LONDON — The Giants left London shortly after the game on Sunday. It sounded like they were sad to go.
Most of the players spoke glowingly of the experience of playing in the NFL’s 16 game in Britain and the first at historic Twickenham Stadium, the home of English rugby. A 17-10 win over the Rams undoubtedly helped improve their impressions of the city, but that was just part of their enjoyment.
“I had a great time,” Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins said. “Everything all about it was great. I think we should have more out here.”
While they were focused mainly on the game, the Giants did take some time to admire their surroundings. One of the things several noted was the menagerie of football jerseys that were sprinkled through the stadium. Just about every NFL team and a bunch of colleges were represented by the fans who got the rare (yet increasingly common) opportunity to watch American football in Europe.
“I didn’t know who we were playing today,” cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said of the variety. “I saw an old Michael Vick jersey and I was like ‘Man!’ But I saw all types of teams out there.”
Beyond just the game, rookie receiver Sterling Shepard said he enjoyed his time on Saturday walking around in downtown London, seeing the sights, and even visiting a Nike store. He also said he enjoyed where the Giants were headquartered in Syon Park, a rural area on an estate owned by the Duke of Northumberland. He said it reminded him of home.
“The trees were a little different,” he said, “but there were cows, so it was a little like Oklahoma.”
It was technically a home game for the Rams, and their signage appeared throughout the stadium. But the crowd was definitely pro-Giants. It was also very interested — curious — in Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz. They roared each time the ball went in Beckham’s direction and even gave Cruz an international version of the traditional “Cruuuz!” when he caught passes.
“I was telling some teammates on the sideline it was a home game,” Cruz said. “You turn around and see that sea of blue behind us, and they’re loud and yelling ‘Cruuuz’ and yelling when we do good things, it gives me goose bumps every single time no matter where I am.”
Eli Manning, who was the quarterback for the Giants in 2007 when they kicked off the international series against the Dolphins, saw improvement over nine years.
“I thought the experience was smoother this time just with all the logistics going into the week,” Manning said. “I thought [the fans] had a little better feel of when to cheer at the right times and a better understanding of the game.”
Even losing coach Jeff Fisher called the game “an extraordinary event” and “very, very impressive.”
The condition of the field at Wembley Stadium was also a factor in 2007, but Manning said the turf at Twickenham was much better. Some players complained about it being slippery and had to change cleats, but there were very few incidents where it looked like the conditions affected the play.
Said Jenkins of the surface: “Not worse than Green Bay, so that’s a plus.”