Falcons integral to NFL's London trifecta
October, 24, 2013
By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com
I remember being in the locker room shortly after it was announced that the Atlanta Falcons would host a home game in London next season. Safety William Moore talked about making the trek overseas and probably never wanting to come back.
If the rest of his teammates are equally enthusiastic about the voyage, the results should be positive for the Falcons in their first-ever London experience.
At least the game at Wembley Stadium should be an exciting one for fans. As announced by the NFL on Thursday, the Falcons will face the Detroit Lions in the international matchup. That means Georgia Domer versus Georgia Boy, Matt vs. Matt, with quarterbacks Ryan and Stafford colliding. That means Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, the one they call "Megatron," possibly matching catches with Atlanta's Julio Jones, who Falcons fans hope becomes the "Bionic Man" after season-ending foot surgery.
Mark Cunningham/Detroit Lions/Getty ImagesThe Falcons will try to contain record-setting receiver Calvin Johnson (81) in London in '14.
The Cowboys-Jaguars and Raiders-Dolphins are the other London games -- or duds -- on the '14 slate. That makes the Falcons-Lions matchup that much more important in terms of drawing interest abroad. Just imagine the reaction the first time Ndamukong Suh knocks someone to the ground. Surely his explosive reputation has gone worldwide.
But fans really want to see explosive plays, and players such as Johnson and a healthy Jones and Roddy White should provide them. When the teams met last December, Johnson had 11 catches for 225 yards and broke Jerry Rice's single-season mark for receiving yards. White had eight catches for 153 yards, including touchdown catches of 44 and 39 yards, in the Falcons' 31-18 win. The teams combined for 866 total yards. Ryan threw four touchdown passes.
As far as the talk of an NFL team being in London, that still might not be an ideal move. The travel would be too grueling for an entire 16-game season, from both sides. A couple showcase games per year should suffice.
But the more success the NFL has in London, the more commissioner Roger Goodell will mull the possibility of having an NFL team there to cater to the UK fan base. In other words, a strong showing by the Falcons and Lions could bring Goodell's vision closer to becoming a reality.
But that shouldn't temper Moore's enthusiasm -- or his teammates'.