QB Jared Allen, allocated to the NFLEL by the Buccaneers, was Amsterdam's new starter this past weekend
Jared Allen threw just 17 passes during the first seven weeks of the NFL Europe League's 2006 season, but thanks to an injury suffered by the Seattle Seahawk's Gibran Hamdan, he became the shepherd of the Amsterdam Admirals' six-game winning streak in Week Eight.
Allen, a first-year NFL quarterback allocated to the NFLEL by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, had shared backup duties with Oakland's Reggie Robertson for most of the season. However, Hamdan, the league's leading passer with a 113.4 QB rating, sustained a broken ankle during a Week Seven win over Hamburg and the Admirals chose Allen over Robertson as they sought to clinch a World Bowl berth over the eighth weekend.
Alas, Allen's first start as a professional ended in a 20-13 loss to the Cologne Centurions on Saturday, though the Buccaneer allocate did direct two fourth-quarter scoring drives in an attempt to rally the Admirals to their seventh win of the year.
With the loss, the Admirals fell to 6-2 and into a first-place tie with the Frankfurt Galaxy, with the Rhein Fire also vying for a World Bowl spot at 5-3. After the 10-week regular season, the league's championship game is played between the two teams with the best records, with tiebreakers often coming into play. Fortunately for Allen and his teammates, the Admirals remain in the driver's seat for a World Bowl berth, as they need only one win or one loss by Rhein over the final two weeks to clinch a spot.
The Admirals scored on the game's opening possession, though the first of six sacks suffered by Allen, on third down at the Cologne 19, limited Amsterdam to a field goal. The Centurions, who have racked up 14 sacks over the past two weeks, kept Allen on the move all day; the Buc passer also ran three times for 25 yards. The rest of the first half was rough for Allen, as he was sacked two more times and picked off twice, helping Cologne build a 13-3 halftime lead.
The Centurions made it 20-3 in the third quarter on a 34-yard drive following a fumble by Atlanta Falcons running back Diamond Ferri. Allen then got into a groove near the end of the third period, directing a 26-yard touchdown drive that ended in his two-yard scoring pass to Seahawks wide receiver Skyler Fulton on fourth-and-goal from the two. That was the second time in the game that the Admirals went for it on fourth down from the two, though the first time it succeeded. A similar gamble in the second quarter led to another sack of Allen.
The Admirals' defense got the ball back quickly and Allen stayed hot, completing four straight passes to drive Amsterdam 66 yards to the Cologne four. On third down, however, Allen was sacked again and the Admirals had to settle for a field goal to pull within seven points. Despite a game-saving blocked field goal by Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Tony Brown minutes later, that would prove to be the final margin when Allen was intercepted on the next drive.
The loss gave the Frankfurt Galaxy an opportunity grab a share of first place with a win over Rhein later that same afternoon, and they did just that thanks to a last-second field goal by Oakland Raiders kicker David Kimball. Besides Kimball's three field goals in four attempts, the Galaxy won this game on the ground, rushing for 209 yards on 33 carries, for an average of 6.3 per tote.
That meant good blocking up front, and Buccaneer-allocated center Jason Nerys continues to be a part of that effort. Though he has backed up the New York Jets' Charles Missant at that position all season, he has played extensively and helped the Galaxy rush for a league-leading 167.4 yards per game. Arizona Cardinals running back Roger Robinson, the league's leading rusher, gained 144 of those 209 yards, the most important 13 coming on two carries on the game's last drive. A seven-play, 60-yard march put the ball at Rhein's five-yard line and Kimball won the game with a 23-yard kick.
The Frankfurt defense, meanwhile, held Rhein to 41 rushing yards on 22 attempts. Buccaneer allocate Jacque Lewis got eight of those carries and gained nine yards to go with two receptions for five yards. He also returned a kickoff 26 yards to push his season average to 22.6 yards per runback.
The bad news for Lewis and the Fire is that Frankfurt's win avenges a Week One victory by Rhein and gives the Galaxy the inside track to the second World Bowl berth. Frankfurt can clinch a spot through several scenarios, including a win over Amsterdam next weekend or a Week 10 win over Berlin paired with one more loss by Rhein over the last two weeks.
The remaining four Buccaneer-allocated players were all involved in Sunday's capper between Hamburg and Berlin, which held no playoff implications but did prove to be important to guard Phil Bogle and the Sea Devils. By crushing the Thunder, 38-14, Hamburg posted its first win of the season, moving to 1-6-1 while Berlin fell to 2-5-1. The first game between the two teams, in Week Three, ended in a 17-17 tie.
The Bucs' Bogle started his eighth straight game at right guard for Hamburg and helped the Sea Devils rush for 115 yards on 25 carries. Hamburg racked up 349 yards of total offense on the day and built a 21-7 lead by halftime on the hot hand of quarterback Brock Berlin. The Miami Dolphins allocate completed 12 of 15 passes for 183 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Three Bucs took the loss along with the Thunder. Kicker Xavier Beitia made both of his extra point tries but did not attempt a field goal; on the season, Beitia has made all 19 of his PATs and seven of nine field goal tries. Punter Brian Simnjanovski, who ranks fourth in the league with a gross average of 39.4 yards per kick, had a strong day for the Thunder. He averaged 42.8 yards on his six punts, with a long of 54, and dropped four punts inside the 20 against just one touchback. Simnjanovski has proved to be an adept directional punter all spring, tying for the league lead with 20 punts placed inside the 20.
The third Buc in Thunder green and gold is Jermaine Taylor, who started at right outside linebacker for the seventh time in eight games. Taylor, who is tied for the team lead with 48 tackles, had four more in Sunday's loss.
Two other Buccaneers who were slated to play in the 2006 NFLEL season, wide receiver Jonathan Carter and defensive tackle Keith Wright, are currently out due to injuries. Here is a rundown of how the seven Bucs still in action fared this past weekend in Europe:
- QB Jared Allen, Amsterdam Admirals…Started at quarterback and played entire game for Amsterdam, completing 18 of 27 passes for 177 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions…Also ran three times for 25 yards…Directed two fourth-quarter scoring drives in rally that came up short against Cologne. * Xavier Beitia, Berlin Thunder…Made both extra point tries but was not called upon to attempt a field goal. * G Phil Bogle, Hamburg Sea Devils…Started at right guard for eighth consecutive week and helped Sea Devils rush for 115 yards in first victory of the season. * RB Jacque Lewis, Rhein Fire…Rushed eight times for nine yards, caught two passes for five yards and returned one kickoff for 26 yards against Frankfurt. * C Jason Nerys, Frankfurt Galaxy…Saw action at center as a reserve and helped Frankfurt rush for 209 yards on 33 carries (6.3 avg.) in win over Rhein…Aided in Galaxy's second straight 200-yard rushing game. * P Brian Simnjanovski, Berlin Thunder…Punted six times for 257 yards (42.8 avg.), dropping four punts inside the 20 and hitting one touchback…Had a long punt of 54 yards and also held for Xavier Beitia's PATs. * LB Jermaine Taylor, Berlin Thunder…Started at right outside linebacker and contributed four tackles.