Over 78,000 people descended on Estadio Azteca in Mexico City last night to watch the first of two live NFL games this season. Most were there to support the San Francisco 49ers, who didn’t disappoint as they rolled over the Arizona Cardinals.
The 49ers defeated the Cardinals 38-10 in the return of the NFL to Mexico, with Monday Night Football wrapping up Week 11 of the regular season. The attendance was only about 4,000 less than the stadium’s maximum capacity, a strong indication of the popularity of American football in the country.
The Cardinals entered the game with a band-aid offense that has been dealing with injuries. This proved difficult to overcome, although Arizona lit up the scoreboard first.
Niners Attack In Mexico
Despite the strong start the Niners gave, the Cardinals scored first. It was only a Matt Prater field goal, but it was enough to get the ball rolling, and San Fran couldn’t find a way to respond for the entire first quarter.
That changed in the second. The Niners came out with greater effectiveness on offense, picking up TDs from wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk and tight end George Kittle to go ahead 14-3.
The Cardinals found some action, as well, before halftime. QB Colt McCoy pushed the offense down the field, mostly with the help of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. That culminated in a solid run by running back James Conner for a TD and a 17-10 halftime score.
The 49ers started the second half with more variety on offense and better accuracy between QB Jimmy Garoppolo and his receivers. This allowed San Fran to extend their lead, thanks to the TDs put up once again by Aiyuk and Kittle, as well as another by wide receiver Deebo Samuel.
McCoy struggled under center, unable to adapt and properly take over for the injured Kyle Murray. The Cards offense wasn’t able to produce any solid results in the second half and stayed off the board completely. McCoy couldn’t even make it the entire half, with the third-string QB Trace McSorley coming in to replace him.
The 49ers, who have won three straight, improve to 6-4 to tie the Seattle Seahawks as division leaders in the NFC West. The Cardinals drop to 4-7, but retain their third-place spot in the division.
There was never really any doubt that the 49ers would win. The sportsbooks backed them all the way, but the over/under offered a tantalizing option. The over hit, thanks almost entirely to the outstanding performance of the Niners.
NFL Needs A New Home In Mexico
Mexico, according to the NFL, holds the league’s largest fanbase outside of the US. It has been a regular fixture for international games, except during COVID-19, but Azteca Stadium hasn’t always impressed players or fans.
The NFL needs an alternative site if it wants to continue to play south of the border. During the first quarter of 2023, the stadium will close its doors to begin remodeling for the 2026 World Cup, a situation that could complicate future NFL games.
The situation is difficult beyond 2023, as well, since the work in the stadium could be extended from a year and a half to two years. As a result, it isn’t looking good for NFL games there anytime soon.
The NFL is reportedly working on an alternative already. However, it hasn’t provided any details. In the meantime, it is increasing its European schedule, expanding its reach in England and Germany.
There are three in London this year, as well as one (Tampa Bay vs. Seahawks) already played in Munich, Germany. More games in Germany are going to be added to the calendar in the future.
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