CB Lynaris Elpheage saw his Galaxy lose 41-0 on Sunday, but Frankfurt still owns a berth in next Saturday's title game
The Berlin Thunder finished their 2004 regular season schedule in just about the most emphatic way possible. Now they just hope it was the right thing to do.
In a matchup that will be repeated six days later in World Bowl XII, the Thunder scorched the Frankfurt Galaxy, 41-0 on Sunday in Berlin. It was by far the most lopsided game of the entire 2004 NFLEL season, and surprisingly so since it matched clearly the best two teams in the league. In fact, had Frankfurt won the game by four points or more, they would have been regular-season league champs.
Instead, it is the 9-1 Thunder that takes that honor and, presumably, a serious amount of momentum into the title game. Berlin also defeated Frankfurt two weeks ago, 31-27, in a much tighter game played at the Galaxy's home park.
Here's the caveat: The two World Bowl participants have played a Week 10 preview of their championship matchup on four other occasions in NFL Europe history. Each of those four times, the team that won in Week 10 lost the World Bowl.
Perhaps that will be of some encouragement to the Galaxy, which was soundly beaten on Sunday. Berlin gained 429 yards of offense to Frankfurt's 192, won the first-down battle 22-8 and allowed the Galaxy offense to convert none of its 10 third-down opportunities.
Three Tampa Bay Buccaneers competed in that contest, as they will on Saturday in Rhein for the league title. Defensive end Corey Smith and center Ben Claxton helped Berlin defeat cornerback Lynaris Elpheage's Galaxy, which was 7-1 against the rest of the league with its one loss coming in overtime.
Smith, who came into the game ranked third in the league in sacks with 7.5, contributed three tackles and a pass defensed and helped Berlin hold Frankfurt to 71 rushing yards and nine pass completions. Meanwhile, Claxton and the Thunder offensive line blocked for a 166-yard rushing performance by Berlin's backs and allowed only one sack, that of backup quarterback Marc Dunn after league MVP candidate Rohan Davey was safely on the bench.
Elpheage, who had a league-high 16 passes defensed heading into the final weekend, broke up another pass and added five solo tackles.
Three other Buccaneer-allocated players saw their European seasons come to an end this weekend. On Saturday in Scotland, Claymores defensive tackle Damian Gregory subbed at defensive tackle and recorded five tackles and a pass defense. His Scottish team lost, however, 28-20, to finish the season 2-8 and in last place in the six-team league.
Buccaneer offensive lineman Kevin Breedlove and Chris Ziemann started once again for the Rhein Fire, though they too tasted defeated on Sunday. The Fire lost to the home-team Amsterdam Admirals, 22-12, despite racking up 365 yards of total offense. For the third straight week, Rhein's rushing offense passed the 100-yard mark, this time putting up 129 yards on 37 carries behind the blocking of Breedlove, Ziemann and company. Rhein finished the season 3-7 and in fifth place despite starting the spring 2-0.
The NFL Europe League championship game will be played on Saturday, June 12, kicking off at noon ET. The game will be broadcast live on FOX.
Here is a summary of how the Bucs' half-dozen NFLEL allocates fared in the final weekend of regular-season play:
- G Kevin Breedlove, Rhein…Started 10th straight game for Fire, remaining at left guard for fifth week after five starts on the right side…Helped Rhein backs accumulate 129 rushing yards. * C Ben Claxton, Berlin…Started at center for Berlin for 10th straight game and helped Thunder offense pile up 429 yards of offense in 41-0 win over Frankfurt…Helped Berlin O-line allow just one sack. * CB Lynaris Elpheage, Frankfurt…Started at right cornerback for the Galaxy for the 10th straight week…Recorded five solo tackles and a pass defensed, his 17th pass break-up of the year. * DT Damian Gregory, Scotland…Subbed at defensive tackle and contributed five tackles and a pass defensed. * DE Corey Smith, Berlin…Started at right defensive end for the 10th time in 10 games and came up with three tackles and a pass defensed…Helped Berlin finish season 9-1, tying for the best single-season record in NFLEL history. * T Chris Ziemann, Rhein…Started at right tackle for the ninth time in 10 weeks and helped Fire running backs cross the 100-yard rushing mark for the third week in a row.