QB Akili Smith completed nine of 11 passes and directed two scoring drives in Frankfurt's 23-6 win over Cologne
If Todd France keeps this up, they're going to have to name a street after him in Europe. Maybe even a country.
France, one of 10 players allocated to the NFL Europe League's 2005 season by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, continues to kick field goals for the Hamburg Sea Devils at a league-record pace. On Saturday, in a 23-6 win over the Cologne Centurions, France accounted for 11 points by making all three of his field goal tries and both of his extra attempts. At the midway point of the season, he has made 14 of 16 field goal tries and scored 54 points, keeping him well on the way to breaking Scott Szeredy's league records of 23, 27 and 85, respectively.
France's Player-of-the-Week pace is even more impressive. After hitting from 42, 33 and 29 yards to help Hamburg build a 9-6 fourth-quarter lead, France was chosen as the NFLEL's top special teams player for the third time in five weeks. He won the same award last week and in the season's opening weekend. Throw in punter Brian Simnjanovski's Special Teams Player of the Week award in Week Two, and Buccaneer players have completely dominated the category.
"I am getting an unbelievable amount of opportunities to kick and I feel I am just doing my job," France told NFLEurope.com. "I'll keep doing the best I can and as long as we keep winning, that will be great."
France's Sea Devils have been dominant of late, too, winning three straight to move to 3-2 and into the thick of the NFLEL playoff race. At the end of the 10-game season, the two teams with the best records (using tiebreakers if necessary) play in the World Bowl championship game. Hamburg is tied with Amsterdam and Cologne at 3-2, a game behind the 4-1 Berlin Thunder.
France wasn't alone in leading the Sea Devils to victory. Buccaneer wide receiver Derek McCoy started for the fifth straight week and caught two passes for 16 yards. Wide receiver Terrance Metcalf, another Buc, subbed in on the Hamburg offense and caught one 11-yard pass. The Sea Devils managed only 239 yards of offense but won a close one at the end thanks to Green Bay linebacker Nick McNeil's 28-yard interception return for a touchdown.
As the Buccaneers' 10 allocates are spread among five teams, most victories for one group mean defeat for another. In this case, France's latest heroics spelled a loss for the Cologne quartet of Buccaneers: defensive tackles Delbert Cowsette and Bryan Save, safety Kalvin Pearson and guard Mitch White.
Though White is injured and has not played this season, Cowsette, Save and Pearson continue to provide over 25% of the Centurions starting defense. Of the two men starting on the interior line, Cowsette had the more statistically productive weekend, recording three tackles and a seven-yard sacks, one of four Cologne takedowns of Hamburg quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie, a Chicago Bears allocate. It was Cowsette's sack on third down that gave Cologne another shot at pulling ahead late in the fourth quarter before McNeil's interception on the resulting possession put the game away. Save was not credited with any statistics in the game, but Pearson pitched in with one tackle.
Another Buccaneer, quarterback Akili Smith, had his best game of the season for Frankfurt as the Galaxy edged the Rhein Fire, 23-20, on Saturday. Smith, who has been involved in a QB rotation with the New York Jets' Kevin Eakin, didn't start for the first time this season but came on to complete nine of 11 passes for 90 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He compiled a 131.1 passer rating, was not sacked and added 21 yards on two carries.
The game wasn't decided until the final 30 seconds, when tight end Brock Edwards made a sensational catch of an 11-yard pass from Eakin on fourth-and-goal. Eakin directed that entire 14-play drive at the end of the game, but it was Smith that gave the Galaxy its first lead of the game with a three-yard touchdown pass to Edwards midway through the fourth quarter. Smith also led a 10-play, 73-yard field goal drive just after halftime, keyed by a 22-yard completion to Packers-allocated wide receiver Jamal Jones.
Buccaneers cornerback Blue Adams was on the losing end of that game, but he made the fourth-quarter defensive play that could have put it away for Rhein. Three plays after the Fire's Joe Smith, a Tennessee Titans running back, scored on a nine-yard run to give Rhein a 20-16 lead, Adams picked off an Eakin pass in Frankfurt's territory. Adams returned the interception 13 yards to the Galaxy's 31, but the Rhein offense could no closer than the 25 and Chicago Bears K Nicholas Setta misfired on a 43-yard field goal attempt.
There was only one Tampa Bay representative in Saturday's Amsterdam-Berlin matchup, as Brian Simnjanovski continued to handle the punting duties for the Thunder. Simnjanovski had a strong day, averaging 42.0 yards on three punts, with a long of 50, and dropping one inside the 20 versus no touchbacks.
Simnjanovski's Thunder held onto the NFLEL's best record thanks to a last-second play by Indianapolis Colts cornerback Jermaine Mays. With Berlin clinging to a 20-16 lead in the game's final seconds, Mays picked off a Kurt Kittner pass in the end zone and raced 100 yards for the clinching touchdown in a 27-16 win.
Here's a look at what each of the Buccaneers' 10 NFL Europe-allocated players did in the league's fifth week:
- CB Blue Adams, Rhein Fire…Recorded six tackles and one interception against Frankfurt. * DT Delbert Cowsette, Cologne Centurions…Registered three tackles and 1.0 sack for a seven-yard loss against Hamburg. * K Todd France, Hamburg Sea Devils…Connected on field goals of 42, 33 and 29 yards against Cologne. * WR Derek McCoy, Hamburg Sea Devils…Caught two passes for 16 yards against Cologne. * WR Terrance Metcalf, Hamburg Sea Devils…Caught one pass for 11 yards against Cologne. * S Kalvin Pearson, Cologne Centurions…Recorded one tackle against Hamburg. * DT Bryan Save, Cologne Centurions…Did not play against Hamburg. * P Brian Simnjanovski, Berlin Thunder…Punted three times for 126 yards, including a long of 50 yards against Amsterdam. * QB Akili Smith, Frankfurt Galaxy…Completed nine of 11 passes for 90 yards and one touchdown against Rhein. * G Mitch White, Cologne Centurions…Did not play against Hamburg.