Nothing was going to save the Patriots’ 2023 season, but if Mac Jones hadn’t thrown off his back foot, put a little bit more velocity on the ball, and lofted his pass five yards deeper on his final passing attempt of Week 10 before getting benched, then at least the team could have looked back on their trip to Frankfurt, Germany with fondness.
Alas, Jones’ red-zone, fourth-quarter target to tight end Mike Gesicki was intercepted by safety Julian Blackmon, setting off what should be a very interesting two weeks in Foxboro with a bye before their Week 12 matchup with the Giants.
Jones sat for backup Bailey Zappe in a two-minute drill while trailing 10-6. Zappe threw his own ugly interception into a crowd of three Colts defenders while targeting 5-foot-8 rookie slot receiver Demario Douglas after a fake spike with no pressure bearing down and has done absolutely nothing to earn the Patriots’ starting quarterback job in practice or three fill-in-game situations, performing even worse than Jones. The Patriots could still turn to Will Grier or practice squad quarterback/wide receiver Malik Cunningham as they play out the string over what could be Bill Belichick’s final seven games as head coach.
But before the brutal loss to a first-year head coach and quarterback Gardner Minshew, Frankfurt was a tremendous host city in their first series of NFL games.
Here are our final thoughts on Frankfurt, football or otherwise.
- The in-stadium vidoe hosts, which included brief Patriots defensive tackle Markus Kuhn, polled the crowd in-game, asking where they were from and who they were cheering for. Based on crowd noise alone, the crowd was primarily German Patriots fans. But there was a vocal contingent of American fans, and supporters from other European countries. All 32 teams seemed to be represented by fans in jerseys. Patriots fans made up the majority, but the number of Seahawks jerseys in and around the stadium was noticeable.
- During pre-game introductions, the Colts were booed vociferously while the Patriots received loud cheers. Not only did it feel like a home game for the Patriots, it was probably the team’s most supportive crowd all season. Fans were enthusiastic and appreciative to watch their favorite team for the entire game, but crowd volume understandably dwindled as the two teams swapped 12 straight drives without scoring.
- German fans love to sing. One of the coolest moments of the game, no matter how you feel about the song as Red Sox fans, was when the crowd kept singing “Sweet Caroline” after a break while the Colts offense was still on the field. Bill Belichick had to like the crowd’s singalong to Bon Jovi. And the Frankfurt fans really picked up near the end of the game when the DJ played “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver.
- Frankfurt Stadium is much smaller than most NFL stadiums with a capacity of 48,000. The press box was outdoors in the upper deck near the 50-yard line. Temperatures were in the 40s, so much of the press corps wore jackets and winter hats while working. It was a great environment to take in the crowd.
- As a first-time visitor of Frankfurt, I expected more history in the city. But almost the entire area had to be rebuilt after World War II. Patriots players were spotted on Saturday visiting Romerberg Square — which has traditional German architecture — some with family members. The Patriots didn’t have much time to waste on Friday between arriving at 6 a.m. for meetings and practice, but the team did get a chunk of time on Saturday afternoon to see the sights.
- The Patriots were very impressed with their makeshift facility where the German national soccer team practices on the DFB Campus.
- Frankfurt felt a lot like an American city. There are large skyscrapers downtown where there’s a heavy banking presence.
- The city felt empty when reporters and the team were arriving on Friday, but it was jam-packed on Saturday and Sunday. German pubs were a tough seat all weekend, but the bratwurst, pork knuckle and schnitzel were worth the wait.
- Patriots players were disappointed by Sunday’s loss but still spoke highly of their experience in Germany. It will be interesting to see when the Patriots return to Europe. They do play the Jaguars on the road next season. That could be an opportunity to go to London. They also will play nine home games again in 2025, so that could be another chance to return to Germany, whether that’s in Frankfurt or another city. Frankfurt was great, but it would be nice to get to see how another city could compare as hosts.
- Former Patriots offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer is easily the biggest NFL legend in the country. He received the biggest ovation from the crowd. There was a poll run during a German broadcast of the Chargers-Lions game on Sunday, and Vollmer won with nearly 50% of the vote over other players like Kuhn. Bjorn Werner and Amon-Ra St. Brown, who was born in Germany but grew up in the United States.
- Former Patriots players Rob Ninkovich, Vince Wilfork, Malcolm Butler and Jason McCourty, who was the game’s color commentator, patrolled the sidelines before the game.
- There were plenty of positive performances for the Patriots before Jones and Zappe threw the game away at the end. Running backs Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott and wide receiver Demario Douglas were offensive stars. Linebacker Jahlani Tavai continued his playmaking ways with a tip that led to an interception for cornerback Myles Bryant.
- It wasn’t a major surprise to see Jack Jones cut after he spent most of the first quarter sitting on the Patriots’ bench in a heavy cape while the rest of the defensive reserves watched the action from the sideline.