Hamburg Sea Devils (1-2) 31, Rhein Fire (0-3) 24
AOL Arena, Hamburg
The Hamburg Sea Devils introduced themselves to their new fans with 31 unanswered first-half points and then survived a nervous second half to win their home opener at the AOL Arena.
It was a memorable night for the NFLEL's newest franchise after opening the season with two narrow losses on the road. As well as their performance on the field, the crowd of 19,865 was a record for any new NFLEL team in its inaugural home game since the league relaunched in 1995.
Hamburg's victory was secured in a first half in which the Fire were forced to punt on their first five drives. Meanwhile, the Sea Devils scored four touchdowns and a field goal, racking up 270 offensive yards to the visitors' 21.
But it was different story after halftime. At first, the Fire's points appeared to be only consolation but they ended up within striking distance of the home team, who just managed to run out the clock after Rhein had closed to within one score.
Sea Devils quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie, allocated by the Chicago Bears, finished with 109 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Casey Bramlet, from the Cincinnati Bengals, threw for 179 yards and a touchdown. English receiver Scott McCready caught 9 passes for 101 yards.
For the Fire, Green Bay Packers quarterback Scott McBrien gave a heroic second-half performance to finish with 325 yards and two touchdowns, with Jeris McIntyre, allocated by the Kansas City Chiefs, gaining 154 yards on 6 catches and New England Patriot Cedric James having 149 yards on 6 receptions, including a touchdown.
Bramlet was on target on the opening drive of the game, completing passes for first downs to tight end Bobby Blizzard and fullback Ben Miller before lofting a 40-yard touchdown strike to Ricky Bryant on a play-action to give his team an early lead.
McCready, the new holder of the record for most career catches by a national player, was the primary target on the Sea Devils' next drive, eluding Fire defenders to catch four passes and set up a 37-yard field goal by Todd France.
Meanwhile, Fire quarterback Andy Hall was having a tough time against the Hamburg pass rush and when Rhein punted for the third straight series, returner Allan Amundson ran the ball back 39 yards to the Fire 25. That set up Dynwiddie, in for the second quarter, to hit Blizzard for a 5-yard touchdown and a 17-0 lead.
A spectacular leap by Chris Collins at the 1-yard line led to Zack Abron's touchdown run, before Dinwiddie worked well against the clock in the final two minutes and flighted a 22-yard touchdown pass into the arms of Terrance Metcalf.
The Fire made a better start to the second half, with Jonathan Cox picking off Bramlet and McBrien marching his team downfield with two big completions to Cedric James and a 37-yard hook-up with Jeris McIntyre. But they failed to score when Marcell Almond intercepted a tipped McBrien pass at the 2-yard line.
McBrien soon made amends, though, talking off on the run on Rhein's next series and galloping in for a 43-yard score. The Fire scored again early in the fourth quarter after McBrien and McIntyre had combined well again to set up a 25-yard field by Nicholas Setta.
The Fire continued to make the scoreline respectable after recovering an onside kick and marching to McBrien's 2-yard touchdown pass to Hall, reducing the deficit to 31-17.
Suddenly, the Fire were thinking seriously about one of the most amazing comebacks in NFLEL history. With time against them they needed a big play - and McBrien provided it by launching a 73-yard bomb down the left sideline to Cedric James to make the score 31-24 with 5:07 remaining.
The Fire had one more chance after forcing a Hamburg punt, which left them at their own 20-yard with 0:20 remaining, but it was too big a task even for McBrien.
Packers in this game:
Scott McBrien (Rhein): Passing: 16-of-27 for 325 yards (long: 73 yards), 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: 2 for 49 yards (long: 43 yards), 1 TD
Chris Day (Rhein): 6 kickoff returns for 119 yards (long: 27 yards)
Steve Morley: played
Doug Sims: played
Nick McNeil (Hamburg): 2 tackles, 1 assist
Shawn Morgan (Hamburg): 2 special teams tackles, 1 assist
B.J. Sander (Hambuurg): 4 punts for 154 yards (long: 41 yards); 1 inside 20 yard line; 1 touchback
**Frankfurt Galaxy (1-2) 14, Cologne Centurions (3-0) 23
RheinEnergieStadion, Cologne, Germany
Dallas Cowboys-allocated running back Keylon Kincade scored a touchdown in each half to power the Cologne Centurions to the top of the NFL Europe League standings with a perfect 3-0 record.
