Berlin and Cologne share the top spot in the standings at 5-2 while Hamburg and the Amsterdam Admirals are just one game off the pace at 4-3.
As the quest for a spot in the World Bowl heats up, FOX-TV begins its 10th season of NFL Europe League coverage on Sunday with the national telecast of the Berlin-Hamburg contest from Hamburg, Germany. FOX NFL Sunday talent CURT MENEFEE and BRIAN BALDINGER will make the call at 1:00 p.m. (ET) from the AOL Arena.
FOX will televise one game in each of the final three weeks of the regular season, followed by coverage of World Bowl XIII on Saturday, June 11 from Düsseldorf, Germany, home of the Rhein Fire.
On Saturday in Berlin, the Thunder took another step toward playing for their fourth championship in five years, earning a 24-15 win over the Rhein Fire. The victory was the club’s 10th consecutive home triumph, an NFL Europe League record, eclipsing the nine in a row by the 1995-96 Admirals.
"It’s nice to be a part of a team that set a record like that, because it’s a mark that shows what kind of fan base we have," said Houston Texans quarterback DAVE RAGONE. "Any win is important, and I know that winning a game at home this late in the season is really crucial."
Carolina Panthers wide receiver AARON BOONE sparked the Thunder offense, finishing with eight receptions for 112 yards, including a five-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter to open the scoring. Ragone completed an efficient 13 of 26 attempts for 138 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, and also added 40 yards rushing.
"Aaron is the type of receiver who is going to be in the right place at the right time," said Ragone, who has thrown 99 consecutive passes without an interception. "He ran good routes and that’s very comforting for a quarterback. He really stepped up and played well."
Meanwhile in Frankfurt, the Centurions earned a hard-fought 20-17 overtime victory over the Galaxy before a crowd of 25,347 at Commerzbank Arena.
Cologne overcame a 14-0 deficit en route to the victory. New England Patriots running back KORY CHAPMAN continued his solid season, rushing for 118 yards on 20 carries, including an 18-yard touchdown run for the Centurions.
Kicker JIMMY KIBBLE connected on two of two field-goal attempts for Cologne, including the game-winning 37-yarder with 1:14 remaining in overtime for the win.
"This was one of those tight, down-to-the-wire games," said Chapman. "We knew they wanted to win it just as badly as we did, but we did enough to earn the win. We were very focused in practice and the offensive line did a great job of opening up holes for me. I just took what they gave me."
In Hamburg, the Sea Devils earned an exciting 30-24 overtime victory over Amsterdam before a crowd of 16,415 at the AOL Arena.
In the final minute of the extra session, defensive end SACHA LANCASTER sacked Admirals quarterback KURT KITTNER, forcing a fumble that was recovered by defensive end IVORY MC COY and returned 29 yards for a game-clinching touchdown with just 26 seconds remaining in overtime.
Atlanta Falcons safety SHAWN MAYER was another defensive stalwart for Hamburg, intercepting three passes to tie the NFL Europe League single-game record. Mayer, who leads the league with five interceptions, finished with seven tackles.
"We won as a team and that’s what it’s all about," Mayer said. "We definitely needed a victory today to be in position to compete for a shot at the World Bowl. We did that, so we should have confidence as we move ahead and try to win a championship."
NFLEL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK - WEEK SEVEN
Wide Receiver AARON BOONE of the Carolina Panthers, safety SHAWN MAYER of the Atlanta Falcons and defensive end CHRISTIAN MOHR of the Seattle Seahawks are the NFL Europe League Offensive, Defensive and National Players of the Week for games played the seventh week of the season (May 14), the league announced today.Boone had eight catches for 112 yards, including a 45-yard reception and a five-yard touchdown catch, in Berlin’s 24-15 win over Rhein.
Through seven games, Boone leads the team with 26 receptions for 363 yards and three touchdowns.Mayer tied the NFL Europe League single-game record with three interceptions for 36 yards during Hamburg’s 30-24 overtime win over Amsterdam.Mayer now leads NFL Europe with five interceptions for 48 yards and has added 31 tackles, seven passes defensed and one forced fumble. Seahawks and German defensive end CHRISTIAN MOHR registered five tackles, 1.0 sack and one forced fumble while helping Berlin stay tied atop league standings with Cologne at 5-2. Mohr, who has a team-leading 3.0 sacks for the season, said, "Once this season is over, my goal is to go to training camp with Seattle and win a roster spot." Cologne kicker Jimmy Kibble was named special teams player of the week when he connected on two of two on field-goal attempts, including a 37-yarder with 1:14 remaining in overtime to give Cologne a 20-17 victory over Frankfurt.
After landing his game-winner, Kibble said, "I just kept thinking, ‘Don’t slip.’ Center MIKE MABRY (Cincinnati) and quarterback/holder KEVIN THOMPSON (Buffalo), and the offensive line are the ones who gave me a shot to kick it. For me it was just a case of doing what I do."
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS IN NFL EUROPE - WEEK SEVEN
AMSTERDAM ADMIRALS: P RYAN DUTTON - Punted six times for a 43.3-yard average, pinning Hamburg inside their own 20-yard line twices. CB B.J. TUCKER - Recorded one interception and three passes defensed against Hamburg.
BERLIN THUNDER: DE CHRISTIAN MOHR - Recorded five tackles and 1.0 sack for an eight-yard loss and forced one fumble against Rhein. CB MICHAEL HARDEN - Registered three passes defensed. K KEVIN MILLER - Kicked a 42-yard field goal.
COLOGNE CENTURIONS: CB KEVIN HOUSE - Recorded four tackles and one pass defensed against Frankfurt.
HAMBURG SEA DEVILS: DE KEVIN EMANUEL - Recorded 1.0 sack for a 10-yard loss against Amsterdam.
RHEIN FIRE: LB TERRENCE ROBINSON - Finished second on the team with six tackles against Berlin.