sparingly last week in an attempt to warm himself back up — we saw glimpses of the oft-dominant offense that helped the Bengals win the division a year ago. Eifert finished with nine catches for 102 yards and a beautiful, leaping 15-yard grab in the red zone. Cincinnati was bottoming out near the goal line this season but now has a massive target for opposing defenses to consider. Arrivals like this also sometimes break up the coordinator equivalent to writer’s block, as evidenced by a slick QB bootleg drawn up by Ken Zampese in the third quarter.
3. Josh Norman was a definite upgrade at cornerback for this defense, and while A.J. Green‘s numbers suggest otherwise — nine catches for 121 yards — it was stunning to see how hard Cincinnati had to work to get Green the ball when Norman was in coverage. The Redskins corner was on and off the field Sunday with a few minor injury scares and in those brief moments, Andy Dalton would not look anywhere else. Norman was over-aggressive at times — three of the five penalties called on him were accepted — but his positioning and instincts were phenomenal. The Fox broadcasting team called it a poor game because he “dropped” a pair of interceptions, but the truth was that only a few corners could have gotten to those balls in the first place.
4. Jamison Crowder is finally getting an opportunity in Washington’s offense — so look out. His progress and development seems to mirror the way the Giants utilized a young Victor Cruz five years ago. Crowder led all Redskins receivers with eight catches for 106 yards and a touchdown — his second straight week over the century mark. He is so much more than a burner, with a quick snap to his routes that makes him very difficult to cover on outs and come-backs.
5. Before the start of the season, I said Vernon Davis on a one-year, $1.9 million deal was going to be one of the best values in free agency and for the second week in a row, we’ve seen why. Even with an electric Jordan Reed back in the lineup, Davis topped 90 yards for the first time in three years by doing what he’s always done well — match up against linebackers. The wheel routes, drag routes and go routes against slower defenders have always been a bread-and-butter for Davis but somewhere along the line offensive coordinators just seemed to forget. Davis is still fast, and is still winning matchups. Even if it’s not as the primary tight end, what does it matter?
6. As an avid football fan in just about any form, I’m not one to stand on the soapbox and argue the quality of play in the NFL. It is not my place to do so. However, I don’t think there are many people who can complain about this one. By far the best international game we’ve ever seen and the first time a London matchup has gone to overtime, Sunday featured all the sweet and savory notes that we’ve come to appreciate about the game. We had a dominant receiver-corner matchup play out like a title fight. We had an emerging star quarterback topple 400 passing yards (Kirk Cousins) and a fun-to-watch offense (Cincinnati) come back to life with the addition of its second best receiver. And we got it all before 1 p.m. ET. No game is perfect, hence the late fumble by the Bengals and the botched kick that preceded it, but it was definitely fun to watch — tie or no tie.