Kincade scored on a 14-yard screen pass from quarterback Kevin Thompson in the second quarter and added a decisive 11-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to consign the Galaxy to a 1-2 start and give the Centurions their first victory over Frankfurt.
Jimmy Kibble added three field goals - from 20, 28 and 40 yards - for the Centurions.
The Galaxy exploded out of the blocks to the delight of their travelling fans as Lamont Brightful took Jimmy Kibble's game-opening kickoff 85 yards to the end zone for a 7-0 lead with just 14 seconds having ticked off the clock.
Cologne responded on their first possession of the game as Kory Chapman produced runs of 5 and 13 yards before Buffalo Bills-allocated quarterback Thompson hit wide receiver C.J. Jones for a 10-yard gain and drew a roughing the passer penalty out of Galaxy defensive tackle Louis Gachelin.
Thompson then fired a 23-yard bullet of a pass to wide receiver Jamin Elliott to move to Frankfurt's 15-yard line. Following a holding call against Galaxy linebacker Howard Hodges, Cologne had a first and goal at the 10. Chapman gained 5 and 4 yards either side of a Thompson incompletion and the Centurions settled for a 19-yard field goal by Kibble.
Cologne's next possession began at their 18-yard line and saw them move into scoring range with Kincade carrying 5 times for 22 yards and adding a 9-yard reception. But the opportunity was wasted when Kibble pushed his 29-yard field goal attempt wide left early in the second period.
Frankfurt again went three and out as they struggled to find any offensive rhythm in the early stages of the contest. But the Galaxy was soon gifted outstanding field position as the Centurions attempted to punt from their own half.
Wide receiver Carl Morris' snap was high and punter Cody Scates was dropped at his own 32-yard line by Hodges. But the Galaxy failed to take advantage as quarterback Kevin Eakin's first down run on fourth-and-six at the 28-yard line was negated by an illegal formation penalty against offensive tackle Cliff Washburn and resulted in a punt.
Cologne took advantage of the opportunity with Kincade producing some strong running, carrying 3 times for 34 yards and catching 2 balls for 34 yards, including his 14-yard screen pass from Thompson to give the Centurions their first lead of the day with 1:20 remaining in the second quarter.
The Centurions left too much time on the clock as Frankfurt moved the ball into Cologne's half with an 11-yard run by J.R. Niklos and two Eakin completions of 12 and 22 yards to wide receivers Sam Breeden and Huey Whittaker. Eakin then fired a 35-yard touchdown pass to Niklos with 10 seconds remaining to give the visitors a 14-10 lead.
There was still time for some excitement before the break as a poor Galaxy squib kick was returned to the Frankfurt 45-yard line by Morris.
Thompson then saw his Hail Mary pass caught in the end zone by wide receiver James Adkisson, but a holding penalty wiped out the score and sent the teams to the locker room.
Kincade got the Centurions moving in the second half by carrying 5 times for 31 yards, scoring on a powerful run into the heart of the Galaxy defense to give the home team a 17-14 lead.
Cologne gained more momentum on Frankfurt's next possession when Akili Smith was sacked by defensive tackle Bryan Save and fellow defensive lineman Greg White recovered the loose football at the Galaxy 8-yard line. While they could not crack the end zone, Cologne moved 20-14 ahead as Kibble landed a 28-yard field goal.
Frankfurt moved to Cologne's 30-yard line on their ensuing drive with Smith hitting Whittaker for 15 yards and Niklos ripping off gains of 7 and 11 yards. But as they prepared to go for a first down on fourth-and-three, the Galaxy were flagged for a delay of game and forced to punt.
After forcing the Centurions to go three and out, the Galaxy took over on Cologne's 45-yard line.
Niklos gained 10 yards on first down but was then stuffed for a 4-yard loss before Washburn was flagged 5 yards for a false start. Undeterred, Niklos gained 23 yards on a draw play to keep the drive alive.
