Amsterdam QB Jared Allen could be one of two Bucs starting in World Bowl XIV on Saturday
On Saturday Jason Nerys, a first-year center allocated to the NFL Europe League by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, made his first start of the season in a game the Frankfurt Galaxy had to have. The Galaxy, riding a running game that has been nearly unstoppable for a month, rallied for a 14-13 win over the Berlin Thunder and, as a result, Nerys may get one more opportunity to start before he returns to Tampa.
Prevailing in their regular-season finale allowed the Galaxy to clinch the second spot in the NFLEL's championship game, World Bowl XIV, opposite the Amsterdam Admirals. Both teams finished 7-3 and will vie for the league title next Saturday in Dusseldorf.
For most of the season, Nerys has been a frequently-used O-line sub, splitting time with the New York Jets' Charles Missant at center. This past weekend, those roles were reversed but the results for the Frankfurt running game, perhaps the most dominant unit in the league, remained the same.
Led by MVP candidate Roger Robinson of the Arizona Cardinals, the Galaxy rushed for 195 yards on 43 carries, which accounted for two-thirds of the team's offensive output on the afternoon. Backup Butchie Wallace, a player not yet affiliated with any NFL team, ran nine times and scored two touchdowns to rally Frankfurt from a 13-0 second-quarter deficit.
Behind the strong work of Nerys, Missant and the rest of the Galaxy linemen, Frankfurt has by far the league's best rushing attack, averaging 174.5 yards per game. Over the last four weeks, as the Galaxy won three of four to overtake Rhein in the World Bowl race, they've put up an average of 197 ground yards per game.
They needed all of that on Saturday to edge the Thunder, which includes three Buccaneer-allocated players among its ranks. In fact, Buc kicker Xavier Beitia helped put Frankfurt in an early hole by nailing field goals of 30 and 47 yards in the first quarter. The longer shot was the result of a turnover created by another Tampa Bay-allocated player, linebacker Jermaine Taylor, who recovered a Craig Ochs fumble and returned it five yards to the Frankfurt 32. Taylor finished the game with five tackles and that fumble recovery.
Beitia actually had a chance to take the lead back for Berlin in the fourth quarter but missed on a 30-yard field goal try at the end of an 83-yard drive. He also misfired on a 29-yarder in the second quarter. A Buccaneer player also handled Berlin's punting duties, as Brian Simnjanovski averaged 42.3 yards on four kicks. He also dropped three of those four kicks inside the 20, with the fourth going for a touchback.
Tampa Bay quarterback Jared Allen started for Amsterdam later on Saturday in a game that actually had no World Bowl implications. The Admirals had clinched the first championship-game spot the weekend before in Allen's second start, and the opposing Hamburg Sea Devils came in with a 2-6-1 record.
It was the Sea Devils that finished the regular season on a winning note, however, racing out to a 17-0 lead en route to a 34-21 victory. The lone Buc allocate on the Hamburg roster, guard Phil Bogle, started for the 10th straight game at right guard and helped Sea Devil passers complete 15 of 25 passes while suffering just one sack. Top-notch pass protection has been a signature of the Hamburg offense all season; they allowed just 12 sacks in the entire 10-game season.
Overall, however, the Hamburg offense couldn't keep up with the Amsterdam attack, which rang up 408 yards to the visitors' 193. The difference, of course, was turnovers, as the Admirals fell victim to five giveaways while Hamburg didn't turn it over once. Two of the Sea Devils' four touchdowns came on returns, a 42-yard runback of an interception by linebacker Scott Genord and a 45-yard scamper on a fumble recovery by New York Giants safety Jason Shivers.
Allen completed 17 of 27 passes for 235 yards and 16-yard touchdown pass to Chicago Bears wide receiver Craig Bragg in the third quarter. However, his two interceptions and two fumbles led to 17 Hamburg points, including both return touchdowns mentioned above. Allen split time with the Oakland Raiders' Reggie Robertson, who completed nine of 17 passes for 83 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.
The last Buccaneer in action over the weekend was running back Jacque Lewis of the Rhein Fire. Before their contest with Cologne was complete, the Fire found out that Frankfurt's win had eliminated it from the World Bowl. However, they still rallied gamely for a 21-10 victory on the strength of an explosive rushing attack.
All spring, that ground game has been a two-horse combination of the Buccaneers' Jacque Lewis and the Buffalo Bills' Fredrick Jackson. In Saturday's finale, Jackson took center stage with 154 yards on 22 carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run on Rhein's first play from scrimmage. However, Lewis still pitched in with 31 yards on 11 carries, including the seven-yard TD run that put Rhein ahead for good in the third quarter. Lewis also returned one kickoff for 22 yards.
Lewis, Taylor, Simnjanovski, Beitia and Bogle shared a transatlantic flight back to Florida on Monday. Allen and Nerys will return a week later, after one of the two earns a championship ring.
Two other Buccaneers who were slated to play in the 2006 NFLEL season, wide receiver Jonathan Carter and defensive tackle Keith Wright, missed all or most of the season due to injuries. Below is a rundown of how the seven Bucs still in action fared this past weekend in Europe. Following the World Bowl, we'll look at the full NFLEL season accomplishments for these seven players.
- QB Jared Allen, Amsterdam Admirals…Started at quarterback for the third straight week and completed 17 of 27 passes for 235 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions…Also ran twice for 10 yards against Hamburg. * Xavier Beitia, Berlin Thunder…Made two of four field goal attempts in 14-13 loss to Frankfurt…Hit from 47 and 30 yards and missed from 30 and 29. Also made only extra point attempt. * G Phil Bogle, Hamburg Sea Devils…Started at right guard for 10th time in 10 games and helped Sea Devils allow just one sacks on 26 drop-backs in 34-21 win over first-place Amsterdam. * RB Jacque Lewis, Rhein Fire…Rushed 11 times for 31 yards and a touchdown…Scored go-ahead TD in 21-10 victory over Cologne with seven-yard run in the third quarter…Also returned one kickoff 22 yards. * C Jason Nerys, Frankfurt Galaxy…Made first start at center and helped Frankfurt rush for 195 yards on 43 carries (4.5 avg.)…Helped Galaxy claim World Bowl spot with 14-13 win over Berlin. * P Brian Simnjanovski, Berlin Thunder…Averaged 42.3 yards on four punts against Frankfurt…Dropped three of four punts inside the 20. * LB Jermaine Taylor, Berlin Thunder…Started at right outside linebacker and recorded five tackles…Also recovered a fumble to set up a field goal against Frankfurt.