Cumbleton’s Conclusions – AAF Week Four

Winless No More

The Alliance’s last winless teams, Memphis and Atlanta, both picked up a W this week. Saturday saw The Express upset The Fleet 26-23. On Sunday The Legends received an unexpected spark when they defeated The Hotshots 14 points to 11.

Mettenberger is The Future

In front of a crowd of 13,621 Zach Mettenberger put on a show. He passed for 174 yards and completed 18 of 25 passes and did so with a run game that looked less impressive in previous weeks. In fact, Mettenberger was responsible for both offensive touchdowns a 6-yard pass to Terrence Magee and a 1-yard sneak behind the left guard. He also added a run for a two-point conversion.

Nelson to Miss Time

San Diego Fleet’s offence was drastically altered when it lost quarterback Philip Nelson to injury with 6:36 left in the second quarter. Nelson was completing 75% of his passes before being lost for the game. The offence struggled with his replacement, Alex Ross, who completed just 8 of 18 passes (44.4%) and whilst he did throw a touchdown, he also threw an interception.

(Update: The #Fleet revealed Nelson added former Penn quarterback Alek Torgersen because is out 4-to-6 weeks with a broken collarbone.)

Murray Sparks Legends

The unexpected spark above occurred when Aaron Murray took over at quarterback for the injured Matt Simms. Murray completed 20 of 33 attempts for 254 yards. PFF gave him an adjusted completion percentage of 71%. While Atlanta still looked uncertain in the redzone, the Georgia product showed impressive touch and arm strength as well as proving he could run when needed, adding 54 yards on 7 carries. He’s likely doing enough to earn the start in Week Five.

Pressley Stars as Wolford

After missing the second half of last week’s game due to a back injury, Hot Shots quarterback John Wolford returned to the field. Unfortunately, he didn’t look close to 100% healthy. Wolford was off his game and passed for just 185 yards. He later commented, “We were driving at times and we’d stagnate, and didn’t put points on the board. I missed some throws that I normally hit. That’s the difference between getting extra points and giving us a chance to win.”. The running of back Jhurell Pressley kept Arizona in the game. Pressley consistently found holes in the Atlanta defence as he ran 14 times for 110 yards. However, failure to convert on third down, among other things, kept the game out of reach for Arizona.

Apollos Reign

Steve Spurrier’s Orlando Apollos are now the only unbeaten team in the AAF after winning a 20-11 snow game against Salt Lake. The Apollos boast the league’s best passing offence and Garrett Gilbert’s 1071 passing are 274 ahead of the nearest challenger. He’s clearly the best quarterback in the league, is completing 61.9 of his passes and has yet to throw an interception. His favourite target, Charles Johnson has 410 yards. The Apollos go on the road to face Birmingham in Week Five. Can they keep their flawless record going to the halfway point?

Farrow For Real

Kenneth Farrow II accounted for more than half of his San Antonio’s offensive output on Sunday upset the previously undefeated Birmingham Iron, 12-11. Farrow’s 142 yards on 30 carries were good for an average of 4.7 yards per carry. Farrow has 280 yards for the year which is good for second in The Alliance behind Ja’Quan Gardner (287 yards). Farrow didn’t take all the credit for his success though, saying “The O-line, that’s where it all starts,”. “They were getting on their man and giving me holes all day so we just stuck to the tracks, stayed patient and hats off to the O-line because they played an awesome game today.”

Broken Iron?

Although they stand at 3-1, the Birmingham Iron offence is struggling. Luis Perez, hailed by many as one of the players that deserves an NFL opportunity, must rebound from a weekend when he struggled completing passes (19 of 39). Throughout the season the weaknesses in his game (limited arm and mobility) have been consistently exposed.

The running game is equally worrying. Trent Richardson may have scored his seventh rushing touchdown of the season, but he is averaging just 2.4 yards on 160 carries. Whilst Richardson must shoulder some of the blame the linking factor in both facets of the game is the struggle of Birmingham’s offensive line. This unit simply isn’t protecting Perez or opening holes for Richardson.

Jonathan Cumbleton writes about the AFC North for Ninety Nine Yards, covering the Ravens, Bengals, Browns, and Steelers. He is a Philadelphia Eagles fan who has followed the game since 1990. You can follow more of his writing on Twitter @Cumbleton.

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