The march ground to a halt at the Cologne 15-yard line and Stephen Scaldaferri saw his 32-yard field goal attempt blocked with 7:54 remaining.
With Frankfurt's final scoring chance gone begging, the Centurions rounded out the scoring with Kibble splitting the uprights with his 40-yard effort.
Packers in this game:
Sam Breeden (Frankfurt): 2 catches for 20 yards (long: 12 yards)
Jamal Jones (Frankfurt): 2 catches for 44 yards (long: 26 yards); 2 kickoff returns for 39 yards
Seante Williams (Frankfurt): 1 tackle, 1 assist
**Amsterdam Admirals (2-1) 31, Berlin Thunder (2-1) 27
Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The Amsterdam Admirals (2-1) finally put an end to the Berlin Thunder's (2-1) dominance of NFL Europe in a wild game at the Amsterdam ArenA that saw the teams combine for 753 yards of total offense and the lead change hands five times in the second half.
The Admirals finally won the game with 1:45 remaining when quarterback Gibran Hamdan - who had two touchdowns in the game - found Ruvell Martin for a 16-yard score following a key pass interference penalty against Berlin.
Amsterdam had been in the lead 24-13 with five minutes remaining in the game, before an incredible sequence of scoring by the Thunder gave the World Bowl champions a 27-24 advantage with 2:57 remaining.
Amsterdam got huge performances from their pair of running backs. Jonathan Smith had 133 yards on the ground - including a 56-yard touchdown - while Jarrett Payton picked up 93 yards and a score of his own.
Thunder quarterback Dave Ragone completed 15 of 27 passes for 156 yards and two scores, but threw a crucial interception to B.J. Tucker with 1:33 remaining to end Berlin's hopes of making another final comeback.
After winning the toss the Thunder started from their 32 and went straight to the air, with Ragone hitting fullback Ben Moa for a 21-yard gain across the middle of the field to set the Thunder up in Amsterdam territory. On third down, however, defensive tackle Earl Cochran got good pressure on Ragone, almost sacking him and ending an early Thunder challenge.
The Thunder opened the scoring on their next possession after holding Amsterdam to three and out. Berlin gave the Admirals a heavy dose of Cal Murray, the back following up on a 7-yard pickup for a first down with a 27-yard carry through the middle of the Amsterdam defense. An 11-yard connection between Ragone and Michael Jennings gave the Thunder another first down at Amsterdam's 28, and the quarterback looked for his favored receiver again on the following third down - picking up a fresh set of downs with a 13-yard completion to the Admirals 9. Under pressure the Amsterdam defense stiffened, holding Murray to 4 yards on two attempts and forcing the Thunder to settle for a 23-yard Kevin Miller field goal.
The Admirals threatened to reply on their next series, when Gibran Hamdan sparked the drive to life with a crucial 15-yard pass to Ruvell Martin on third down, and followed it up with a well executed triple play action pass which fooled the Berlin defense and left Martin wide open for a 34-yard strike down the left sideline to take Amsterdam to the Thunder 19. Two plays later, however, he undid his good work, throwing a loose pass aimed for Ataveus Cash which was picked off in the endzone by cornerback Michael Harden.
After the teams traded punts the Admirals found themselves up with great field position to start a drive from the Berlin 37 - and took advantage for their first points of the game. On the first play running back Jonathan Smith almost broke through for a touchdown, but stumbled for a 13-yard gain.
Two plays later the drive was extended when the Admirals, again using double fake handoffs, got an 8-yard completion to tight end Donald to the 15-yard line. Smith got the ball to the Thunder 2 with a sweep round the right side for another first down, but from there the Admirals began to go backwards. Smith lost a yard on first down, then a penalty pushed Amsterdam back five yards further. An incomplete pass intended for Carlos Perez on third down meant that the Admirals could only tie the game with a 21-yard field goal from Chris Snyder as they reached the two-minute warning in the first half.
In their hurry up offense the Thunder made great progress, with Ragone identifying open receivers to move the offense quickly from their 25 to the Admirals 25 with 11 seconds remaining in the period. Ragone then took one shot at the endzone, which slipped through the hands of receiver Aaron Boone, forcing Miller back onto the field for a 41-yard field goal which gave the Thunder a slender 6-3 half-time advantage.
