RB Jacque Lewis helped Rhein complete a comeback win with a key run late in the game against Berlin
The race to World Bowl XIV could have been seriously muddied after Week Seven, in which the top three teams in the NFL Europe League standings took on the bottom three. However, league leaders Amsterdam (6-1), Rhein (5-2) and Frankfurt (5-2) all rallied for tight victories against, respectively, Hamburg (0-6-1), Berlin (2-4-1) and Cologne (2-5), making it almost certain that the two championship game participants will come from that first group.
That's good news for the three Tampa Bay Buccaneers who play for the Admirals (QB Jared Allen), the Fire (RB Jacque Lewis) and the Galaxy (C Jason Nerys), and bad news for the four Bucs toiling for the Thunder (K Xaiver Beitia, P Brian Simnjanovski and LB Jermaine Taylor) and the Sea Devils (Phil Bogle).
The trio of Berlin Bucs came the closest to forcing their way into the playoff race, as all three performed well in what would prove to be a final-second, 27-24 loss at Rhein. Beitia's 46-yard field goal late in the first half started a 24-3 Thunder scoring run that gave the visiting team a 24-17 lead midway through the fourth quarter. However, Rhein rallied for the last 10 points as K Ola Kimrin hit the game-winning, 28-yard field goal on the final play.
Simnjanovski helped keep the Thunder in the game early after Rhein came out hit, angling two punts down inside the 20 in the first half. He finished with seven kicks for 284 yards, averaging 40.6 yards per punt and suffering one touchback. Taylor, who started at right outside linebacker for the sixth time in seven games, was a force on both defense and special teams, combining four tackles and two passes defensed with three stops on kick coverage. One of his pass break-ups cam eon third down from the Berlin eight-yard line in the third quarter, forcing Rhein to settle for a field goal and, at the time, a seven-point lead.
Lewis played a key role in the victorious drive after Berlin failed on a bold gamble at the two-minute warning. Facing a fourth-and-one at its own 37, the Thunder chose to go for it rather than punt, and running back LittleJohn Flowers was stopped for no gain on a sweep by linebacker Jameel Dumas. Two plays later, Lewis went off left tackle for a gain of 14 yards to the Berlin 12, essentially putting Kimrin in place for the game-winner.
Allen got significant chunks of playing time under center in two of the last three games for the first-place Admirals, but he wasn't called on during his team's 18-17 road win over Hamburg. Like the Rhein victory, it was decided in the closing seconds, as the Seattle Seahawks' Ryan Killeen hit a 34-yard field goal with 12 seconds to play. To spell starter Gibran Hamdan, also of the Seahawks, the Admirals used Oakland Raiders quarterback Reggie Robertson.
One of the Buccaneer allocates did play extensively in the game, as Phil Bogle started his seventh straight game at right guard for the Sea Devils. Hamburg's offense got on track early as the underdogs built a 17-3 lead at halftime, largely on the strength of a strong rushing attack. Behind the blocking of Bogle and his linemates, the Sea Devils had 103 rushing yards by halftime and 167 by the end of the game. The O-line also allowed Hamburg passers to drop back 29 times without getting sacked once, and has now allowed only four sacks all season.
In Frankfurt's weekend-capping win over Cologne on Sunday, Nerys reprised the role he has filled all season, sharing snaps at center with starter Charles Missant of the New York Jets. The Galaxy rushed for 173 yards behind good run-blocking, but didn't break the tie in a 17-10 victory until 2:47 was left in the game, in part due to eight sacks allowed and two fumbles lost. Buffalo quarterback Craig Ochs, who took seven of those sacks, hit wide receiver Aaron Hosack with a 49-yard bomb for the game-winning points.
Lewis and Nerys will be on opposite sidelines next Saturday for the most important game on the Week Eight schedule. Rhein and Frankfurt, the two 5-2 teams, face off in a rematch of a Week One contest, and the Galaxy badly needs a win to avoid a sweep by the Fire and an imposing tiebreaker in the standings.
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 Hamburg but did not attempt a pass. * Xavier Beitia, Berlin Thunder…Made three extra points and his only field goal attempt, a 46-yarder, in near-upset of Rhein. * G Phil Bogle, Hamburg Sea Devils…Started at right guard for seventh consecutive week and helped Sea Devil running game compile 167 yards and 5.1 yards per carry…Also helped O-Line allow no sacks as winless Sea Devils nearly pulled off upset over first-place Amsterdam. * RB Jacque Lewis, Rhein Fire…Rushed eight times for 33 yards and caught one pass for two yards in win over Berlin…Also returned three kickoffs for 65 yards, with a long of 25. * C Jason Nerys, Frankfurt Galaxy…Saw action at center as a reserve and helped Galaxy rush for 203 yards on 42 carries (4.8 avg.) in win over Berlin. * P Brian Simnjanovski, Berlin Thunder…Punted seven times for 284 yards (40.6 avg.), dropping two punts inside the 20 and hitting one touchback…Had a long punt of 51 yards and also held for Xavier Beitia's placekicks. * LB Jermaine Taylor, Berlin Thunder…Returned to starting lineup after one game as reserve and contributed four tackles and two passes defensed…Also led the team with three tackles on special teams.