Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium is looking to put its best face forward Monday night when it hosts a regular-season matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers, after last season’s NFL game had to be moved to the L.A. Coliseum in a major black eye for the stadium and the league.
Poor field conditions forced the last-minute change of venue, and since then league and stadium officials have taken steps to ensure the marquee event comes off without a hitch in one of the NFL’s most important overseas markets.
The hybrid turf that never quite took in Azteca has been swapped out for natural grass. Women’s soccer league matches were moved to a different venue, and fewer events in general have been scheduled for the 84,000-seat Azteca. Last year, concerts in the days leading up to the scheduled game between the Chiefs and the Los Angeles Rams contributed to the ragged field conditions.
This year, the most recent soccer game in Azteca took place Nov. 2.
“The field is in very good condition,” said Arturo Olivé, director of the NFL’s office in Mexico. “It looks spectacular, and we are very happy with the great work that has been carried out.”
Starting in January, Olivé said, the league has been sending monitors to Mexico to avoid a repeat of 2018’s debacle, and he has been making weekly visits to the stadium to file progress reports.
“The NFL people did not come to judge what was being done, but rather as part of a working team contributing solutions,” Olivé said.
Renato Luis Laurentti of World Sports Solutions International, who is responsible for the field upgrades, said this week it was fertilized and irrigated with orange juice, vitamins, carbohydrates, and proteins.
Monday will mark the fourth regular-season NFL game played at Azteca, including the Patriots beating the Raiders there in 2017. Capacity was reduced from over 100,000 in a 2016 renovation, when locker rooms designed to accommodate NFL teams were also added.
It will be the Chargers’ first visit to Mexico, where according to the league’s local office the team has a strong following — mostly in the northern city of Tijuana just across the border from San Diego, which the Chargers long called home before moving to Los Angeles after the 2016 season.
Still his choice
The Kyle Allen bandwagon is beginning to empty, but coach Ron Rivera is still on board.
Carolina’s second-year quarterback who started with five straight victories has lost three of four, throwing nine interceptions in that span. Sunday was his worst game yet, with four picks while taking five sacks in a 29-3 loss to Atlanta.
But with Cam Newton on injured reserve, Carolina (5-5) is stuck with Allen the rest of the way — and Rivera said he’s willing to stick with him, knowing there will be a lot of growing pains.
“I’m not concerned about Kyle’s learning curve,” Rivera said. “He’s a young quarterback who is going to make young mistakes. But that is why you put him out there. . . . That is what the game is all about.”
Bits and pieces
■ Cincinnati wide receiver Auden Tate was carted off the field in Oakland after taking a hard hit to the back of the head while making a catch in the fourth quarter. Tate had just caught a 20-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Finley when he was hit hard from behind by Raiders safety Curtis Riley. Tate stayed down for several moments as players from both sides kneeled, but was able to raise his hand after being placed on a stretcher.
■ Six of the eight 1 p.m. starts on Sunday were decided by 17 or more points, and a seventh included Minnesota coming from 20-0 down at halftime to beat Denver. The league entered the week with 77 games decided by seven points or less, the second-most in league history through 10 weeks.
■ John Brown’s 137 yards receiving in Buffalo’s 37-20 win over Miami were the most by a Bills player in nearly three years, dating to Sammy Watkins reeling in 154 yards on Christmas Eve of 2016. He’s upped his team-leading total to 817 yards, already the most by a Bills player since Watkins finished the 2015 season with 1,047.
■ Derrius Guice’s 45-yard run against the Jets ended a Washington streak of 16 consecutive quarters without a touchdown of any kind, the longest skid of any team since the 2000 Baltimore Ravens (who won the Super Bowl). The Redskins hadn’t scored a touchdown since Oct. 13, when Case Keenum connected with rookie Terry McLaurin in the 1-9 team’s only win.
■ Adam Vinatieri made a 34-yard field goal to give Indianapolis a 10-7 lead over Jacksonville with 8:26 left in the first half, breaking Morten Andersen’s league record for career field goal attempts. The 46-year-old is 597 for 710 in his regular-season career, both NFL records.
■ The draft pick Cleveland received in its trade of running back Duke Johnson to Houston went from a fourth- to a third-rounder after Johnson dressed for his 10th game of the season.