Should the Rhein Fire defeat the Cologne Centurions on Saturday evening, the Frankfurt Galaxy will have to do something they have not done in Berlin since 2000 - avoid defeat on the road against the Berlin Thunder.
If they can achieve that feat with a win or a tie, it is the Galaxy who will grab the final berth in Yello Strom World Bowl XIV and face off against the Amsterdam Admirals on Saturday May 27.
After winning 32-19 in 1999 and 32-7 in 2000, the Galaxy has lost on each of its last five visits to the German capital. The good news is that all five of those losses have come since the Thunder moved from their original base in the German capital - the Jahnstadion - to the Olympic Stadium. With soccer's World Cup coming to that venue shortly, Berlin have been forced to move this matchup to Jahnstadion for their first game at the venue since 2003.
While his team has everything to play for and Berlin is only battling for pride, Galaxy head coach Mike Jones is not expecting an easy ride at the Jahnstadion as he goes in search of his first road win against the Thunder.
"Berlin won't just surrender to us," says Jones. "They won't be easy to beat at home. We need to prepare for every game in the same way, no matter who we play. The situation we are in right now doesn't put us under any big pressure."
"The mentality is going to be that we're going to go and upset Frankfurt," says Thunder head coach Rick Lantz, confirming his opposite number's thoughts. "That's what we're looking to do. No screwing around about it. We're making whatever adjustments we need to make based on personnel. There are no alibis. We expect to go out there and compete and make them earn their win. They can't just walk into the World Bowl."
Frankfurt had their opportunity to make it to Yello Strom World Bowl XIV presented to them on a plate last week when the Rhein Fire lost to Hamburg, meaning that the Galaxy just had to come up with a win against Amsterdam to make it to the big show. However, the Galaxy were unable to come up with the timely victory - ensuring that they had to wait until the final game of the year.
"We're coming off of a tough loss so we've got to get our thoughts together," explains Jones. "We need to get our game plan together for Berlin and go in and win with using a solid game plan against them."
"I think that we're disappointed about last weekend's loss, but we're in the same position as last week," adds starting quarterback Craig Ochs. "We're still able to control our own destiny, and you can't ask for anything better than that. I think you'll see a good focus this week. We're going to try and go out to Berlin and hopefully get a win and then move on to the World Bowl."
The first game between the Galaxy and Thunder marked the start of Berlin's four game slump, and the hard-fought contest, in which Berlin led for the majority of the game but lost on a last-second field goal, saw them fail to stop the challenge of Frankfurt's league-leading running back Roger Robinson. In that game the Arizona-allocated player scampered for 146 yards and a late touchdown. This time around the Thunder realize that stopping him must be their priority.
"I think he's really a heck of a football player, so have to attack their gaps and not overrun things," explained Lantz. "He has the ability to sneak and make cuts, so guys can't get themselves out of position. You have to play sound technique. To me, that's the whole key."
Robinson himself may be playing that little bit harder knowing that he is now just 104 yards short of the single season mark of 1,057 yards set by Mike Green, of the Barcelona Dragons, in 2001. Robinson is averaging 119.25 rushing yards per outing this season and leads the league with 954 yards on 182 carries. His efforts mean that the Galaxy can also make history by becoming the most successful single season rushing club ever. They need to rush for 137 yards against the league's poorest run defense in order to surpass the record of 1,686 yards set by the 1999 Rhein Fire.
"It's obviously very exciting," says Robinson. "It's definitely a blessing to be in this situation, and I think that it's a reflection of the offense as a whole. I'm excited about the whole situation and I hope I can break the record."
However, Berlin cannot solely focus on shutting down the Galaxy running game.
"If you take away the run and make them beat us with the pass, they still have a good passing attack. They're running a bunch of power football and taking advantage of what they have," explains Lantz. "I would expect they would do that against us, knowing that we're beat up some."
Where the Galaxy's league-leading offense has room for improvement is in their performance inside the opponent's 20-yard line. From 26 trips inside the redzone this season, the Galaxy have scored just 10 touchdowns, and settled for field goals on 12 occasions - coming away entirely empty-handed four times.
"This is something that we work on every week," says offensive coordinator Whitey Jordan. "We've got to make plays when we are down there, and we just haven't been doing it. We will continue to work on it, though."
"Offensively we need to score touchdowns," says Ochs. "That's been our achilles heel all year. If we can fix our problems, I think we'll be in good shape."
Berlin still wear some resentment from the first meeting and the loss they had inflicted on them which made World Bowl a real uphill battle for the Thunder, and that desire for revenge might fuel them for one last push on Saturday.
"We want to spoil their party," admits coach Phil Banko. "If they beat us, they're going to the World Bowl, so it would be poetic justice if it comes down to the end and we kick a field goal to beat them."
Courtesy NFL Europe.com
Week 10 TV Schedule (all games on NFL Network)
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Cologne at Rhein, 12:00 PM (CT), Live
Frankfurt at Berlin, 4:00 PM (CT), Tape delay
Hamburg at Amsterdam, 8:00 PM (CT), Tape delay
Packers in NFLEL
S Atari Bigby (Amsterdam Admirals) -
With nine starts at free safety, leads the team with 58 tackles (42 solo), with one interception among four passes defensed.
Week 9 at Frankfurt -
Started and led the team with 10 tackles (nine solo), adding one interception (no return).
WR Vince Butler (Amsterdam Admirals) -
As a reserve WR, has made 10 catches for 108 yards and one rush for 13 yards.
Week 9 at Frankfurt -
Played as a reserve receiver and caught one pass for 1 yard.
CB Therrian Fontenot (Rhein Fire) -
Has started six games at left cornerback and is credited with 19 tackles (18 solo) and two interceptions among eight passes defensed...Was dubbed Defensive Player of the Week for Week 2 after a two-interception performance in a 22-0 shutout of Berlin.
Week 9 at Hamburg -
Played as a reserve cornerback and made a tackle on special teams.
TE Tory Humphrey (Amsterdam Admirals) -
Has started nine contests at tight end, catching 15 passes for 147 yards and one TD.
Week 9 at Frankfurt -
Started and made four receptions for 33 yards.
WR Chad Lucas (Amsterdam Admirals) -
Has started all nine games at wide receiver...Leads NFLEL in touchdowns with eight; is second on the team in receptions with 27 for 440 yards...Was awarded Offensive Player of the Week for Week 4 after catching a league-record four touchdowns in a 38-31 victory over the Berlin Thunder; he finished the game with six catches for 120 yards.
Week 9 at Frankfurt -
Started and caught one pass for 9 yards.
DT Jerome Nichols (Frankfurt Galaxy) -
In nine starts at left defensive tackle, has made 26 tackles (24 solo), including a team-high five sacks, plus a forced fumble and three passes defensed.
Week 9 vs. Amsterdam -
Started and made two sacks among three solo tackles, and also forced a fumble.
C Pete Traynor (Rhein Fire) -
Has started eight games at center.
Week 9 at Hamburg -
Started at center.
QB Brian Wrobel (Berlin Thunder) -
Serving as backup, has completed 17 of 43 passes for 169 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions, for a passer rating of 39.8...Has ran 13 times for 23 yards and one TD.
Week 9 at Cologne -
Did not play
Amsterdam Admirals: 7-2-0
Frankfurt Galaxy: 6-3-0
Rhein Fire: 5-4-0
Cologne Centurions: 4-5-0
Berlin Thunder: 2-6-1
Hamburg Sea Devils: 2-6-1
Week 9 Results
Amsterdam 17, Frankfurt 12
Hamburg 13, Rhein 10
Cologne 25, Berlin 7