WEMBLEY, England They mucked their way through a steady rain.
They played as if they were in a London fog.
The NFL's first regular-season trip overseas was every bit as sloppy as it was predictable Sunday. Eli Manning threw for only 59 yards but ran for New York's lone touchdown to lift the Giants to a mud-caked 13-10 victory over the still-winless Miami Dolphins.
The Giants (6-2) had more riding on this game, coming in with a five-game winning streak and in no mood to take a 3,500-mile trip to London to make history on behalf of the NFL. But Brandon Jacobs helped make the journey a success, running for 131 yards, the second straight week he's hit a career high.
Helped in part by a steady rain that made for an "unfriendly pitch" at torn-up Wembley Stadium, the New York defense allowed only 254 yards and held the Dolphins out of the end zone for the first 58 minutes for a victory that only the winners could view as anything remotely beautiful.
Miami pulled within 13-10 when Cleo Lemon hit Ted Ginn Jr. for a 21-yard score with 1:54 left. But Jay Feely's onside kick went out of bounds and the Giants kneeled on it three times to seal the game, ignoring the loud boos from a crowd of 81,176 that wanted more.
Miami fell to 0-8 and kept 0-16 very much in play for the season on this, the 35th anniversary of their perfect, 17-0 season in 1972.
The idea behind this game was supposedly to offer Londoners a first-hand look at the real thing after they'd suffered through decades of exhibition games and NFL Europa. And while the mud made for good television and some fun slips and slides, this was hardly a clinic of American football at its best.
The teams combined for a grand total of 493 yards, only 187 passing numbers the Indianapolis Colts often put up all by themselves in a single game. They fumbled seven times, missed two field goals and committed 14 penalties, including four by the Giants on one late drive that had coach Tom Coughlin annoyingly yelling at his team to "stay calm" as they tried to salt this one away.
Overall, they played conservative but not exciting football. They played not to lose a strategy the Dolphins still haven't figured out this season.
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, the NFL's first and only Scotland native.
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.
The game had many trappings of the Super Bowl. Fans wearing jerseys from every corner of the league were among those who sat through the steady rain. During the pregame, one singer performed the National Anthem and another did God Save the Queen.
Among the honorary captains for the pregame coin flip was former English rugby captain Martin Johnson, who was roundly booed when he was introduced; it's not often that the captain gets booed at a game in the States. At halftime, an English streaker did his thing at midfield for about 30 seconds before he was gang tackled by security and taken off the field to cheers.
Then, it was back to the drudgery. There were clearly more Dolphins fans in the house, but they had nothing to cheer about. Still, with about three minutes left and the game basically decided, more than three-quarters of the seats remained full, most of the fans booing during the NFL's anticlimactic ritual of a quarterback burning two minutes off the clock by kneeling on the ball.