WR Derek McCoy scored the touchdown that tied the game in regulation in Hamburg's overtime win over Amsterdam
The Hamburg Sea Devils went into the seventh week of the 2005 NFL Europe Season with a shot at first place and a run of four victories in their last five games. However, they also opened the final month of play without one of their most valuable players, leading receiver Scott McCready, who was tops in the NFL with 37 receptions for 474 yards through six games.
Fortunately for the Sea Devils, a pair of Tampa Bay Buccaneer players helped make up for McCready's absence on Saturday as Hamburg won a thrilling overtime duel with Amsterdam and stayed in the World Bowl race.
With the Sea Devils trailing by a 24-16 score midway through the fourth quarter, Buccaneer-allocated receiver Derek McCoy caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from Chicago Bears quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie. Hamburg then succeeded on a two-point conversion, knotting the score and eventually sending the game into overtime.
Thanks to two punts, an interception and a missed field goal, the game was 36 seconds away from ending in a tie before Amsterdam quarterback Kurt Kittner (also of the Chicago Bears) was sacked and forced to fumble by defensive end Sacha Lancaster. Fellow DE Ivory McCoy scooped up the loose ball and returned it 29 yards for the game-winning score.
The victory pushed the surging Sea Devils to 4-3 and into a second-place tie with the Admirals. Amsterdam had entered the weekend in a three-way first-place tie with Berlin and Cologne but fell a game off the pace as both the Thunder and the Galaxy finished off close victories on Saturday. The league's championship game, World Bowl XIII, will pit the two teams with the best records (possibly including tiebreakers) at the end of the 10-week regular season.
Two other Buccaneers played a big role in Hamburg's win, including another receiver, Terrance Metcalf. Making his first start of the season, Metcalf continued his productive play of late, catching three passes for 64 yards. His biggest play came just before halftime, after Amsterdam had kicked a field goal to make it 17-10 with 22 seconds left in the first half. With enough time for just one play, Dinwiddie hit Metcalf down the sideline for a gain of 40 yards to the Amsterdam 23, putting Buccaneer-allocated kicker in range for a 41-yard field goal.
France nailed that kick, along with two others from 43 and 47 yards. He also missed three times, but that was more a matter of Hamburg Head Coach Jack Bicknell testing the outer limits of his range. Bicknell sent France, the NFLEL's top kicker, out for a 58-yard try with 23 seconds in regulation and another 55-yarder 10 minutes into overtime.
Both kicks came up short but the attempts were an indication of how valuable France has become to the Sea Devils. Through seven games, he has now hit on 19 of 25 field goal tries and all 13 extra point attempts for a total of 71 points. He is on the verge of breaking Scott Szeredy's NFLEL records for field goals (23), field goal attempts (27) and points (85). France has hit from as far as 54 yards out, and only one of his misses was from closer than 42 yards. In fact, the average distance of his six unsuccessful kicks is 47 yards.
The Bucs had no allocated players on the other side of that Hamburg-Amsterdam game, but they were well-represented in Cologne's 20-17 overtime win over Frankfurt, another contest that nearly ended in a tie.
Three Buccaneer allocates started on defense for Cologne and helped hold the Galaxy to 239 yards of offense through almost five quarters of play. Still, the Centurions needed Jimmy Kibble's 37-yard field goal with 1:14 left in overtime to win the game and keep pace with Berlin at 5-2.
Of the three Tampa Bay defensive starters – safety Kalvin Pearson and defensive tackles Bryan Save and Delbert Cowsette – it was Save who made the biggest impact. Save's two sacks gave him 3.5 on the season and put him just a half-sack off the league lead in that category. Both of his QB takedowns on Saturday occurred in the second half, including one late in the fourth quarter that combined with Greg White's sack on the next play to defuse a drive that started at midfield.
Save had three tackles to go along with his two sacks, while Cowsette pitched in with one stop. Pearson, the season-long starter at strong safety for the Centurions, had two solo tackles.
Quarterback Akili Smith represented the Buccaneers on the other sideline. However, for the second straight week he was left out of the quarterback rotation as the New York Jets' Kevin Eakin took most of the snaps.
Saturday's third game pitted the Berlin Thunder against the Rhein Fire, with Berlin rallying for a 24-15 victory in the second half. The Thunder, seeking its fourth World Bowl berth in the last five years, held Rhein to 280 yards of offense, and Buccaneer punter Brian Simnjanovski helped with the field-position battle by banging six punts for an average of 40.5 yards. He dropped one punt inside the 20 and did not suffer a touchback.
Thunder quarterback Dave Ragone (Houston Texans) took awhile to get into the groove as Berlin fell behind 12-7, in part because Buccaneer cornerback Blue Adams was all over the field, breaking up four passes and making five tackles, including one for a loss.
The 10th player allocated by the Buccaneers to this year's NFLEL season is guard Mitch White, who is on Cologne's roster but hasn't played this season due to injury. Here's a look at how each of the Bucs' 10 allocated players performed in Week Seven:
- CB Blue Adams, Rhein Fire…Registered five tackles and four passes defensed against Berlin. * DT Delbert Cowsette, Cologne Centurions…Registered one tackle against Frankfurt. * K Todd France, Hamburg Sea Devils…Kicked field goals of 43, 41 and 37 yards against Amsterdam. * WR Derek McCoy, Hamburg Sea Devils…Caught one pass for a 26-yard touchdown against Amsterdam. * WR Terrance Metcalf, Hamburg Sea Devils…Caught three passes for 64 yards, including a 40-yard reception against Amsterdam. * S Kalvin Pearson, Cologne Centurions…Recorded two tackles against Frankfurt. * DT Bryan Save, Cologne Centurions…Registered 2.0 sacks for a net loss of 12 yards against Frankfurt. * P Brian Simnjanovski, Berlin Thunder…Punted six times for a 40.5-yard average against Rhein. * QB Akili Smith, Frankfurt Galaxy…Saw action against Cologne. * G Mitch White, Cologne Centurions…Did not play against Frankfurt.