NFL London: Matthew Wright seals ‘awesome’ triumph for Jaguars on a thrilling day of firsts in capital

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Matthew Wright is mobbed by team-mates after his field goal seals a dramatic win (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)
Matthew Wright is mobbed by team-mates after his field goal seals a dramatic win (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)

Only a matter of minutes had transpired following a thrilling finish to Sunday’s latest NFL showdown at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium before Matthew Wright’s short Wikipedia entry hailed the little-known and unassuming kicker as a ‘Jacksonville legend’.

While three appearances is obviously not nearly a strong enough body of work on which to base hero status, it is difficult to overstate the impact of his fourth-quarter heroics that sunk the free-falling Miami Dolphins in dramatic fashion in the second and final game of the 2021 London series, one of the most entertaining contests to be played on these shores for many years.

While UK fans are just glad to have the NFL back after a one-year Covid-enforced hiatus and rarely have their enthusiasm dampened regardless of the quality of the product on the field, such a gripping finale was a real treat after no shortage of blowouts and sub-par encounters.

Having already hit a 54-yard field goal to tie an absorbing clash with less than four minutes to play, Wright stepped up again as time expired to nail a 53-yarder that avoided overtime and secured a much-needed 23-20 victory for the downtrodden Jaguars, sending a passionate adopted fanbase wild with a dream finale to their record eighth trip to London.

A feat all the more remarkable when you consider that the Jaguars were the only team in the NFL to enter week six without having made a single field goal all year, with Wright formerly on the practice squad.

"I think he said a month ago he was a software engineer and now he’s kicking game-winners," Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence said of Wright.

Head coach Urban Meyer added: "I feel great for him. I don’t think anybody on our team ever heard him speak until about 10 minutes ago. I had to tell him to raise his voice. He’s a little guy. How cool is that for him."

Sunday’s triumph was Jacksonville’s first since week one of the 2020 season, finally ending a gruelling wait that had lasted 13 months and almost 400 days, halting fears that the team, who had lost 20 in a row before Sunday, could legitimately threaten the 1976/77 Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Super Bowl-era record of 26 successive defeats.

Trevor Lawrence enjoys his first win in the NFL (AP)
Trevor Lawrence enjoys his first win in the NFL (AP)

It was the first taste of NFL victory for two key figures that had been so accustomed to glory in the college ranks — vaunted number one pick Lawrence and embattled coach Meyer, the latter of whom is working to "rebuild trust" with the franchise after a recent video controversy that led to a public reprimand of his conduct from owner Shahid Khan.

For Lawrence, achieving his maiden win in London feels particularly significant, given this is likely to be the first of many trips to this city as his professional career gathers pace in the years ahead.

"It means a lot, and obviously we’ve struggled a little bit, but to get this win, to do it here in London, it’s all just special," he said.

"I’ll always remember this one. My first win, out here, it’s just hard to even imagine. It’s awesome."

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Lawrence is the first rookie quarterback to lead his team to success in London and his huge talent and potential was on display against the Dolphins, connecting with perennially underrated wide receiver Marvin Jones for a highlight-reel 28-yard touchdown to bring the Jaguars back within three points at half-time.

Three successive field goals — including an initial kick from Wright from 40 yards – had followed a score on an incisive opening drive from rookie Miami receiver Jaylen Waddle, who brought in another short touchdown pass from returning quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with 10 minutes left, pushing the Dolphins back ahead 20-17 after running back James Robinson had rumbled over to give the Jaguars their first lead of the afternoon as momentum swung back and forth.

But Wright had the final say on a memorable occasion.

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