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NFL Europe: Berlin Thunder Captures World Bowl XII Title


The Berlin Thunder emerged as 30-24 winners of World Bowl XII to thwart Frankfurt's hopes of repeating as champions after breaking a 10-10 deadlock at half-time to score 20 points before the Galaxy got back onto the scoreboard.

The Thunder overcame five turnovers and a furious Galaxy comeback-attempt in the final quarter to hold on and take their third NFL Europe League title in four years.

Philadelphia Eagles allocated running back Eric McCoo was the star of the show for the team as they scored their tenth win of the season. McCoo had a World Bowl record 167 yards on the day, including a 69-yard scoring run, to power the Thunder to victory.

Berlin started fast with a 28-yard interception return for a touchdown by defensive end Montique Sharpe three minutes into the game, but really came to life in the second half with a 60-yard touchdown pass from receiver Richard Alston to Chas Gessner to take a lead that they never relinquished.

Berlin's New England Patriots allocated quarterback Rohan Davey collected his second championship ring of 2004 after winning Super Bowl XXXVIII in February. NFL Europe's Offensive Player of the Year completed 19 of 29 passes for 212 yards in his team's third win over Frankfurt in four weeks.

J.T. O'Sullivan completed 19 of his 33 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns, including two in the final period, but also threw two costly interceptions. The teams combined for a World Bowl record ten turnovers - recording five apiece.

Frankfurt won the coin toss and elected to receive the kickoff. Jason Willis took Hayden Epstein's kick to their 27 yard line, where J.T. O'Sullivan returned to the field for the first time in three weeks.

O'Sullivan's second pass of the day was picked off by defensive end Montique Sharpe, who rumbled 28 yards into the end zone to hand Berlin a 7-0 advantage with 12:44 still to go in the first quarter.

Despite the setback the Galaxy went to the air on first down of their next drive, with O'Sullivan hitting receiver Derrick Lewis for a 9-yard gain. Hicks got the Galaxy a first down on the next play, and then Frankfurt caught their first break of the game, as a 15-yard facemask penalty was tacked onto the end of an 8-yard gain by O'Sullivan on the ground.

O'Sullivan then found Lewis again for gains of 16 and 9 yards, and when he picked up 6 more yards Frankfurt had a first down at Berlin's 11. However, the Galaxy drive stalled when O'Sullivan's desperation third down pass fell short of a receiver in the end zone, and Ralf Kleinmann was called onto the field to kick a 28-yard field goal to take his record for most career points in a World Bowl to 27 and make the score 7-3.

The Thunder began their first offensive possession at the 31, and Davey went straight to the air, hitting running back Eric McCoo on a screen pass on third down for 14 yards.

Two plays later, Davey hit receiver Richard Alston for 21 yards to put Berlin into Galaxy territory. Two plays later Davey got his second big play of the series, finding a wide open Chas Gessner down the right sideline to the 5 yard line for a 19-yard gain. However, as Gessner fought for extra yards the ball was stripped from him by cornerback Ahmad Brooks, and then recovered by Chris Brown to end Berlin's drive.

After Frankfurt were forced to punt Berlin began their next series from their 35 yard line, and McCoo picked up 9 yards on the ground on their first play. Two Davey completions gave Berlin a first down at the Galaxy 29, but the Thunder offensive train then derailed itself again. This time McCoo was the culprit, fumbling on a 2-yard pass and seeing linebacker Robert Chapman pounce on the ball.

The Galaxy soon returned the ball to Berlin when a bad center-quarterback exchange was jumped on by Berlin defensive end T.J. Bingham, giving Berlin excellent field position at the Galaxy 36.

Davey hit Bryan Fletcher for a short gain on first down which the tight end turned into a 17-yard pickup with a stiff arm that jolted Ahmad Brooks off his feet. The second-year Thunder player's hard work was undone on the next play when McCoo coughed the ball up for the second time in three minutes, putting the ball back in O'Sullivan's hands.

Looking to stem the flow of fumbles, Berlin kept it simple on offense on their first three plays from scrimmage after the Galaxy punted again, running McCoo up the gut for short gains behind Berlin's core of All-League players on their offensive line.

Davey converted a 3rd and 5 with a 12-yard completion to LaShaun Ward, and then McCoo picked up 10 more behind center Ben Claxton. On second down Berlin lost their fourth fumble of the first half, when Davey mishandled the snap from Claxton.

This time the Galaxy took advantage of Berlin's generosity, taking the lead on a connection from their passer to Derrick Lewis. Starting from their 45, Frankfurt drove into field goal range. O'Sullivan picked up 17 yards on the ground and then saw 15 more tacked on for a personal foul penalty on DeVonte Peterson to take them to the 23. On third down O'Sullivan rifled an 11-yard pass to Jason Willis to the 8, and followed it up with the 8-yard scoring strike to fellow Saint Lewis for a 10-7 Galaxy lead with just over a minute remaining in the first half to cap a 5 play 55 yard drive.

