Denver Broncos edge past Jaguars as quality takes backseat to passion

Marino is ready for the snap, he stands, surveys the field, the pass soars through the Wembley mist and Jerry Jeudy makes the grab. Marino is delirious. The Broncos are about to snatch a 21-17 win from the jaws of defeat. Marino is a teenage Miami fan in the stands? Confused, good.

Welcome to the NFL in London.

If you live here you will have seen a Marino or two. One of the shimmering hoard clogging up the tube on their way to the big game. A small piece of the grand psychedelic patchwork, a pig-skin cosplay warrior. They are unmistakable and more than a little confusing. Why would a Green Bay fan, equipped with a £60 cheesehead hat bought from a shop in a vast underground car park, come out for this?

It is complicated. It is not either team’s play; they have both been brutally disappointing, with the Broncos’ Russell Wilson struggling to a 3-5 record after winning here, while the Jaguars are 2-6. Then if you flip the script it only becomes more strange. Is there a stadium’s worth of Texas millennials dreaming of the day Leeds duke it out with Aston Villa in Dallas? Probably not, but the moribund Jaguars have attracted a record crowd of 86,215 for an NFL game in London.

Nick Watson from Exeter shares why he sticks his Pittsburgh Steelers over his head each year: “I’ve been to more games than I can count. I love it and you just have to take what you can get which, unfortunately, means watching the Jags year in and year out.

“You get to come with your mates, have a great day out and watch it live. It’s better live even if it is Jags v Broncos. It is so friendly, there’s a guy in a Vikings crop top over there.”

The atmosphere certainly is friendly. Strolling through the Jaguars Jungle fanzone, an MC is shouting something over the PA system about a free ticket.

A tentative Jaguars jersey wanders up to learn they have just snagged a hospitality ticket worth £700. All courtesy of a Kansas City Chiefs fan called Larry Abraham who had no use for it. Cheers, Larry.

Adam Kingsley, from London by way of the New York Jets, also points to vibrations being key: “The atmosphere is incredible. If the game is close then there are always people on either side and it will always create a great buzz. I hate the Broncos so it is the Jags for me. You have to pick a side.”

Like Adam, a lot of fans have already picked a side before kick‑off;the turquoise ocean of flags waving back and forth suggest as much. For anyone who had not already declared an interest, they had their minds made up swiftly by Wilson’s abysmal play at quarterback for Denver in the opening exchanges.

Wilson was almost intercepted, sacked, then intercepted. His opposite number Trevor Lawrence then confirmed they had made the right choice with an easy 22-yard touchdown pass to Evan Engram. Competency will take you a long way with a fair weather fanbase.

It was not to last, though. The Jaguars wilted in the second half and with that the wind suddenly picked up, the drizzle flew and, coincidentally, pockets of “Let’s go, Broncos” chants began to bubble up. Fickleness aside, the fact that most were still cheering should be seen as a badge of honour.

This was ugly – six punts each, 17 penalties and a complete capitulation from Lawrence. But as the game remained up for grabs everyone was on the edge of their seat.

What lingers is the sense that Adam’s call was bang on. The game is on a knife-edge and the crowd are loving every second despite any quality to speak of. Our Jets fan shares a familiar tale of where his enthusiasm was born: “As a treat my dad used to let my brother and me watch the Super Bowl with him. I don’t remember watching, but I remember being allowed to stay up until the small hours. That sowed the seed, then I started playing fantasy football with my mates at work and it sucked me back in: J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS!”

Adam is living his fantasy so fully that he is unable to finish our chat. He screams at a fan walking by in his colours, his fellow New Yorkers for the day heed his call and volley back. The cycle is complete, the fantasy fulfilled. See you next year.