Week 4 of the Alliance season started with promise and ended with a whimper, with the Atlanta Legends coming through on Sunday night and defeating the Arizona Hotshots 14-11 with their backup quarterback. Like the game that came before it on Sunday, it was a mostly ugly affair, but the Legends were able to pick up their first win of the season, meaning that every AAF team now has at least one win.
The Hotshots lost their second game in a row after looking pretty good over their first two games, and they can’t really blame this one on being in the cold in Salt Lake City. Instead, they played in front of nearly 9,000 fans at Sun Devil Stadium, who watched the Hotshots fail to come through time and time again on defense, allowing a backup quarterback to throw for over 250 yards in relief. But it started out alright for them…
Early Defensive Play
The Legends started with the ball, and through the first three plays, the Hotshots defense failed to show up. The Legends drove to the red zone on three plays, and on second-and-8 from the 14-yard line, the Hotshots defense finally arrived, with Carl Bradford coming free on an outside blitz and getting to Legends’ quarterback Matt Simms, sacking him for an 11-yard loss and forcing a fumble. The hit also forced Simms from the game with an injury, improving the Hotshots chance in the game…
Until they went three and out. Still, going was a little slower for the Legends now with Aaron Murray in at quarterback (Simms had thrown for over 300 yards last week). They managed to drive the field a bit, but ultimately the drive stalled on a failed fourth down play. After exchanging punts, Arizona took possession on their own 7-yard line, and Rashad Ross was tackled in the end zone for the first safety in league history. With one minute left in the first quarter, the Legends led 2-0.
Second Quarter Fireworks
After the safety, the Legends were again driving, but like seemingly all of the rest of their drives in this one (save two), it eventually stalled out in the Hotshots red zone. Instead of attempting the chip shot field goal, the Legends decided to attempt a fake field goal… resulting in a ten-yard loss for Legends kicker Younghoe Koo.
Luckily for the leaders, however, the Hotshots offense again sputtered out and punted, and Aaron Murray went to work. He went 5-for-6 for 40 yards on the next drive, and added a 19-yard scramble for good measure. Former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson took it the final nine yards for the touchdown, giving the Legends an 8-0 lead with about two minutes left in the half. Arizona then took the ball and managed to get a 39-yard field goal from Nick Folk, and ended the half trailing 8-3.
Onto the Fourth Quarter
The third quarter was a punt fiesta, with the next score coming on a Younghow Koo field goal 1:22 into the fourth quarter. With a seemingly insurmountable 11-3 lead, the Hotshots fans were probably pretty dejected by the whole thing, and they couldn’t have felt any better when the subsequent Arizona drive ended with a missed Nick Folk field goal. But a three-and-out forced by the Hotshots defense inspired the offense the next time out.
It was set up by a 39-yard punt return by Deion Holliman, who returned the punt to the Atlanta side of the field. Four plays later, quarterback John Wolford found a streaking Rashad Ross for a 20-yard touchdown pass down the right side, and converted on the conversion attempt, tying the game at 11 and breathing life back into the crowd.
The Legends managed to burn over four minutes on their next drive, which ended with another Younghoe Koo field goal with just over a minute left in the game. That would set the final score at 14-11, as the Legends defense managed to stop the Hotshots offense in a last ditch effort to get into field goal range, giving the Legends their first win on the season.
Aaron Murray played a mistake-free game, throwing for 254 yards (on 20 of 33 passing). He also led the team in rushing, with 54 yards on seven carries, pushing his total offense over 300 yards for the game. On the other side of the field, Jhurrel Pressley went over 100 yards for the first time on the season, ending with 110 yards on 14 carries.
Next Week’s Schedule
In what was going to be a matchup of winless teams before they both won this past weekend, the Legends (1-3) will host the Memphis Express (1-3) on Sunday afternoon. It will be the Legends’ second home game of the season, and they hope to improve on the 10,717 fans that saw them lose last week.
The Hotshots (2-2) will stay at home and welcome the San Diego Fleet (2-2), with the winner likely taking over first place in the Western Conference. Arizona is 1-1 at home on the season, and hopefully the chance to move back into first place will get more fans out to the game on Sunday night.
Until next time…