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« Week 14 EFL 2007 Playoffs — Semi-Finals Championship »

Preview — Cherries Won’t Rest on Gaudy Regular Season Numbers


  1. Delaware Cherries (12-2), 1st, Central
  2. Washington Capitols (11-3), 1st, Southern
  3. Syracuse Crush (9-5), 1st, Northern
  4. New York Empires (9-5), wild card — 2nd, Central


FavoriteSpread (O/U)Underdog
Saturday, November 17, 7:30 pm
WASHINGTON5 (43)Syracuse
Sunday, November 18, 10:00 am
DELAWARE7½ (44)New York
home team in CAPS

Regular Season Head-to-Head

  • Delaware 23, New York 20 — week 1 at Delaware
    Box   Drive Chart
  • Delaware 23, New York 7 — week 9 at New York
    Box   Drive Chart
  • Washington 20, Syracuse 14 — week 11 at Syracuse
    Box   Drive Chart


These players are injured and will miss the semi-finals:
  • WR Dante Hall, DEL — PR only through playoffs
  • CB Samari Rolle, NYE — would return for championship game
  • DE Jared Allen, WAS — out for the season
  • RB Brandon Jacobs, WAS — out for the season
  • DE Michael Strahan, WAS — out for the season

Semi-Finals Results

November 17, 2007
at Washington
Syracuse 31, Washington 17
Box   Drive Chart

Brian Westbrook, Mark Brunell, and Laveranues Coles, with the help of a dominating pass rush, led the way for Syracuse (10‑5) in their convincing win over injury-depleted Washington (11‑4).

  • Westbrook was the workhorse. He had 108 yards on the ground on 25 trips and added 107 more yards on 10 receptions.
  • Brunell completed 25 of 35 passes for 277 yards, with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions — good for a passing rating of 123.2.
  • Coles caught 2 of Brunell’s touchdown passes, both in the first half. By halftime, at which point the Crush led 21‑14, Coles had 7 catches, and he would finish with 8 for 79 yards. He took advantage of Capitols cornerback Ade Jimoh, who took over for starter Patrick Surtain after Surtain was hurt during the first play after the opening kickoff.

Meanwhile, the Syracuse defense gave Washington quarterback Brad Johnson little time to throw and got to him 7 times. Brunell, on the other hand, felt little pressure from a Capitols defensive line that was obviously missing injured stalwart ends Michael Strahan and Jared Allen. They sacked Brunell only once.

The Crush opened a 21‑7 lead midway through the second quarter by scoring touchdowns on consecutive drives of 60, 80, and 81 yards. After Coles caught scoring passes of 17 and 6 yards, Reggie Brown, the league leader during the regular season in average yards per catch, found a seam in the Washington defense, and took a Brunell pass 34 yards to the end zone.

The Capitols responded by driving 72 yards in 13 plays to narrow the gap to 7. On 3rd and goal at the 1, Marcus McNeill opened a path for fullback Brandon Miree, who was filling in for the injured Brandon Jacobs, and Miree powered his way into the end zone with 2:29 left in the half. In the first quarter, Ladell Betts had scored for Washington on a 3-yard run, also on 3rd down.

Late In the third quarter, Syracuse’s Mewelde Moore twice gave the Capitols opportunities to start a rally:

  • First Moore fumbled a punt by Chris Kluwe and Betts recovered for Washington at the Crush 22. Johnson immediately found Troy Brown for a 12-yard gain, but then Corey Williams sacked Johnson to force a 31-yard field goal attempt by David Akers. Akers missed wide to the unpleasant surprise of the Capitols faithful.
  • Moore ran for 15 yards on the last play of the quarter, trampling Jamal Williams in the process, but he fumbled as he was tackled and Joey Porter recovered for Washington on their own 34. Here again the Capitols could not take advantage. Johnson was sacked twice more in the next 3 plays by Marlon McCree and Brandon Chillar. The latter caused Johnson to fumble and Luis Castillo fell on it for the Crush at the Washington 27. Four plays later Jay Feely booted a 38-yard field goal to widen Syracuse’s lead to 24‑14 with 12:11 remaining.

After the Capitols went three-and-out, the Crush but a hammerlock on the game with a 15-play, 79-yard touchdown drive that consumed 7 of the remaining 10 minutes. Westbrook was the focus of the Syracuse offense during the drive, twice catching third down passes for first downs, exploding for 27 yards off right tackle, and then diving in from the 1 on third down behind left guard Brian Waters to make it 31‑14 with 3:01 to go.

Akers made a short field goal with a little over a minute left, but his onside kickoff was gathered in by Kareem McKenzie for the Crush, and they ran out the clock without incident.

