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« Week 14 EFL 2006 Playoffs — Semi-Finals Championship »

Preview — Underdog Role Suits Cherries


  1. Providence Steam Roller (11-3), 1st, Northern
  2. Delaware Cherries (8-6), 1st, Central
  3. Washington Capitols (8-6), 1st, Southern
  4. Syracuse Crush (10-4), wild card — 2nd, Northern


FavoriteSpread (O/U)Underdog
Saturday, November 18, 7:30 pm
Washington1½ (45)DELAWARE
Sunday, November 19, 10:00 am
PROVIDENCE4 (48)Syracuse
home team in CAPS

Regular Season Head-to-Head

  • Delaware 21, Washington 10 — week 4 at Delaware
    Box   Drive Chart
  • Syracuse 32, Providence 31 — week 5 at Syracuse
    Box   Drive Chart
  • Syracuse 24, Providence 17 — week 9 at Providence
    Box   Drive Chart


No players will sit out due to injury.

Semi-Finals Results

November 18, 2006
at Delaware
Washington 24, Delaware 17
Box   Drive Chart   Color

An interception by Ty Law late in the first half, his first of two picks, led to a touchdown catch by Jerricho Cotchery, breaking a 7‑7 tie, and Washington (9‑6) went on to subdue Delaware (8‑7) and advance to the championship game.

The Capitols scored on their first possession, moving 60 yards in 12 plays. Brandon Manumaleuna scored on 3rd and goal from the 2 behind a great block by Robert Royal. The Cherries responded immediately with a seven-play, 71 yard drive. A 2‑yard touchdown run by Tony Richardson tied the score.

The teams twice traded punts, and with 3:39 left in the half, Delaware took over on their own 43. They got a first down on three running plays. Then Drew Brees tried to hit Lee Evans coming across the center of the field near the Washington 35. The throw was behind Evans, and Law made the pick and returned it to the 46.

Two plays later Cotchery beat Lito Sheppard on a deep route and Brad Johnson got the ball to him at the Cherries 27. Then on 3rd and 1 from the 18, Johnson caught the Delaware defense stacked to stop the run, hitting Troy Brown at the 4. A false start penalty moved the Capitols back to the 9, but on the next play Johnson perfectly led Cotchery coming across the middle of the field for the go-ahead score.

The Cherries would make two more costly turnovers in the third quarter:

  • Just past the midway point Brees was intercepted again by Law. On the next play Michael Lewis was called for pass interference on Chris Cooley, moving the ball to the Delaware 20. A pair of Curtis Martin runs moved the ball to the 10. One play later Johnson completed another 9‑yard touchdown pass, this time to Troy Brown to extend the Washington lead to 21‑7.
  • After moving from their own 32 to the Capitols 22, the Cherries gave one opportunity too many to Ryan Moats. The fumble-prone rookie was stripped on a pitchout by Michael Strahan, the league’s regular season leader in sacks, and Antonio Pierce recovered for the Capitols at the 20 as the third quarter ended.

The Delaware defense tightened momentarily and made a couple of big plays.

  • On 2nd and 10 from the Washington 42, Martin was caught trying to take a pitchout around right end for an eight‑yard loss.
  • The Capitols went right back to Martin on a draw. Travis Fisher jarred the ball loose and his Cherries teammate Terrell Suggs recovered, giving Delaware a golden opportunity at the Washington 30.

The Cherries couldn’t get a first down, though, and settled for a 44‑yard field goal by John Kasay to cut the Capitols’ lead to 21‑10. Then the Delaware defense failed to sustain their momentum, letting Washington move 57 yards, 27 coming on a bomb from Johnson to Hines Ward. The Cherries stopped the Capitols on 3rd and goal from the 8, but the damage was done: David Akers chipped in a 25‑yard field goal with 6:48 to go, effectively negating the Kasay field goal.

A pair of miraculous fourth down conversions by the Delaware offense enabled the Cherries to keep the game within reach inside the last two minutes.

  • On 4th and 11 at the Delaware 31, Brees ran for his life and managed to find Eric Parker for a 14‑yard completion.
  • The Cherries then found themselves in a 3rd and 22 hole. Brees hit Travis Taylor for 13 yards. Then Heath Miller ran a slant route, and Brees threaded the ball to him. Once the rookie tight end neatly side-stepped Michael Stone, he was able to keep going all the way to the Capitols 4 before getting knocked out of bounds with 1:52 left — a 50‑yard gain.

