Friday, May 13, 2011

San Jose Sabercats come to town

Okay, did everyone enjoy that feeling of a win at home last week? Good – cause it’s
time for the next game, and it’s going to be a tough opponent. For the second week in a
row, we get a team right after the Rattlers are through with them. The big difference is,
unlike the Shock, the San Jose Sabercats got shellacked out in Arizona, and I’m betting
that they’re not going to take that lying down.

This is the game that ends the first half of our season, and really sets the tone for the
second. From the moment I saw this game on the schedule, I was worried about it.
Technically, the Sabercats are an expansion team, just like we are. However, they
are a recreated team like the Soul, who came back with new faces and old traditions.
Currently, they’re number 5 in the league power-rankings and always looking to move
up. (By comparison, our win against Spokane got us the #10 spot this week, but only

Last week, I talked about the difference between our division and National West, in
particular that 3-4 was second place in ours and last place in theirs. This week, it’s
slightly more heartening that the ‘Cats are also in second place and only have one more
win than us. This means that they can bleed, etc.

Make no mistake: They are a tough team and strong competitors. Around the league,
you will hear a lot of talk about their defense, and how it’s possibly the worst in the
league – and that might very well be true. They are letting up almost 60 points a game
this season. On the other hand, they average around 60 points a game on offense as well.

Quarterback Mark Grieb is not afraid to air it out, and has three solid, solid receivers in
Goodson, Flowers and Toler. Flowers is one of those guys that I’ve loved to hate this
season – the type that will flip over the wall in the end-zone multiple times in a game,
just to thrust the ball up in the air to show he had it the whole time. Goodson is generally
in-your-face and not afraid to take a hit. Think of an evil Hines Ward. Toler rounds it
out for yardage over touchdowns.

Rushing (comparatively) is not much of a focus. Chad Cook has only 110 yards on the
season, but is mainly used in goal line and 3rd/4th down situations. That having been said,
he also has 17 touchdowns on the season – our team doesn’t have that many rushing TDs.
What we do have, however, is twice as many yards on the ground.

What does all of this mean when taken together? I’ll tell you what: It means that we
have a chance.

The style of play that the new Sabercats employ – and to generally good effect – is
very similar to what I do in war-simulation games: Don’t puss around with figuring
out defensive tactics and fancy cover mechanics – just fill the air with as much lead as
possible until everything stops moving.

They’re all offense. They just keep hammering down the field and managing the clock,
banking on themselves having the ball last. It’s gutsy, and a fine tactic when it works

(which, statistics say, better than 50% of the time, it does for them) but risky at the same

Last week, we saw two equally as ballsy choices from Coach Siegfried. One, he put
Bernard Morris back in the game his first week off of IR, and two, he put Powertool in as
a linebacker instead of a receiver. This gamble paid off. Once Morris regained his sea-
legs, he started giving the Shock what-for. “Powertool” DeWalt grew about 4 feet, cloned
himself and placed himself everywhere on the field, breaking up plays. Honorable
mention goes to the decision to let Zeck have the ball and go murder a few defenders.

If DeWalt stays on defense to just generally befuddle the opposition, I think we can rely
on the likes of Stevenson, Butler and “Total Chaos” Carter to put up a wall. The Power
made some outstanding stops last week in 3rd and 4th down situations, as well as on the
goal line. Dewalt will be key as the Sabercats do little on the ground…until 3rd and 4th
situations and the goal line.

On our side, if Morris comes in to the game the way he ended the last one, then hopefully
he’ll come out shooting down the field and putting points up. If that doesn’t work, get
Rue out there and maybe put some fear into them by unleashing Zeck.

The main concern is going to be the battle of wills. More so than most games, this one
is going to be decided by whoever gets up to the first major lead – possibly the first
lead, period. Last week against Arizona, once the Rattlers got in Greib’s head, it was
over. When Arizona started pulling in front, and the scoring war of attrition started to
backfire on the ‘Cats, Grieb started panicking and ended the game with four interceptions
. It wasn’t just him – the rest of the team freaked out and started missing routes and
coverages as well.

Problem is – that all sounds really, really familiar.

Interesting note: I fully realize that correlation does not equal causation – but I love
symmetry. The only game this season at home that the Power can say that they out-in-
out destroyed another team and salted the earth was against the Barnstormers. So far this
season, the Barnstormers have only won two games, and they were back-to-back:

The Spokane Shock, and then the San Jose Sabercats.

I’m just gonna put that out there and let it sink in for a moment. The more I think about
it, the more I think last week was a dress rehearsal for this game, and maybe – just maybe
– we’ve underestimated Siegfried.

Game airs on the CW at 7:30, but there should be plenty of seats down at the Arena to see
it in person.

Elsewhere in the league:

  • Not a lot to write home about this week on Friday. The Game of the Week is another snorefest, but it’s the only AFL a lot of people are going to get. For those willing to watch online instead, the Force @Philly looks like the best bet
  • The Gladiators at the Orlando Predators looks like it should be a brutal game. After the Power finishes up, tune in to NiFTy TV online, and the rebroadcast should be beginning.
  • Late game is a tossup between Rush @Arizona, which would be my preferred game to watch, but seeing how the Vigilantes stack up against the Shock isn’t a bad call either, since we’ve got them in a few weeks.

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