Amsterdam opened the second half with Kurt Kittner under center, and the Chicago Bears allocated passer soon had his team on the move.
Starting from their 25, Kittner used tight end Tony Donald as his main target, hitting the all-league player 3 times on the drive, including an 11-yard pickup to the Berlin 25. After a penalty pushed Amsterdam back 10 yards, Payton had a 14-yard run and Kittner scrambled for 16 yards to take it to the Berlin 3. Payton pushed his way into the endzone from there to give the Admirals their first lead of the day at 10-6.
It was then the turn of the Admirals defense to step up, and after holding the Thunder to three and out the ball was back in the hands of Kittner at the Amsterdam 22. Just as it looked like the Admirals get another big drive going on offense, Thunder cornerback Harden came up with his second interception of the game, handing the Thunder the ball and the momentum.
Ragone went straight for the jugular, completing a 26-yard pass to Jennings on first down to give the Thunder the ball at the 17, and then making a great play with his legs, scrambling 14 yards and breaking tackles to dive into the endzone and reclaim the lead at 13-10.
Amsterdam's reply was swift and decisive. After a 16-yard completion from Kittner to Cash, running back Smith burst 56 yards through a gaping hole in the middle of the Thunder's defense, breaking a tackle and then outrunning the remainder of the Berlin players to the endzone to restore the Admirals lead.
Amsterdam's defense stood firm once again, forcing a Berlin punt as the third quarter ended, giving the Admirals offense another shot at putting the game out of Berlin's reach. However, Hamdan, reinstalled at quarterback, spurned that opportunity, tossing up a pass that Berlin national player Oliver Flemming intercepted at the 46. A facemask penalty against the Admirals gave the Thunder terrific field position at the 31 yard line.
Despite the territorial advantage the Thunder were unable to get onto the scoreboard, and after a punt they gave up a huge play to Amsterdam's offense.
Payton took a Hamdan handoff and started right, only to find his path blocked. Payton cut back to the left side of the field led by his quarterback - who threw the key block to spring him for a 56-yard gain. Amsterdam kept the ball on the ground, taking it from the 27 to the Berlin 5-yard line for first and goal. After two attempts by Payton to break the goal line, the Admirals went with a play fake and Hamdan hit Mike Gomez for a 2-yard score to make it 24-13.
A 32-yard return on the kick-off followed by a 15-yard reception by Mexican Hugo Lira helped spark Berlin's offense on the next series, and despite three costly penalties by Berlin's offensive line, the team managed to get into the endzone when Murray caught a short pass from Ragone over the middle and hurdled a player to get into the endzone to make it 24-19 with 5:21 on the clock.
The Thunder then went for two, trying to bring themselves within three points, but Ragone's pass for Aaron Boone was overthrown.
On the second play of Amsterdam's next possession Payton was hit hard as he ran up the middle, and the ball was jarred loose and recovered by Thunder linebacker Rich Scanlon to give the Thunder possession at the 28. Two completions by Ragone got the Thunder to Amsterdam 5, and the Houston allocated passer then made a tremendous play to find a leaping Boone in the back of the endzone to give the Thunder a 25-24 lead. Trying their second two-point conversion, Berlin found the recipe for success, sending Ragone on a bootleg to the right and he strolled in to make it 27-24 with 2:51 remaining.
Starting from their 22, the Admirals began cautiously, completing a pair of passes over the middle to the 39. Next, however, Hamdan looked deep, drawing a pass interference penalty against Flemming that set the Admirals up at the 16-yard line. On the next play Amsterdam retook the lead when Hamdan found Ruvell Martin in the back of the endzone for a score. The extra point gave the Admirals a four point advantage at 31-27 with 1:45 left in the contest.
On the very first play of the Thunder possession the Admirals sealed the victory. Looking right for Boone, Ragone was picked off by Admirals cornerback B.J. Tucker, finally putting an end to the Thunder challenge and finishing their magical seven-game winning streak.
Packers in this game:
John Garrett (Amsterdam): 2 tackles, 1 assist; 2 special teams tackles