NFL week eight: Five things we learnt

A round-up of the action from week eight of the NFL

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The Independent Online

London saw its second game of the year, one that was full of thrills and spills. Zander Swinburne examines what to take out of the Wembley showcase as well as the other headlines from week eight.

Wembley finally got the game it deserved

Since the first Wembley game in 2007 there have only been two contests in which the game was decided by less than a touchdown. One sided match-ups have become a common occurrence at Wembley, with half the stadium often empty before the final whistle.

Sunday's game between the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons was what British NFL fans had been hoping to see since the Saints beat the Chargers in 2008. Down 21-0 at the half, Detroit staged a miraculous comeback, dominating the last two quarters to shock Atlanta 22-21.

Not only did the game finish with a last second field goal, it had to be retaken following a delay of game penalty. Drama was finally a factor in the International Series, something that has been lacking for many years. The NFL is rife with fourth quarter comebacks, last second scores and controversial penalties, it seemed only right that London got in on the action too.

The NFL's old guard still reigns supreme

Bill Belichick is not renowned for his mystic abilities, but his scoff at a reporter questioning Tom Brady's role at quarterback several weeks ago now seems justified as he seemed to know what Brady was to do in the coming weeks.

Brady was in near perfect form on Sunday, completing 30 of 35 passes with 354 yards and five touchdowns. His performance over the Chicago Bears proved to many that the quarterbacks that were seemingly once great, are still just that. Brady wasn't the only established veteran to embarrass an oppositions secondary.

Ben Roethlisberger went on to better the Patriots No 12's performance, throwing for six touchdowns and 522 yards in what was a career day for Big Ben. Pittsburgh humiliated the Colts 51-34 and Roethlisberger was close to unstoppable, playing at a level few expected he was still capable of.

The Saints are back to winning ways

Somehow, despite an incredibly rocky start to the season, the Saints are right in the mix for the NFC South. Sunday night saw New Orleans click on offence for the first time all season, beating the Green Bay Packers 44-23. Quarterback Drew Brees was back to his best, completing 27 of 32 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns.

The Saints running game was sublime, with Mark Ingram running for 172 yards and a whopping 7.2 yards per carry. With Carolina and Atlanta both losing, New Orleans is now just half a game back in the NFC South. With such a mixed division, the playoffs is once again a real possibility for the Saints despite starting the season 1-3.

Rex Ryan now has no choice at quarterback

Jets fans are renowned for their impatience, chanting for the backup QB to take the stage at the first sign of instability, so much so that even Tim Tebow had a few cheers at one point.

Luckily for Rex Ryan, there is no one to step in for Geno Smith and so no tough decision need be made. New York had a truly spectacular performance (and not the good kind) from their quarterbacks on Sunday. Geno Smith was benched after three quick interceptions, ending his day and, very possibly, his tenure in New York.

The backup Michael Vick was subsequently brought in, adding to the turnover total with four fumbles and a pick himself. This season couldn't end quick enough for Ryan, and the embarrassing 43-23 loss to the Bills signalled that New York is in need of a major overhaul, from the top down. Ryan has little to work with in the roster given to him by GM John Idzik but both are likely to pay with their jobs following a disastrous 1-7 start.

London will get three games next year

One of the little nuggets to come out of the second London game of the year was to find out just how many there will be next year. NFLUK Managing Director Alistair Kirkwood revealed that London will once again be hosting three NFL games as well as explaining why there aren't going to be four or five.

Speaking to BBC World Service, Kirkwood said: "We are going to do three games next year, and looking at staging two games back-to-back in successive weeks to test this support base... There are some logistic reasons around the Rugby World Cup that means we won't be going to four or five."

So although there is smidgen of disappointment London won't see an increase in NFL games, hosting back-to-back matches is clearly an important step in seeing whether a franchise is sustainable in the UK.

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