Brees threw a touchdown pass to Daniel Graham on first down, but Kasay’s onside kick attempt was corralled by Ladell Betts, and Washington ran out the clock.

Johnson completed 19 of 39 aerials for 242 yards. He was neither sacked nor picked off. Brees was 22-of-35 for 252 yards, but the Capitols got to him four times, all in the second half. Eric Warfield had a second quarter interception of Brees for Washington to go along with Law’s two.


November 19, 2006
at Providence
Syracuse 20, Providence 16
Box   Drive Chart

A controversial official’s call late in the game went in favor of Syracuse (11‑4), enabling the Crush to maintain and ultimately extend a slim lead and run down the clock. They would go on to dispatch Providence (11‑4) for the third time this season, thus earning the right to oppose Washington in the championship game.

With 4:50 remaining and Syracuse holding a precarious 17‑16 lead, they faced 3rd and 11 at the Steam Roller 23. Crush quarterback Mark Brunell went back to pass. Darren Sharper sacked him and jarred the ball loose. He had trouble picking it up but appeared to the officials to have eventually gained control. From a prone position Brunell managed to trip up Sharper. When Sharper’s arm hit the ground, the ball popped out and Brunell grabbed it. That gave Syracuse a first down on the Providence 32.

Three plays later Jay Feely kicked a 47‑yard field goal to lengthen the Crush lead to 20‑16. Almost two minutes elapsed in the meantime, greatly decreasing the opportunity Providence would have to respond. They would fail in their attempt.

If the officials had ruled that Sharper had not gained control, Syracuse would have faced a fourth down two minutes sooner and Feely’s field goal attempt would have been two yards longer. Had Brunell not managed to trip up Sharper, Sharper would likely have returned the fumble into Syracuse territory, perhaps even all the way for a go-ahead touchdown.

The Sharper play was the last of a stream of Steam Roller miscues and failures to execute that sabotaged their prospects for victory.

  • On the opening drive of the game, Jeremy Shockey fumbled the ball away to Terrence McGee after catching a pass from Marc Bulger.
  • Syracuse took over on their own 49, and right away Brunell launched a bomb to Koren Robinson. Asante Samuel and Marcus Washington double-teamed Robinson, but they got their wires crossed, allowing Robinson to run free and make an easy 51‑yard touchdown catch.
  • Bulger teamed up with Torry Holt on the next Providence possession for a 44‑yard completion to the Crush 13, but the gain was wiped out by a holding penalty and the Steam Roller would subsequently punt.
  • Luis Castillo of Syracuse blocked a 48‑yard field goal attempt in the second quarter by Mike Nugent that, if good, would have lengthened the Steam Roller lead to 13‑7.
  • With 3:51 left in the first half and the Steam Roller still up 10‑7, a holding penalty against Providence wiped out a 48‑yard completion from Bulger to Josh Reed that would have advanced them inside the Crush 40. Instead they had to punt.
  • Late in the third quarter with Syracuse holding a 17‑13 lead, Sammy Knight intercepted a long pass intended for Shockey at the Crush 24 and returned it 10 yards.
  • An opportunity for a potential Steam Roller go-ahead touchdown evaporated early in the forth quarter when Shawne Merriman sacked Bulger at the Syracuse 18 on 2nd and goal. Providence had to settle for a 35‑yard Nugent field goal and remained in arrears 17‑16 with 10:21 left. The Steam Roller offense would then be kept off the field until there were less than three minutes remaining.

The teams entered the break tied at 10 after a nicely executed two-minute drill by Syracuse. On the first play Brunell hit Rod Gardner for 28 yards to the Providence 42. Jay Feely booted a 39‑yard field goal but the Crush were flagged for holding. Feely then connected on a 49‑yarder that counted.

Syracuse retook the lead for good early in the third quarter on a 31‑yard pass from Brunell to Laveranues Coles. The touchdown ended an eight-play, 64‑yard drive following the second half kickoff. Coles beat Ronald Bartell on the play.

After Feely made his fourth quarter field goal, the one that followed the Brunell-Sharper fumble fracas, the Steam Roller took over on their own 27 with 2:43 remaining. Three plays later Mike Rucker sacked Bulger for a loss of 11 yards, and Providence went on to lose the ball on downs with 1:37 left. Brunell completed a 10‑yard pass to Coles, and the Crush proceeded to run out the clock.

Providence had to play most of the game without Holt, the leading receiver in the league. Holt was injured midway through the first quarter and did not return.