The inaugural UK Dynasty Britannia Bowl, contested between the North and South divisional playoff winners - the Gateshead Spartans and the Coventry Eagles respectively - took place over Week 16’s Christmas weekend. For a preview of the matchup, take a look here, but to find out how the dramatic Bowl unfolded, read on.
Thursday Night Football: The Glass-man Cometh
New York Giants
@ Philadelphia Eagles (Spartans: Ryan Mathews 6.7)
Ryan Mathews kicked off the Britannia Bowl on Thursday Night Football in true Ryan Mathews style: 18 carries for 46 yards, a single reception, zero touchdowns, and one herniated disc in his neck. Still, thanks to the glass-man himself, the Spartans took a 6.7-0 lead into the weekend proper, and Mathews headed to season-ending IR.
Gateshead Spartans 6.7 - 0 Coventry Eagles
Christmas Eve, 6pm: Patriots Versus
New York Jets
@ New England Patriots (Spartans: LeGarrette Blount 17, Julian Edelman 11.4, Martellus Bennett 8.9)
San Diego Chargers (Spartans: Dontrelle Inman 5.9; Eagles: Tyrell Williams 14.4)
@ Cleveland Browns
Atlanta Falcons (Eagles: Matt Ryan 20, Julio Jones 8)
@ Carolina Panthers (Eagles: Greg Olsen 8.9)
@ Buffalo Bills (Eagles: LeSean McCoy 23)
As Saturday came and Mrs Claus prepared to wave off her doting husband, ending her year-long wait for 12 hours of peace and quiet, the Spartans and Eagles were going at it hammer and tongs in the early Christmas Eve kick-offs.
The Eagles had a lot invested in the Atlanta/Carolina game. Matt Ryan was his now-reliable self, throwing for 277 yards and 2 TDs for a healthy 20 points, but touchdown-less was Julio Jones, who still managed to contribute 8 points, possibly a relief after a decidedly frustrating boom-or-bust season that’s seen him post sub-4.5 point games sandwiched by two 20+ point games three times. Panthers TE Greg Olsen, without a TD since week 9, continued a lukewarm second-half of 2016 with just shy of 9 points from 6 catches for 59 yards.
Elsewhere for Coventry, Shady McCoy went off on the Dolphins for 128 yards and a touchdown off 24 carries, with 5 receptions as a cherry on the proverbial cake. Shady’s fantasy production wasn’t enough to help the Bills avoid real-life defeat, however, with the loss ultimately ending in Tuesday’s sacking of head coach Rex Ryan and his twin bro Rob. Tyrell Williams put a reassuring 14.4 points on the board with a touchdown and 64 yards against Cleveland, although Williams’ production was also not enough for his real-life team to avoid deafeat, the Browns going on to get a belated first win of the campaign.
On the other side of the Bowl, the Patriot-heavy Spartans had 3 New Englanders facing off against the terrible Jets. LeGarrette Blount contributed 17 much-needed points with yet another 2 touchdowns (his 16th and 17th of the season), and a hard-fought 50 yards on the ground from 20 carries. Julian Edelman and Martellus Bennett came in at 11.4 and 8.9 points respectively, Bennett’s contribution coming from only 2 catches, one of them being an all-important 5-yard touchdown reception.
Dontrelle Inman completed a shaky start to the night for Spartans with 5.9 points for the Chargers against the aforementioned victorious Browns. With 5 out of 9 players having played for both sides, the Eagles held a healthy 24.4 point lead going into the later Saturday kickoffs.
Gateshead Spartans 49.9 - 74.3 Coventry Eagles
Christmas Eve, 9.05/9.25pm: Get Your Johnson Out
Indiannapolis Colts (Spartans: TY Hilton 14.5; Eagles: Frank Gore 7)
@ Oakland Raiders
Arizona Cardinals (Spartans: David Johnson 31.6)
@ Seattle Seahawks
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
@ New Orleans Saints (Eagles: Brandin Cooks 12.3)
T’was the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
Except for David Johnson,
Who rushed for just shy of 100 yards, scored 3 TDs and got 31.6 points
Poetry isn’t my thing, as you may have noticed, but what David Johnson did for the championship hopes of the Gateshead Spartans on the eve of the Christian holy day was nothing short of a Christmas miracle. Johnson scored fron the 2 yard line early on and added two more, both from a yard out, in the final quarter. TY Hilton did enough, getting all his points from yardage (105 of them to be exact) and going without a score.