Berlin began from their 28 following the kickoff, and put their one-minute offense into motion.

Taking advantage of the Galaxy's cornerbacks' generous cushion, Davey hit Ward for a 13- yard pickup and Alston for 12 more to the Galaxy 32.

Berlin then passed up on two more opportunities to take the lead. First Davey hit Ward for a 32-yard score that was called back for a false start - then one play later he hit the same receiver in the end zone but Ward was unable to hold onto it. Davey managed to find Alston for an 11-yard gain that took the ball to the 21 with one second remaining in the half, and Jonathan Ruffin tied the scores with a 38-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

The second half began with Berlin in possession, and once again Davey began their drive brightly with a 16-yard completion to Aaron Boone.

However, the turnovers continued when his next pass was snatched one-handed from mid-air by Lynaris Elpheage, and the Galaxy cornerback took it 38 yards to Berlin's 17. That interception marked Davey's first pick of the game, but Berlin's fifth turnover.

Frankfurt were unable to get a first down despite Hicks picking up 9 yards, and Ralf Kleinmann returned to the field to attempt a 26-yard kick. A bad snap was picked up by the German kicker, and then in a scene reminiscent of Garo Yepremian's Super Bowl VII error Kleinmann's attempt at throwing the ball was picked off by Kevin DeRonde and taken 22 yards to their 40.

On the very first play after Kleinmann's error, Berlin made the Galaxy pay. In a play that came from deep in Rick Lantz's bag of tricks Davey took the snap and handed off to Richard Alston on an end around. The Cleveland Browns allocated receiver then found a wide open Chas Gessner down the middle of the field for a 60-yard touchdown, and after Heinz Quast kicked the extra point the Thunder were ahead 17-10.

A 64-yard return by Mexican national receiver from the Thunder's kickoff was the perfect repost to Berlin's score, but the Galaxy offensive line allowed two sacks on second and third downs, bringing Barr back into the game.

Starting from their own 2, Berlin began to get their running game back on track to wear down the Galaxy defense. Eric McCoo and fullback Ieremia-Stansbury were the focal points of a XX yard drive.

McCoo picked up 11 and 12 yards on the ground and the fullback went for 13, 8 and 13 yards on swing passes to take Berlin to the Galaxy 24. On third down Davey attempted to find Ward in the end zone, but the pass was broken up by Elpheage and Berlin settled for a 42-yard Ruffin field goal that gave them a ten-point cushion.

Berlin got a big break when Jason Willis fumbled the kickoff at the Galaxy 22 and Berlin's Ryan Brewer recovered the ninth turnover of the game.

The Thunder offense was unable to take advantage, and Ruffin returned to kick another three points, this time from 40 yards to make it 23-10.

It did not take long for Berlin to get the record tenth turnover of the game, as Frankfurt's quarterback O'Sullivan had an errant pass picked off by Berlin's Indianapolis Colts' allocated cornerback Darrell Rideaux which he took to the Galaxy 25 for a 20-yard return.

For the third time the Thunder were unable to take full advantage of their field position and Ruffin looked to make his fourth field goal of the game.

This time, however, the kicker was wide right on his 38-yard attempt, and the score remained 23-10 to Berlin.

Frankfurt's next drive ended in a punt despite O'Sullivan finding Lewis for a 31-yard gain on its second play to take them into the Thunder's half.

On third down defensive tackle Tank Reese drove his way through the center of Frankfurt's offensive line to knock the Galaxy out of field goal range, and Barr came on for his fourth punt of the game, pinning Berlin at their own 2.

After the teams traded punts, Philadelphia Eagles allocated running back McCoo struck the decisive blow for Berlin, taking a handoff round right end for a World Bowl record 69-yard touchdown to give the Thunder a 30-10 lead with 6:38 left in the game.

Frankfurt got seven points back on their next drive when Drew Haddad scored on a 17-yard pass from O'Sullivan to cap a 5-play, 64-yard drive in which the Galaxy resorted exclusively to their passing game. They then tried to get the ball back immediately with an onside kick, but the sure-handed Aaron Boone recovered the ball for Berlin to give them a chance to run down the clock.

After Berlin punted on their next drive, the Galaxy closed down the Thunder lead even further. On first down O'Sullivan spotted a wide open Jason Willis on the right side of the field, and although his pass was incomplete, the Galaxy picked up the 41-yards when Farley was penalized for pass interference.

On the next play O'Sullivan twisted and turned his way out of the grasp of Berlin's defense before rifling a 19-yard pass to Lewis in the back of the end zone to make it 30-24.

However, the Galaxy saw their hopes of pulling off a stunning comeback end when Berlin converted a first down with 1:18 remaining after recovering a second onside kick, allowing Davey to take a knee twice and wind down the final seconds of the 2004 NFL Europe season.

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