Bucs K Xavier Beitia has made three of four field goal tries in the NFLEL this season, including one that produced a rare tie on Saturday
It had been 14 years since the NFL Europe League – known as the World League in its first incarnation – had witnessed a tie.
Xavier Beitia broke that "drought" on Saturday.
Okay, so maybe the first undecided game in a decade and a half wasn't the sort of milestone the NFLEL was desperate to reach. Kissing your sister is no more fun overseas than it is in the parent NFL. Still, for Beitia and the Berlin Thunder it was better than a loss and it could eventually make an enormous difference in the race to World Bowl XIV.
Beitia made a 27-yard field goal with six seconds left, leading to a 17-17 tie with the Hamburg Sea Devils on Saturday. He was in position to send the game into overtime thanks to a bit of well-executed trickery by the Thunder offense in the closing seconds of regulation: the famous hook-and-ladder play. Quarterback Lang Campbell, an allocate of the Cleveland Browns, completed a short pass to wide receiver Christopher Liess, and Liess quickly pitched it back to running back Little John Flowers. Flowers raced the game clock deep into Sea Devil territory, stepping out of bounds at the nine after a gain of 50 yards on the play. Beitia tied the game on the next snap.
NFL Europe rules call for a 10-minute sudden death overtime, and neither team scored in the extra period. The Sea Devils were in position to reclaim victory when they took the opening overtime possession down to Berlin's five-yard line. However, running back Mike Jemison of the Pittsburgh Steelers fumbled into the end zone on a first-and-goal run and it went out of bounds for a touchback.
Beitia and the Thunder thus escaped with a 1-1-1 record after three weeks, while Hamburg falls to 0-2-1. Since the participants in the World Bowl are determined by the two best records among the six NFLEL teams after the 10-week regular season, the tie could eventually prove the difference in the standings. At the moment, the Thunder is in third, behind the 3-0 Rhein Fire and the 2-1 Amsterdam Admirals.
Three of the seven Buccaneer-allocated men currently playing in the NFLEL's spring season are members of the Thunder, including both of the team's kickers. In addition to holding for Beitia's two field goal attempts and two extra points, punter Brian Simnjanovski kicked eight times in the game, averaging 35.8 yards per punt and dropping two inside the 20. He held for Beitia's 52-yard attempt in the second quarter, which was on target but short; by NFLEL rules, any field goal of 50 yards or longer is worth four points.
Tampa Bay's Jermaine Taylor also starts at right outside linebacker for the Thunder defense, which held Hamburg to 301 total yards on Saturday even though the Sea Devils built a 17-0 lead by halftime. Taylor, who led all players with 15 tackles last week, recorded six more stops on Saturday and added two passes defensed. Hamburg might have taken a 21-0 lead into the intermission had Taylor not broken up a third-and-goal pass to wide receiver Nate Curry late in the second quarter, forcing the Sea Devils to settle for a short field goal.
There was also a Buccaneer-allocated player on the, uh, "losing" end of the tie, as Phil Bogle started his third straight game at right guard for the Sea Devils. Bogle helped Jemison and the Hamburg rushing attack rack up 141 yards on 37 carries, accounting for roughly half of the team's offense on the day. However, after two straight sackless games, the Sea Devil front line finally allowed their quarterback to be taken down, as sub James Kilian of the Kansas City Chiefs was sacked three times.
The Admirals improved to 2-1 later on Saturday by walloping the Frankfurt Galaxy, 38-20. There was one Buccaneer on each side of that tussle, but neither played extensively. Quarterback Jared Allen got into the game for the Admirals but didn't throw a pass, as the offense was directed by Seattle's Gibran Hamdan and Oakland's Reggie Robertson. Those two combined for 13 completions in 21 attempts for 251 yards and four touchdowns. Actually, Robertson completed only one of his six tosses, but it went for a 62-yard touchdown to Seattle's Skyler Fulton early in the second quarter.
For the Galaxy, Buccaneer lineman Jason Nerys continued to back up starting center Charles Missant of the New York Jets. Nerys and the Galaxy fell to 1-2 with the loss.
The seventh Buccaneer allocate had to wait until Sunday to play his game, as the undefeated Fire capped the weekend with a 20-10 win over the Cologne Centurions. Continuing to share backfield duties with the Buffalo Bills' Fredrick Jackson, running back Jacque Lewis ran 13 times for 51 yards and caught one eight-yard pass. Lewis also returned one kickoff for 25 yards.
Jackson got a bigger share of the carries this week, running 27 times for 96 yards and the five-yard touchdown that broke a 10-10 tie late in the third quarter. However, through three games Lewis has rushed 41 times for 158 yards, making him the fifth-leading rusher in the league despite getting no more than 13 carries in any one game.
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…Saw action against Frankfurt but did not throw a pass. * Xavier Beitia, Berlin Thunder…Made one of two field goals and both extra points in a 17-17 tie with Hamburg. Missed from 52 yards but hit a 27-yarder at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime. * G Phil Bogle, Hamburg Sea Devils…Started at right guard against Berlin and helped Sea Devil rushers gain 141 yards on 37 carries. * RB Jacque Lewis, Rhein Fire…Rushed 13 times for 51 yards against Cologne. Also caught one pass for eight yards and returned one kickoff 25 yards. * C Jason Nerys, Frankfurt Galaxy…Saw action against Amsterdam. * P Brian Simnjanovski, Berlin Thunder…Averaged 35.8 yards on eight punts against Hamburg, dropping two inside the 20 and not suffering a touchback. * LB Jermaine Taylor, Berlin Thunder…Started at ROLB and recorded six tackles and two passes defensed against Hamburg.