|« Semi-Finals||EFL 2007 Championship Game|
Regular Season: September 29 (Week 8) @Syracuse, 38-24 Box Drive Chart
Point Spread: Syracuse –2, Over/Under 44
Syracuse (11‑5) won their second EFL title in a row by routing New York (10‑6). Brian Westbrook ran for a touchdown and caught a pair of scoring passes to lead the Crush. Mark Brunell completed 24 of 38 for 279 yards and 3 touchdowns. Mewelde Moore took a punt return all the way in the second quarter.
On defense it’s hard to imagine how Syracuse would have played better had they had the services of injured star linebacker Shawne Merriman. The Crush held the Empires to 269 yards, forcing them to punt on seven consecutive possessions from midway through the second quarter to the first minute of the fourth.
Willie Parker of New York, the second leading rushing in the league in the regular season, was bottled up. In the first half he had only 17 yards on the ground. Although he finished with 83 yards on 23 carries, if not for his 34-yard touchdown run when the outcome of the game was all but decided, he would have averaged barely 2 yards per carry.
Westbrook had only 17 yards rushing in the first half as well, but his 22-yard burst around right end with 8:42 left in the first quarter put Syracuse in front 7‑0 and they led the rest of the way. That touchdown came on the heels of a 33-yard completion from Brunell to Westbrook on 3rd and 11, the first of 10 receptions by Westbrook for 99 yards. He finished with 105 on the ground, missing by one yard the distinction of having triple-figure totals in rushing and receiving in each of the Crush’s 2 playoff wins.
Laveranues Coles also was a frequent target of Brunell’s, with 9 catches for 118 yards.
In the second quarter the Empires drove 37 yards on 8 plays for a 37-yard field goal by Rian Lindell with 9:15 remaining to cut the Syracuse lead to 7‑3. After each team went three-and-out Josh Miller punted for New York standing just inside his own end zone.
Miller’s kick was a line drive. Moore took it on the run on his 44 and went straight up the gut. He was by the first wave of defenders in a flash and easily eluded Miller, the last defender who had a shot at him, at the Empires 30. Moore’s 56-yard touchdown gave the Crush a 14‑3 lead, which they took into the locker room at halftime.
Syracuse extended their lead to 21‑3 in the third quarter. A 28-yard pass from Brunell, as he was being chased out of the pocket, to Coles highlighted a 77-yard drive resulting in a 21-yard bomb for a touchdown from Brunell to Reggie Brown.
In the fourth quarter Westbrook ran around right end on 2nd and 20 at the Empires 42 for 27 yards. Two plays later he beat Angelo Crowell to the far left corner of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown reception with 9:38 to go, effectively turning the game into a laugher. The 11-play, 76-yard drive melted 5 minutes off the clock. After Parker’s touchdown run and two-point conversion reception, Westbrook would catch a 6-yard scoring pass.
Crush coach John Heim said, “Delaware put a hurting on us in the regular season, and frankly we didn’t want to have to play them in the playoffs. New York gave us our wish. I guess we had a funny way of showing them our gratitude.”
Asked to explain Syracuse’s success in the playoffs, Heim acknowledged his team peaked at the right time. “We were streaky during the regular season. In the playoffs we kind of caught lightning in a bottle. Mark, Westy, and LC were sensational, and the o-line executed all their blocking schemes. Our defense never really let Washington or New York get into their rhythm. You know I’ve heard coaches say it and I’ve never really believed it, but it’s true: When you repeat [as champion], the second time is even better than the first.”