The Eagles response to the pounding handed out by the Spartans’ Johnson (it’s your dirty mind, not mine) was lacklustre. After going off for 186 yards and 2 touchdowns last week against the Cardinals, Brandin Cooks had a decent game with 98 from 5 receptions, but Coventry could really have done with an endzone catch from the speedster. Frank Gore rushed for 73 yards and caught a 12-yard pass to became the first player in NFL history with 11 consecutive years of at least 1,200 yards from scrimmage, but his 7 points weren’t enough for Coventry to hold on to the lead.
Gateshead Spartans 96 - 93.6 Coventry Eagles
(neither team had any players in the late Christmas Eve game, Bengals/Texans)
Christmas Day, 6pm: Big Ben-Brown Off
@ Pittsburgh Steelers (Spartans: Ben Roethlisburger 19.1; Eagles: Antonio Brown 20.6)
As up-and-down as this very Britannia Bowl matchup, this was quite a spectacle. The Steelers were down twice in the fourth quarter but came back both times, once from a 10-point deficit and finally from 3 points down, when Antonio Brown stretched a superhuman arm over the goalline to seal victory - and the AFC North division title - with 9 seconds remaining on the clock. With the QB-on-one-side-WR-on-the-other situation, this was always set up to be a dramatic but basically meaningless game for both Britannia Bowl contenders, and it didn’t surprise. If the winning TD pass had been to someone other than Brown, then Gateshead would have built up a bigger lead heading in to the late game, but as it stood, 0.9 points would have to do.
At this point, we knew that a single player on each side would face off on Christmas Night and Boxing Day to settle this historic inaugural Bowl.
Gateshead Spartans 115.1 - 114.2 Coventry Eagles
Christmas Day, 9.25pm: Patience Waring Thin
@ Kansas City Chiefs (Eagles: Spencer Ware 9.2)
Spencer Ware has so far this season been fairly reliable as far as yards from scrimmage are concerned, but has been at times outshone by the flourishing Tyreek Hill’s use out of the backfield. With the pressure of the Coventry Eagles Bowl hopes on his shoulders, he couldn’t buck that trend, as he rushed for a productive 62 yards from 13 carries, and added 2 receptions for 20 yards, but failed to score an all-important TD.
With an 8.3 point lead, it all rests in the hands (and legs) of Golden Tate III.
Gateshead Spartans 115.1 - 123.4 Coventry Eagles
Boxing Day Night, 1.30am: Golden
Detroit Lions (Spartans: Golden Tate 8.8)
@ Dallas Cowboys
8.3 points were required, and with 1:06 on the clock and the Lions trailing by 21 real-life points, 7.7 was the figure next to Golden Tate’s name on the scoreboard. One play and a 6-yard reception later, Tate had etched his name into UK Dynasty folklore with the championship-winning points required for the Gateshead Spartans to clinch victory.
Gateshead Spartans 123.9 - 123.4 Coventry Eagles
Stat Correction Thursday
Fittingly for such a tight affair, hearts were still in mouths until the NFL’s stat corrections were in the book and applied to ESPN’s leagues on Thursday morning.
A single change applied to the Britannia Bowl: Frank Gore’s 73 rushing yards became 72, his 7 points became 6.9, and the Gateshead Spartans 0.5 point margin of victory became an ever-so-slightly more emphatic 0.6 points.
Congratulations to Chris Copeland and the Gateshead Spartans on the inaugural Britannia Bowl crown. The trophy presentation, alongside the all-important presentation of the Johnny to Olly Conway of the Oxford Pythons, will take place before Super Bowl LI on Sunday 5th February.
Gateshead Spartans 123.9 - 123.3 Coventry Eagles