Spurs host fifth NFL game since 2019 with late ‘double doink’ drama

A ‘double doink’ might not be a familiar term for football fans in the UK but it brought a lot of attention to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Spurs’ home was hosting its fifth NFL game since 2019 as the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings did battle in north London and none of the games so far have produced the late drama that came this time around. In the final seconds of Sunday’s encounter, Saints kicker Wil Lutz had to attempt a huge 61-yard field goal in order to send the game into overtime, having already sunk a big 60-yard kick earlier in the game.
The 28-year-old wound up and launched another massive kick towards the posts but the ball veered through the air and hit the left-hand upright before bouncing on to the crossbar and then dropping down agonisingly on the wrong side of it. Such a moment, rare with the distances involved, has been labelled a ‘double doink’ since a famous last-gasp field goal attempt in the 2018 NFC Wild Card game by Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey struck both the upright and crossbar and fell the wrong way.
This latest double doink in London will be replayed across the USA and on to the screens of the world’s NFL fans and once again the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will be beamed across the globe in all its glory.
It might have been just another afternoon in N17 but this was a world away from the disappointment of the previous day’s North London Derby down the Seven Sisters Road.
In the hours before on Sunday, Tottenham High Road had been a swarm of blue and white NFL shirts as the supporters of the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints packed out the area before making their way inside the huge arena, all 60,639 of them.
The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is now a well-oiled machine when it comes to hosting NFL games. This was its fifth time hosting one of the London Games, each of the previous years bringing in 60,000-plus fans with two games in 2019 and then two more in 2021 after the year lost to the pandemic.
Spurs originally signed a 10-year deal with the NFL, which was meant to begin in 2018 only for stadium construction delays to nix that, for two or more games a season at their home.
It is understood that the NFL pay a flat rental fee to use the stadium for each game, but all of the food and drink net income plus the merchandising profit goes to the football club.
To put that into context, after the first game in 2019 between the Chicago Bears and the then Oakland Raiders, Bottoms Up Beer, who provide the technology that allows each pint of beer to be filled from the bottom, claimed that Spurs set a new European record for the sales of beer with £1m alone taken in that day from those drink sales.
The beer had sold out that day in the third quarter and no doubt for future games the stock would have been increased and that figure would have risen sharply. It’s also worth noting that at NFL games you can eat and drink at your seat, increasing the demand as people need watering and feeding across matches that last more than three hours.
On top of that the megastore at Spurs’ stadium was kitted out in NFL gear and was rammed with customers and long queues outside waiting to get in.
Tottenham make millions from each of these games and with the only purpose-built NFL stadium outside America – thanks to that remarkable state-of-the-art retractable pitch – they are the prime destination for the sport when it leaves the US shores and one day they hope to house a London franchise.
With the difficulties involved in creating a franchise across the Atlantic that prospect is still some years off but Spurs will lead the queue if it ever becomes a reality. The NFL has been delighted with the impact of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and the coaches, players and pundits have marvelled each year at an arena that rivals the newest stadiums back home in the States.
On Sunday, Alexander Mattison grabbed the first touchdown of 2022 at the stadium for the Vikings, taking Kirk Cousins’ pass and bursting into the end zone.
Cousins had met Tottenham’s players when they visited the Vikings’ training facility back in the summer of 2018 during their pre-season visit to Minneapolis. The quarterback and some of his fellow Vikings took part that day in games with the Tottenham players to see how the NFL stars did at ‘soccer’ and the Spurs men did with some American football skills. The Vikings’ US Bank Stadium, where Tottenham would also play AC Milan that summer, was one of the inspirations for Spurs’ own stadium.
On Sunday, Chris Olave levelled the game for the Saints in the second quarter before Vikings kicker Greg Joseph closed out the half with a pair of field kicks and added another after the break to take the score to 16-7 for the visitors. One big downside to the first half was a horrendous leg break for 22-year-old Vikings safety Lewis Cine, one which had his whole squad of team-mates gathered around him before he was carted off the pitch.
In the second half, the game went back and forth. Latavius Murray, activated from the Saints practice squad for this game, battled his way over the line for score and Lutz kicked the extra point to close the gap to 16-14. Joseph sent another field kick over before the teams traded touchdowns from Taysom Hill and Justin Jefferson. However, Joseph missed his extra point kick and when Lutz kicked his huge 60-yard field goal the scores were tied at 25-25 late in the fourth quarter.
A big Cousins throw to Jefferson took the Vikings up the pitch for a 39 yard gain with less than two minutes remaining on the clock and to well within field goal range. That was all Joseph needed to make amends for his earlier miss with a successful kick to make it 28-25 with 24 seconds left on the clock.
There was still drama to come though as Saints managed to get up the pitch before Lutz faced the agony of that double doink.
After the game all the talk was about that moment, the horrible injury for Cine and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks called Spurs’ ground “beautiful” and said he wants to return to watch “a real football game” there one day. Cousins said it was a “tremendous environment, a great facility”.
For those Spurs fans who don’t follow the NFL, that double doink won’t have meant a thing and they won’t know what the fuss is all about this American sport coming to their stadium. If anything it’s an irritation for some, especially after such a disappointing derby defeat the previous day.
However, it all adds to the lustre around the stadium across the world and in turn the finances that pour in because of it. Spurs always stated that their new home would eventually become a game changer financially for them and with the pandemic now in the rear view mirror it is starting to realise those hopes.
The club are yet to find a partner they are happy with to hold their stadium naming rights, despite talks with various parties over the years since it began construction with chief financial officer Todd Kline heading up that search with his experience of such deals in the NFL.
The post-pandemic world will open up the opportunities to show off the stadium to a wider audience with the NFL, concerts and huge events on top of the Premier League and Champions League matches to come there and this latest bit of drama will only beam the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium into more households.
Spurs have always stated that every bit of revenue that comes in from the stadium will go back into running the football side of the club so every penny helps boost the coffers for an ambitious head coach like Antonio Conte as he looks for further improvements in the transfer windows to come.
So while this double doink might not have fallen well for Lutz and the Saints, it was a big moment for the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and the club’s future.
On the walk back to Northumberland Park Station after the game, one NFL fan, clearly also a supporter of a rival Premier League club, turned and said to his friend: “As much as I hate to say it, it’s an incredible stadium.” He’s not wrong, it really is.
(Football London – Alasdair Gold)
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