Monday, May 07, 2012

The Force was too strong (Again)

Man, this season has just been brutal. For a while now, I’ve sat down to write my pre/review and started to say, “Well, we’re halfway through the season, and…” Then I realize that we’re not there yet…and we’re still not. This was only our eighth game. So, I guess the good news is that there’s still a lot of football left this season, and hopefully I’ll be able to write another column or two about our awesome win the preceding weekend.

Not this week, though.

Once again, the Force beat us, but at least it was competitive this time. We started strong by actually causing them to go 4-and-out on their first possession. On our possession, Berry put us on the board right away, and we were off to the races. We ended the first half down only a point and came out swinging in the second. We scored on our first drive, and then got a pick that went all the way back.

Our lead was blown late in the game on a couple of very well-played drives by the Force and some perfectly thrown interceptions by Randall. Final was 55-52.

It was another (mostly) well-played game by the Power, but we unfortunately came up short. Randall was looking pretty good, and despite having the same number of picks as last week, he threw a lot fewer straight to the opposing team. Our new addition Oderick Turner had a standout performance in this one, and he has some great hands. With him and “Hands” Hymes on the same line, the team was pulling off some fantastic snags.

So, where did it go wrong? Well, for one thing, Joystick is still having some issues holding onto the ball. I really, really don’t know what’s going on there. These last few weeks, he’s had a costly fumble that boned us. This week, no one was even touching him when he lost it – he just dropped it.

Also, the Force had Berry’s number on kickoff returns. He was only getting 10 yards on average, which started us with crappy field position on most drives. Now, we were able to do as well with our crap position as they were with their much better position (Johnson was averaging more than 25 yards) but we had to work a lot harder. It doesn’t take an expert on the sport to understand that spending less time marching down the field leaves more time on the clock to get an extra possession or two.

The other thing this week was the universe continuing to conspire against me and my feelings on kickers. Wagner is out, being listed on recallable reassignment. I haven’t been able to find out any information about this, but given that he only had one bad game, I think Keller’s theory of him working out for an NFL team might have some legs.

This week, we had Trey “The Vampire” Kramer starting for us, and damn, is he ever a big ball of WTF. To say that he has a background in football is technically accurate (unlike his kicking), but in the “everywhere else in the world” sense. He was a soccer player in college and semi-pro – a goaltender, no less – before just deciding one day that he wanted to kick field goals. Apparently the Blue Racers of the similar-to-but-different-than-the-Arena-League, Indoor Football League shrugged and said, “what the hell?” By all accounts, in that league he was fairly good, being about 80% on PATs and about 50% on field goals. In the NFL that would suck, but indoors, that’s commendable. This did not materialize for us this week in his first AFL game.

His kickoffs had serious power, but the accuracy was all over the place. Some boomed down the field, some dropped right into CJ Johnson’s hands and one went wide left of the rebound nets. When it came to PATs, he missed three and had one blocked. Recheck the score of this game and understand the frustration.

Strangely, the area he shined was tackling. Seriously. He had three on the night. I don’t mean he threw himself at the legs of a returner as a last-ditch attempt to trip him up like any self-respecting kicker – I mean full-on, slam-them-into-the-boards tackles. His third one, he did something I’ve never seen a kicker do: He sized up the returner, looked left, looked right…then lowered his shoulders and charged forward to get him. It was beautiful. I mean, a couple-three PATs would have been better, but it was still a sight to behold.

Bottom line in this game was that, statistically, we out-played Georgia. Picks, fumbles and terrible kicking lost this for us – again. I could bitch about the officiating, which in the fourth was worse than the Vampire’s kicking, but when it came right down to it, didn’t really screw us the way it felt down at the arena. We have one more game in the first half of our season, and we still can’t get all the ingredients, and I wonder if the Power is going to get it figured out in time to have a winning record, much less a slot in the playoffs.

Elsewhere in the League

Upsets….oh, the upsets. Glad I didn’t make many grand, sweeping declarations in my predictions this week.
  • In the NFL Game of the Week, NOLA owned Jacksonville…for the first three quarters. Some determination by the Sharks and some costly mistakes by the Voodoo (Most notably a stupid, stupid drop by Kurt Rocco in the end zone) flipped this game around. Voodoo drop all the way to 4th in their divison.
  • Spokane and Utah was not nearly as close as I was expecting. On the first drive of the game, Rowley got sacked for a safety and kinda set the tone for the whole game. Tommy Grady has got some unbelievable moves in the pocket, and his arm and patience lead the Blaze to an 84-63 victory.
  • In our division, what did I say needed to happen to make the world a brighter, happier place? We needed to win, and Philly and Milwaukee just needed to keep doing what they do. Instead, we lost and Philly ended up dropping this game 64-63 to the Mustangs. Going into this week, Philly was the only team ever to go 60+ points in seven consecutive games and the Mustangs had only 10 total points making the difference between a 2-5 season and a 5-2 season. Philly keeps their streak, but vindicates the Mustangs’ abilities.
  • Predators continue to struggle, dropping the latest installment of the War on I-4 to Tampa Bay, 55-31.
  • Talons break their “win every other game” pattern by (understandably) thwumping the hapless Command 47-31. No matter how bad things are for the Power, it’s comforting to look at KC and Orlando, at least.
  • As predicted, the Sabercats/Rattlers matchup was a prize fight that went all the rounds. Both teams said screw defense and just decided to see who could score last. Showing their skill, both of them pulled off an onside kick during the game (though Arizona failed on a second one) and ran the score over 140 total points. In the end, San Jose was able to put that last score up and end the night victors, 77-70.
  • In the Sunday afternoon game, Chicago (again, understandably) had Coach Ho and JJ Ratterink’s numbers. Sacking him three times and hurrying the Barnstormer offense, they were able to pull off another win and the season sweep of their rivals. However, sloppy play abounded. Barnstomers showed me that a safety can happen on a kickoff return, and later, the Rush returned the favor by running a play while inside their own end zone – and losing yardage. Both teams also held up proceedings while trying to challenge without any timeouts left, and Chicago continued to show poor clock management.

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