There was one sour note for Syracuse: They may be without linebacker Shawne Merriman for the championship game next week. Merriman, the defensive star of last season’s Crush championship game victory over Washington, left near the end of the third quarter with what appeared to be a serious injury.


November 18, 2007
at Delaware
New York 29, Delaware 24
Box   Drive Chart   Color

Jake Delhomme threw 3 touchdown passes in the second half as New York (10‑5) upset Delaware (12‑3). His 16-yard scoring pass to Brad Hoover with 9:15 left, which concluded a 91-yard drive, broke a 15‑15 tie and put the Empires ahead for good. The New York defense held LaDainian Tomlinson, who had averaged a league-leading 136 yards rushing per game during the regular season, to 39 yards on 17 carries.

The Cherries offense did not get their first first down until the last minute of the first half. Meanwhile, the Empires built an 8‑0 lead:

  • In the first quarter New York drove 53 yards for a 40-yard field goal by Rian Lindell.
  • The second quarter had barely begun when Eric Parker fumbled a Josh Miller punt and Eddie Kennison recovered for the Empires at the Delaware 11. Delhomme immediately threw an interception to Brian Dawkins, but on 3rd and 9 at the 10, Angelo Crowell blitzed and dragged down Philip Rivers for a safety and a 5‑0 New York lead. The Cherries challenged the spot but the replay did not conclusively show that Rivers had escaped the end zone before Crowell got to him.
  • Ben Graham’s free kick pinned the Empires on their 8, and they embarked on a 7-minute drive deep into Delaware territory before settling for another Lindell field goal.

The Cherries finally manufactured a break with 1:07 left in the half just when it appeared they would go into the break without having lit the scoreboard. Lito Sheppard made a beautiful interception of a Delhomme pass just in bounds and returned it 25 yards along the sideline to the New York 31. The Empires challenged, contending that Sheppard’s right foot was out of bounds when he made the catch, but the call on the field stood.

Three plays later, which included Delaware’s first 2 first downs, Rivers hit a quick toss to Heath Miller for a 3-yard touchdown. John Kasay kicked the extra point to cut the New York lead to an ungainly 8‑7 with 0:52 remaining until halftime.

A 25-yard pass interference penalty against Cherries cornerback Fakhir Brown on Mark Clayton put the Empires in scoring position on their first possession of the second half. On first down at the Delaware 19, Clayton took advantage of loose coverage by Brown. He caught Delhomme’s throw, broke London Fletcher-Baker’s arm tackle, stiff-armed Donte Whitner, and dashed in for a touchdown, restoring the New York lead to 8.

After an exchange of punts, the Cherries finally put together a sustained drive. On the eighth play, Tomlinson narrowly escaped Leonard Little, who had penetrated the Delaware backfield, then turned the left corner and walked in for a 2-yard touchdown. Miller then ignited the partisan Cherries crowd by going high, despite being sandwiched by two defenders, to snag Rivers’ two-point conversion pass to tie the score with 3:37 to go in the third quarter.

Delaware got the better of another exchange of punts, pinning the Empires at their own 9 with 14:22 left. During what would be a 91-yard drive for Hoover’s go-ahead score, Willie Parker got the call on 7 running plays and caught a pass for a first down. Parker finished with 82 yards on 20 carries, more than doubling Tomlinson’s output.

Behind 22‑15, the Cherries started from their own 36 after another fine kickoff return by Michael Turner with 8:35 to go. On their first series, they converted on 4th and 1 on a plunge by Turner. Rivers then completed first down passes to Isaac Bruce and Lee Evans to move Delaware to the New York 31. The Empires then turned up the heat on defense, twice stopping Tomlinson for no gain and getting a sack from O.J. Atogwe.

Facing 4th and 10 with 4:01 to go, the Cherries called upon Kasay for a 48-yard field goal attempt, effectively putting their fate in the hands of their defense. Kasay was true, moving Delaware to within 4 points at 22‑18.

After the kickoff, the Cherries stacked the line of scrimmage, thinking the Empires would keep the ball on the ground in an attempt to run out of the clock. They thought wrong. On the third play, Clayton beat Brown and Dawkins on a 60-yard touchdown pass to give New York an 11-point lead with 2:27 remaining.

Delaware converted on 4th and 3 at midfield on their way to a 2-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to Bruce, making it 29‑24 with 1:00 left.

On the two-point conversion attempt, Tomlinson, with Richard Seymour on his back, appeared to have put the ball over the pylon. The officials checked the replay, however, and called him out of bounds six inches from the goal line, an announcement greeted by a cascade of boos from Cherries fans. The controversy became moot moments later when Kasay’s onside kickoff was corralled by Jonathan Ogden for the Empires.