The first overtime match in AAF history occurred in Week Seven. There was the emergence of a new quarterback, a return to form for the Orlando Apollos and the confirmation of the The Alliance’s best defence. So, without further ado let’s get Week Seven’s Conclusions.
Orlando became the first team to book their appearance in the AAF’s playoffs. Their 36-6 win over Atlanta cemented them as the first team to qualify.
Although Garrett Gilbert threw for 217 yards and a touchdown the day belonged to former Dolphins and Redskins running back De’Veon Smith. Smith picked up 40 yards on 13 carries but also hammered home 3 touchdowns.
As if their offence being the best in the league (Gilbert now has 11 touchdowns passing and 1 interception) the defence is getting involved again. On Saturday they added two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown by Deji Olatoye. With the Apollos expected to clinch home field advantage for the playoffs in the remaining three weeks they’re the team to beat.
Groundhog Day for Murray
Things didn’t go well for Atlanta’s Aaron Murray last week. Week Seven felt a bit like Groundhog Day as he continued to make mistakes at key moments. Despite completing an impressive 72.7% (16 of 22) passes, Aaron Murray continued to flounder against Orlando. His two interceptions eventually saw him benched for Matt Simms. Murray’s passes looked ineffective at the best of times as he gained just 135. He’s now thrown 6 interceptions and just 3 touchdowns.
His replacement, Simms, has fared even worse with the same number of interceptions but just a pair of touchdowns. For the Legends to win they must get more production from the quarterback.
San Antonio’s defence confirmed its place as the league’s dominant unit with a 19-15 win over Salt Lake. Although the unit struggled early on in the season there’s no doubting their place as the best defence to watch. On Saturday, San Antonio picked off two Josh Woodrum passes and forced a fumble.
First, Duke Thomas intercepted a pass as Salt Lake threatened to enter the red zone. The second interception, by former Philadelphia Eagle De’Vante Bausby, came on a two-point attempt that would have tied the game. Instead Bausby jumped the pass and returned it the length of the field to give the Commanders 2 points of their own (not a touchdown despite TV graphics initially showing this). The 4-point cushion was too much for Salt Lake.
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The Little Things Matter
Salt Lake’s defence did their part, with six sacks and an interception. Despite Karter Schult being held (sometimes literally) sackless, his defensive line mates took advantage of the extra attention he drew. Mike Purcell got to Logan Woodside twice while Sealver Siliga and Tenny Palepoi added a takedown a piece.
Ultimately, turnovers were key in this one. Woodrum is lucky that his extra point failure doesn’t officially count as a touchdown against him. He now has six interceptions and six touchdowns on the year. Without a consistent running game, he doesn’t look good enough to drive the team going forward.
Express use Clutch
The Memphis Express defeated Birmingham Iron. The upset 31-25 victory featured strong quarterback play from the Express. However, the come-from-behind victory was not orchestrated by former Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. Instead, it was Brad Silvers under centre. Silvers completed 24 of 35 passes (68.6) for 266 yards, 2 touchdown and no interceptions. The performance, especially the game winning drive in overtime, will make it more difficult for Memphis to switch to Manziel. Silvers has earned his chance to play…for now.
The win was all the more impressive given the complete absence of a running game. Zac Stacey rushed 13 times for 14 yards (a dire 1.1 yard per carry). Manziel was the team’s leading rusher gaining 20 yards on only 2 carries. After a strong early showing fans may be starting to wonder what’s happened to Stacey.
Helping the Express was Reece Horn, who continued to build a name for himself. He followed up last week’s breakout game with a dominant performance against the Iron. The imposing receiver snatched 7 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. His relationship with Silvers continues to pay dividends as the quarterback looked Horn’s way on key plays. His run-after-catch skills are impressive and he averaged 16.1 yards per reception.
Once again it was Luis Perez at quarterback for the Iron who stretched the field with long passes. Perez threw for 235 yards and two touchdowns. Agonisingly for Iron fans he completed just 43.2 percent of his passes. Multiple times he made ill advised throws or held on to the ball too long. Whilst there was definite progress, the season is in danger of slipping away for Birmingham.
Running back Trent Richardson continued his scoring record on short yardage, adding a touchdown. The better news for Richardson’s hope of an NFL return was running in open field. He galloped for 56 yards on 16 carries. An average of 3.5 yards per carry.
Hotshots Spark Again
Arizona’s 32-15 win over San Diego was largely thanks to a return of their running game, which has been absent in recent week. Their 189 yards rushing helped to take pressure off John Wolford as he rebounded from a series of poor games to pass for 2 touchdowns whilst only throwing 1 interception. An impressive 64 yard performance by Jhurell Pressley stood out in a game in which Rashad Ross was nursing an injury.
Meanwhile Mike Bercovici continues to chuck the ball with reckless abandon. This week he gained 310 yards despite completing just over 50% of his passes. It was his third 300-yard game of the season.