Heavy Playoff Implications Set the Tone for SaberCats vs. Talons Game
The San Antonio Talons (8-6) are looking for their third consecutive road win this week as they head to San Jose to take on the SaberCats (10-4). These two teams have transformed since facing each other in week one’s 47-42 ‘Cats victory in San Antonio.
Both the Talons and SaberCats have different quarterbacks since last playing in San Antonio as Russ Michna has stepped in to take over the starting duties and Rohan Davey has done the same for the Talons. Each quarterback will be facing an aggressive defensive line this week as each team is tied for second in the AFL with 28 sacks.
Head Coach Darren Arbet shares a little insight into what he’s seen as far as strengths that the Talons possess and he emphasized the defenses ability to, “Rush the passer, they can really do that.” Arbet went on to say, “Tim McGill is playing great right now and Joe Sykes, there’s a reason why he’s the Defensive Player of the Year in the league. Their defensive backs are ball hawks, Jomo Wilson is an All-League guy in my mind, and Rohan is getting better and better every week.”
While Michna has been very careful with the ball only having thrown seven interceptions in the nine games he’s played, he’s going to have to continue to play it safe as he’s facing a secondary full of ball hawks having posted 24 interceptions for the season. With help from the defensive line applying constant pressure and disrupting the opposing quarterback, the Talons' secondary sits second in the league for interceptions.
Michna shares his thoughts on what the Talons have been doing well, “They’re one of the better defensive lines in the league and they do a great job of getting after the passer. The guys in the back end do a real good job of disguising what they’re trying to do and making you think about where the ball has to go. So when you put those two combinations together, it makes for a really good defense.”
To intensify an already tough matchup, the SaberCats will be facing a number of standout former players like defensive back Andre Jones as well as the aforementioned McGill, who are both coming off of big games last week. McGill was just voted as Week 15 AFL MVP. Another former SaberCat is Sykes who posted 16 sacks last season in San Jose, and this season he’s currently leading the Talons with ten sacks and 12 tackles for loss.
The SaberCats have some former Talons on their roster, one of which is their top receiver, veteran Jason Willis. Willis’ preparation for this week has been focused on getting the game plan perfected so that the disguised coverages the Talons secondary will present won’t mess with his mental game.
“Being that they’re my ex-team, I know that they play physical. They’re going to try and disguise a lot of coverage’s and just try to mess with us mentally. So we have to come out there and just really stick to our game plan and I think we’ll come through,” said Willis.
While the Talons' record doesn’t sound too threatening to a team that recently downed the Arizona Rattlers, their recent three-game winning streak has moved them up to the top of the Central Division. The SaberCats have a streak of their own having taken down two tough division rivals these past two weeks with the most recent victory being on the road in a challenging Utah atmosphere.
Michna reflects on these two recent division victories, “They were very big, we have the mindset that we want to win every game but some of them end up being more important than others, no doubt. It’s good that we’ve gotten ourselves on track and that we were able to get a couple of wins and the win on the road is big too, against a pretty good team.”
Going into this game against the Talons, the ‘Cats offense has an arsenal of weapons with two receivers having met the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Willis, one of the 1,000-yard men, shared a little insight on how he feels about the offense at this point in the season, “I think we’re clicking now and we’re still fine tuning. I think we still have minor details that we need to figure out but at the end of the day we get the ball rolling, we just need to come out strong.”
The ‘Cats defense is coming off of a standout game forcing three turnovers on downs and recovering two fumbles that greatly contributed to the big win in Utah. These momentum-impacting plays on defense combined with the consistency amongst receivers on offense will be the platform for success for this hungry San Jose team.
With post-season around the corner and the ArenaBowl in sight, both the Talons and SaberCats know what they must do to get a shot at making it there. For the SaberCats, they’re currently tied with the Spokane Shock and will be looking to clinch a playoff berth with a victory against the Talons. San Antonio is hoping to earn a win so that it can stay in the playoff hunt. Expect to see a high level of play from each team as playoff implications are in the air for any ones taking. The key for a SaberCat victory will be getting a quick start, and as Willis said, to come out strong.
Quotes of the Week:
Coach Arbet shares his feelings towards his team’s performance at this point in the season, “They're getting better and better every week. The guys are starting to step up and their starting to understand the urgency that’s coming at this part of the season.”
Michna on Playing at Home
“I love it here in San Jose. We’ve had much better games here for sure and they’re a great fan base. I haven’t spent much time around them in the right colors, but you know in the wrong colors I hated coming here and that’s held true so far. They’ve done a great job at supporting us and we appreciate it.”