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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Thunder Still Rolling

Refusing to coast into their World Bowl matchup with Frankfurt, the Berlin Thunder, led by Corey Smith, came from behind to beat Scotland on Saturday...An NFLEL Week Nine wrap up


DE Corey Smith put Berlin up in the fourth quarter with his first touchdown of the season

Corey Smith, who has 7.5 sacks in just nine NFL Europe games, felt as if he had one of his best games of the spring last weekend, in the Berlin Thunder's 31-27 win over the Frankfurt Galaxy. His line from that game: three tackles, no sacks.

As most football fans know, a defensive end's contributions to a victory aren't always reflected in the stat report.

Sometimes, however, they are.

Smith's line from this Saturday's come-from-behind 27-19 defeat of the Scottish Claymores actually tells the story of the game's denouement quite well: two tackles, one sack for 17 yards, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one touchdown.

Most of that happened all at once, on the most critical play of the game. On the previous snap, Scotland, protecting a 16-13 lead, had sacked Berlin quarterback David Rivers at the Scotland 26, forcing a fumble that killed a potential touchdown drive. Scotland's Nate Hybl, a Cleveland Browns-allocated player, dropped back to pass on first down but was sacked by Smith and lost the ball right back.

Tackle Doug Kafusi got to the ball first, at the Scotland six, but he fumbled too and the ball bounded into the end zone. That's where Smith, who started the ball bouncing with his timely sack, fell on it for the Thunder's go-ahead touchdown.

Berlin added another touchdown and Scotland tacked on a field goal before time expired, but the lead never changed hands again and the Thunder found itself 8-1 and still in sole possession of first place in the NFLEL.

Two other Buc-allocated players competed in the game. Ben Claxton started at center for the Thunder, as usual, and defensive tackle Damian Gregory subbed for the Claymores and contributed one tackle and one pass defensed.

In terms of the standings, the game held little importance. Berlin had wrapped up one of the two World Bowl berths two weeks earlier, and Frankfurt had grabbed the other one last weekend. Still, the Thunder players, including Smith in his most recent Postcard from Berlin, insisted that the final two games on the regular-season docket were important.

The same apparently held true for Frankfurt, as the Galaxy stayed one game behind the Thunder with an overtime 20-14 win over the Rhein Fire. The contest was decided 14 minutes into the overtime period, after a botched punt by the Fire gave Frankfurt a first down at their opponent's 29. Two plays later, when quarterback Kirk Farmer of the Dallas Cowboys hit wide receiver Derrick Lewis of the New Orleans Saints with a 32-yard touchdown pass.

Three Buccaneer-allocated players had a hand in that game. Lynaris Elpheage, one of three Bucs who will play in the World Bowl XII – along with Berlin's Smith and Claxton – started at right cornerback for the Galaxy and contributed two tackles and a stop on special teams. Offensive linemen Chris Ziemann and Kevin Breedlove started for the Fire, at right tackle and left guard, respectively, and helped the Fire have a big day on the ground.

With Walter Williams of the Green Bay Packers and Joffrey Reynolds of the Browns sharing the load, Rhein ran for 169 yards and 4.6 yards per tote. However, the Fire's two scores came on a short touchdown pass and a 61-yard fumble return by cornerback Rober' Freeman of the Houston Texans, and Rhein went almost exclusively to the pass in overtime. The hard-luck Fire, which sports the league's second-best defense, which has lost two one-point games in addition to this weekend's overtime defeat, dropped to 3-6.

There were no Buc-allocated players in the third game of the weekend, a 23-18 victory by the Amsterdam Admirals over the Cologne Centurions. Amsterdam, 4-5, moved into third place in the NFLEL standings while Cologne fell to 3-6.

Berlin and Frankfurt will meet in World Bowl XII on June 12 in Rhein's Arena AufSchalke. The two teams will play a preview next Saturday in Berlin during the final weekend of regular-season play.

Here is a summary of how the Bucs' half-dozen NFLEL allocates fared in this past weekend of play:

  • G Kevin Breedlove, Rhein…Started ninth straight game for Fire, remaining at left guard for fourth week after five starts on the right side…Helped Rhein backs accumulate season-high 169 rushing yards in overtime loss to Frankfurt. * C Ben Claxton, Berlin…Started at center for Berlin and helped Thunder remain in first place with 27-19 win over Scotland...Provided protection for Berlin QBs to pass for 226 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. * CB Lynaris Elpheage, Frankfurt…Started at right cornerback for the Galaxy for the ninth straight week…Contributed two tackles and one special teams stop. * DT Damian Gregory, Scotland…Subbed at defensive tackle pitched in with one tackle and one pass defensed. * DE Corey Smith, Berlin…Started at right defensive end and provided most important defensive play of the game in Thunder's 27-19 come-from-behind win over Scotland...Recorded two tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery...Caused and recovered a fourth-quarter fumble by Nate Hybl in the end zone, giving Berlin a 20-16 lead. * T Chris Ziemann, Rhein…Started at right tackle for the eighth time in nine weeks and helped Fire running backs average over 4.6 yards per carry for the second straight week.
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