LONDON - For art, they could have gone to the British Museum. For something grand, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace were a train ride away.
Instead, what the fans got on this history-making Sunday in London was old-fashioned, muck-it-up football — not very entertaining and not pretty at all, unless you ask the New York Giants, who came out with a 13-10 victory over the still-winless Miami Dolphins.
“We won, so obviously it was worth it,” said Giants defensive lineman Osi Umenyiora, who was born in London.
Eli Manning threw for only 59 yards but ran for New York’s lone touchdown to lift the Giants to their sixth straight victory, a mud-caked slog through the unfriendly pitch at torn-up Wembley Stadium in this, the first regular-season NFL game played outside North America.
The Giants (6-2) had more riding on this game, and were in no mood to take a 3,500-mile trip to help the league expand its international presence. But Brandon Jacobs helped make the journey a success, running for 131 yards, the second straight week he’s hit a career high.
And helped in part by a steady rain that made offense nearly impossible, the New York defense allowed only 254 yards and held the Dolphins (0-8) out of the end zone for the first 58 minutes.
“I’ll be glad to give my opinion to the commissioner with the issues that came up,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said when asked if the trip was worth it.
Most issues had to do with jet lag, transportation and the general inconvenience of coming this far to play a game. Whether that or the sloppy conditions had more to do with the less-than-scintillating game is up for debate.
But there were brief moments of intrigue, especially when Cleo Lemon drove the Dolphins 80 yards to pull them within 13-10 on a 21-yard pass to Ted Ginn Jr. with 1:54 left. But Jay Feely’s onside kick went out of bounds — “The field was like ice,” Feely said — and the Giants kneeled on it three times to run out the clock, ignoring the loud boos from a crowd of 81,176 that wanted more.
Coughlin said that was the only off-note he noticed from the enthusiastic crowd.
“You’d have to know a lot about football to understand that,” he said.
One thing that didn’t need clarification — that ugly winless record the Dolphins now take into their bye week. The St. Louis Rams, also losers on Sunday, joined Miami at 0-8.
“We’re going to keep our eyes up, our heads high,” Dolphins coach Cam Cameron said. “This group’s got a lot of football left this season. There’s eight games staring at us.”
The teams combined for a grand total of 492 yards, only 187 passing — numbers single teams often put up by themselves in a single game. They combined for seven fumbles, two missed field goals and 14 penalties, including four by the Giants on one late drive that had Coughlin annoyingly yelling at his team to “stay calm” as they tried to salt this one away.
“When you’re on a world stage, you want to be representative of what the best the NFL has to offer,” Feely said. “You didn’t the see the aerial game that the NFL provides on a weekly basis because of the conditions.”
Trailing 13-0, Miami had a chance to creep back into the game in the third quarter when Matt Roth dislodged the ball from Manning on a blindside sack and Jayson Taylor — who has had a 26-foot-high replica of himself touring around London all week — fought through a rugby scrum to come up with the recovery at the Miami 49.
Two plays later, Jesse Chatman (16 carries, 79 yards) reversed field for a 22-yard gain — longest play of the game — and a moment later, the Dolphins had second-and-goal from the 2. But Lemon bobbled the ensuing snap, got tackled for a nine-yard loss and Miami settled for a field goal by Feely.
Earlier, Lemon put himself on the blooper reel when he reared back to pass, but lost the ball on the windup. He lost a fumble there that led to New York’s second field goal and a 13-0 lead before halftime.
Manning is the answer to the trivia question: Who scored the first regular-season NFL touchdown in Europe? He rambled to the corner for a 10-yard score to make it 10-0 in the second.
And Lemon threw the first overseas touchdown pass to make this game exciting for the briefest of moments — until Feely’s onside kick ended that.
Next year, the NFL will try again when it returns to the international scene in Mexico, Canada, Germany or maybe Wembley again.
PFT: Jets RB Mike Goodson was charged with five gun and drug counts Friday morning, after New Jersey State Police found the car he was riding in parked in the middle of Route 80 in Denville, N.J.
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