DE Corey Smith had two sacks on Saturday for the Thunder, who moved to 4-0 on the season
Corey Smith thinks the team to beat in the NFL Europe League is his Berlin Thunder. The standings say the same.
Led by Smith's two sacks, the Thunder shut down the Rhein Fire, 14-10, on Saturday and moved into sole possession of first place in the NFLEL. At 4-0, Berlin is the only remaining undefeated team in the league, standing a game ahead of the 3-1 Frankfurt Galaxy.
In contrast, Smith has to share his own NFLEL lead, as his five sacks through four games is tied for the top spot with the Galaxy defensive ends Bobby Setzer and Corey Jackson. Setzer was allocated to the NFLEL by the Oakland Raiders and Jackson is a Cleveland Brown.
Displaying the edge-rush speed that made him the first pick in February's allocated-players draft, Smith dropped Dallas Cowboys quarterback Chad Hutchinson twice on Rhein's final drive, averting a very serious comeback threat.
Rhein had reached Berlin's 30-yard line with about three minutes to play when Smith sacked Hutchinson for a seven-yard loss on third-and-10. After Hutchinson rekindled the Fire's hopes with an 18-yard completion to Green Bay's Shockmain Davis, Smith snuffed the drive for good with another sack, this time forcing a fumble that was recovered by Berlin's Jason Kazar.
Another allocated Buc shared in Smith's victory, as Ben Claxton started his fourth consecutive game at center for the Thunder. Claxton and the Berlin O-line helped the visiting team run for 91 yards and post 285 total yards of offense, 103 more than the Thunder allowed.
Two Buccaneer players were also on the other side of that decision, as both Kevin Breedlove and Chris Ziemann started on the offensive line for the 2-2 Fire. Those two, manning right guard and right tackle, respectively, helped Rhein build a 10-0 lead before New England Patriots QB Rohan Davey rallied the Thunder.
While only Smith and Claxton are undefeated, all six of Tampa Bay's allocated players continue to play major roles for their respective teams.
In addition to the above four, cornerback Lynaris Elpheage starts for Frankfurt and is tied for the league lead with two interceptions, and DT Damian Gregory is an occasional starter and constant contributor for the Scottish Claymores. Both Elpheage and Gregory had strong efforts in defeat over the weekend.
On Sunday, Elpheage and the Galaxy hoped to match Berlin's 4-0 start but instead lost in overtime, 21-17. That unusual overtime score is the result of an interesting rule in the NFL that awards four points for any field goal that is longer than 50 yards. Amsterdam's Todd Sievers nailed a 51-yard shot with three seconds left in overtime to avert the tie and improve Amsterdam's record to 2-2.
Elpheage was one of Frankfurt's top defensive performers in the game, recording seven solo tackles and two passes defensed. In four games this spring, Elpheage has broken up an impressive 12 passes. One of his passes defensed against Amsterdam came with 20 seconds left in the game, denying the Admirals a closer shot at the winning field goal, though Sievers came through in the end, anyway.
Gregory was not in the starting lineup for Scotland this week but he still played extensively. In fact, he tied for fourth among Claymore defenders with five tackles and turned in Scotland's only sack of the game. Still, Gregory's squad fell to 0-4 with a 17-3 loss at Cologne, giving the Centurions their first win of the season.
Here is a summary of how the Bucs' half-dozen NFLEL allocates fared in this past weekend of play:
- G Kevin Breedlove, Rhein…Started at right guard for fourth consecutive week. * C Ben Claxton, Berlin…Started at center for Berlin and helped give QB Rohan Davey time to complete 17 of 26 passes for 198 yards, rallying the Thunder to a 14-10 victory. * CB Lynaris Elpheage, Frankfurt…Started at right cornerback in Frankfurt's 21-17 overtime loss to Amsterdam…Finished second on Galaxy defense with seven tackles (all solo) and added two passes defensed. * DT Damian Gregory, Scotland…Subbed at defensive tackle and contributed five tackles, including four solo stops…Dropped Cologne QB Ryan Van Dyke for an 11-yard loss in the fourth quarter, marking Scotland's only sack. * DE Corey Smith, Berlin…Started at right defensive end and recorded his second two-sack game of the season, dropping QB Chad Hutchinson twice during Rhein's last drive…Forced Hutchinson to fumble on the last play of that drive, effectively ending the game. * T Chris Ziemann, Rhein…Started at right tackle for the third time in four weeks.