Rattlers perfect run halted by Bay Area beatdown
The Arizona Rattlers' quest for perfection ended June 27 with a sickening thud.
Proving this game was circled on their calendar for quite some time, the San Jose SaberCats dominated all phases in dealing the Rattlers a humbling 62-33 loss at SAP Center.
Seeking a 15-0 start to the 2014 season, Arizona looked absolutely nothing like the team that had reeled off 18 straight victories dating back to last season. Quite frankly, this one was difficult to watch.
Rattlers Head Coach Kevin Guy worried earlier in the week that his team would not be focused with a much-needed bye week on the horizon. And the coach could not have been more correct as his team simply ran into a buzzsaw.
After scoring on its first possession, the Rattlers inexplicably seemed to totally shut down on offense and defense. Things got so bad, at one point San Jose had run off 48 unanswered points. The Rattlers were shut out in consecutive quarters, both the second and the third -- occurrences Rattler Nation is not accustomed to seeing.
The SaberCats registered seven defensive stops and Guy sat star quarterback Nick Davila (who at one point threw 11 straight incompletions) for the entire second half.
Davila was not his normal self, completing less than half his passes (8-for-22, 114 yards, 1 TD) when he had been connecting on nearly 70 percent of his throws so far this year. You have to give credit to a fired-up SaberCats defense, whose front three hit Davila constantly in the first half. Arizona's usually rock-solid offensive line had its worst performance of the season as San Jose's Jason Stewart and Francis Maka wreaked havoc in the Rattlers' backfield to the delight of 7,373 home fans. Davila was sacked for the first time in 12 games.
Trailing 55-7, it looked like the Rattlers were looking to get out of town without sustaining any injuries.
With Jason Murrietta at the helm, Arizona finished strong in the 4th quarter by outscoring San Jose 26-7. By then, though, the outcome had long since been decided. I can't figure out if Guy will want to burn the game film or force his team to endure the pain of watching it again. The loss, Arizona's first since July 20, 2013, was eerily similar to last year's 72-42 defeat at San Jose, also right before a bye week. It was the fewest points scored in a game by Arizona since 2008.
Regarding the webcast, it was another ESPN3 flop. The garbled KTCT audio was several minutes ahead of the video in the first half of the game. The sync issues were fixed at halftime but the voices were still difficult to understand for those diehard fans who watched until the bitter end.
Someone should also remind San Jose radio announcers Bob Fitzgerald and Steve Papin that the SaberCats did not just win the ArenaBowl. They won one regular season game. As the score got out of hand, these "media professionals" became more like a pair of rowdy fans sitting in the front row along the sidelines. Their continuing boxing references -- "down goes Frazier," for example -- were a total embarrassment to themselves and their radio station.
Maybe Cox 7 can fly Kevin Ray and Dale Hellestrae west to teach the duo how to properly call a game.
From an Arizona perspective, sometimes it helps a team to be knocked down a bit to regain focus. It is also important to remember that the loss, no matter how tough, was just one game. What Guy and his coaching staff must do is make sure the forgettable effort does not snowball into more trouble after the bye week when a tough trip to Spokane is on the docket.
With home field already locked up through the conference finals, the Rattlers are still on track to claim a third consecutive championship. Hopefully, this game was just a bump in the road.
Matt Loeschman is the business editor/city reporter at the Williamson County Sun and a color commentator for SHN Sports in Georgetown, Texas. As a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, he bleeds burnt orange but is also an avid fan of the Arizona Rattlers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Stars, Texas Stars, Houston Rockets, Houston Dynamo and Austin Aztex. With nearly 20 years of experience in print journalism and radio, Matt has covered sports ranging from high school to the pros along with local news. He has followed the AFL since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter @MattLoeschman.