6-30-01, 5:20 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
As Berlin quarterback Jonathan Quinn continually beat one-on-one coverage, JoJuan Armour's frustration doubled during Saturday's World Bowl.
Quinn, a quarterback from Jacksonville, led the Thunder's 24-17 upset over Armour's Barcelona Dragons with 308 yards and three touchdown passes that included bombs of 46 and 53 in the Amsterdam ArenA.
Armour, the Bengals linebacker trying to hook on next month at training camp as a backup safety, could only watch as Quinn threw touchdown passes of 17 yards to Ahmad Merritt and 53 to Dwaune Jones in the game's final 9:47. The plays reversed the Thunder's two losses to Barcelona earlier in the season.
But Quinn's short, quick passes out of four-receiver sets that helped neutralize the Dragons' big pass rush also proved effective.
"That didn't surprise us, but they did get chunks of yardage here and there by spreading the field to keep drives going," Armour said from the stunned Barcelona locker room late Saturday afternoon.
Because Armour has been rotating every start as well as every two series with the Falcons' Jeff Popovich at strong safety, he didn't get as many snaps as he wished.
But Armour, trying to prove to the Bengals he can play safety after a brilliant linebacking career at Miami of Ohio, stopped two Berlin drives on third down. The last one, when he popped a pass loose from Merritt to prevent a first down over the middle, came midway through the third quarter and led to the touchdown that gave Barcelona a brief 17-10 lead.
Armour was on the field for the Thunder's winning score, when Jones caught Quinn's 53-yarder with 4:08
left in the game even though Dragons quarterback Deauntae Brown was draped all over Jones at the goal line.
"They made two big plays and it was nobody's fault," Armour said. "That's what Quinn is known for, throwing the long ball, and he put two throws there. On that last one, Deauntae was all over the guy and he still made the play."
Quinn tied the game at 17 with 9:47 left when he hit Merritt out of the slot for a 17-yard touchdown pass in a one-on-one matchup against Popovich.
"That would have been my guy, but Pop had good coverage on him," Armour. "The receiver gave him a little nudge and the ref didn't call it. It's frustrating because the way it worked out today, I just didn't get a lot of snaps.
"Jeff might have been on the field for a long drive and then I might have had a short drive because we got a turnover," Armour said. "But that's fine. That's the way it works here. They're trying to develop Jeff, too."
Armour, still looking for that bowl ring he thinks he should have got at Miami, took the loss hard. There were plenty reasons why, but particularly because it was such a close loss and Dragons coach Jack Bicknell was shooting for his second NFL European title in four World Bowl appearances.
"Coach is emotional and he broke down a little bit talking to us," Armour said. "He told us we were his best team and he felt badly we didn't win it. The best team didn't win today in my opinion. But what is it that (Bengals head coach) Dick LeBeau says? Close only counts in grenades and horse shoes."
The 5-11, 220-pound Armour blew up two Berlin drives, one on the run and one against the pass. In the first quarter on third-and-two, Armour came up to the line of scrimmage for a shoestring tackle on Berlin running back Rodnick Phillips.
"That was a linebacker play," Armour said. "That was our 'Red,' defense where we're allowed to read and go. I was just trying to think like a running back. What hole would you try to get into? And he was there."
In the third quarter on third-and-long, Armour came up from behind on Merritt to give him a hit that dislodged a pass he had just taken from Quinn.
"That's what I'm trying to show the Bengals," Armour said. "I can cover the pass and come up and make a hit on a guy. I hope the defensive staff was watching. I hope they saw some flashes."
Paul Brown, a Bengals' vice president, was one of the 32,116 at the game in The Netherlands.