Over 50,000 fans marched into Deutsche Bank Park ahead of the second and final 2023 NFL Frankfurt game, with the Gardner Minshew-led Indianapolis Colts, prepared to take on Bill Belichick and the dominant New England Patriots’ defense, as both teams looked to rectify a rough first half of the season.
Despite a bright start – with the Patriots claiming three points on their opening drive and Colts’ star man Jonathan Taylor giving his team an early four-point lead, the game soon became a battle of the defenses. After witnessing seven consecutive punts, five sacks on Patriots quarterback Mac Jones and a missed 57-yard field goal by Colts kicker Matt Gay, fans went into halftime longing for an offensive spark from either team.
It took until the start of the fourth quarter, but the Patriots’ offense did eventually provide said spark. Putting together a 15-play, 89-yard drive that resulted in a field goal and brought the game to within a point. The upbeat atmosphere was matched by the fans who stuck to Germany’s newly-established NFL tradition – belting out John Denver’s ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’.
The Colts immediately responded to the fans’ enthusiasm, putting together a field goal drive of their own to make the score 10-6. A drive largely thanks to a 42-yard kickoff return by Isaiah McKenzie. With the clock ticking down, Mac Jones led the Patriots all the way down to the Colts’ 13-yard line, only to throw a back-breaking interception to Julian Blackmon.
In a last-ditch attempt to salvage the game, following the turnover, Mac Jones was benched in favour of Bailey Zappe. However Zappe couldn’t get the job done either, completing only three of six attempts and throwing a painful, game-ending interception on a fake spike.
— Decyfr Sport (@DecyfrSport) November 12, 2023
When asked about his benching following the game, Mac Jones continued to demonstrate his team-first mentality: “It’s hard right. It’s a difficult situation. But, at the end of the day, I really did want the team to win. I have to play better and not even be in that situation.”
🗣 “Everybody needs to do better.”
— Decyfr Sport (@DecyfrSport) November 12, 2023
The need for improvement was the theme of the post-game press conference, with head coach Bill Belichick said: “As a team we’re just not doing enough things that we need to do to win. So, everybody needs to do better. Simple as that.”
Sitting at 2-8, the playoffs are almost entirely out of reach for the Patriots who will be looking to salvage some pride when they take on the Giants in Week 12.
On the other side of things, the Colts now sit at 5-5 with multiple positives to take from their visit to Germany. Gardner Minshew showed elite poise in the pocket, completing 18 of 28 passes for 194 yards, Jonathan Taylor scored his second touchdown in as many weeks and wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr hauled in eight receptions for 84 yards.
With Indianapolis still in the race for the AFC South, the job that head coach Shane Steichen has done, since taking over, has not gone unnoticed – particularly by Gardner Minshew, who stepped in for rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson earlier in the year.
“Shane has done a great job. Coming in and setting the tone with his energy…I’m really grateful for the culture that he’s built and I’m happy to be a part of it,” Minshew said.
While the final result wasn’t that which they were hoping for, there was still plenty for Patriots’ fans to cheer about in Frankfurt. In the run up to the NFL’s 50th regular season game outside the US, the Patriots provided their German fans with ‘Patriots Haus’ – a three-day event where fans could take photos with all six of the team’s Super Bowl trophies and meet German NFL legends Sebastian Vollmer and Markus Kuhn.
As part of the league’s Global Markets Program (GMP), the Patriots are one of the five NFL teams with marketing, commercialisation and fan engagement rights to the German market, alongside the Chiefs, Buccaneers, Falcons and Panthers. The league announced in May that the program had expanded to 21 teams, across 14 international markets.
With another successful NFL international series now concluded, the number of NFL games overseas is only going to increase. As three-time Super Bowl champion Matthew Slater put it: “It’s amazing how much this game has grow. I know it’s an American sport, but I think it’s a game that everyone can enjoy.”
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