Predators Blow Biggest Lead In AFL History
When the Pittsburgh Power beat the Orlando Predators at the Amway Center in the first game of the 2012 Arena Football League season, several players, including QB Kyle Rowley were forced to bus back to the Steel City. The Predators should be forced to walk back to Orlando after coughing up a 31-point lead and losing at Consol Energy Arena 57-54 on Saturday night in overtime.
Kudos to the Power for never giving up. They were down 48-17 and had QB Derek Cassidy in the lineup in place of the injured QB Andrico Hines. Cassidy had thrown just 24 passes in his AFL career before this game, and he has only been in Pittsburgh for two weeks. He is the de facto fourth quarterback for the Power this year, after Rowley (who never did officially suit for the team), Hines, and Bill Stull.
However, with apologies to Cassidy, he didn't exactly have a good game. He went 12-of-22 for 148 yards with five TDs and four picks, and he was largely off for the most part from the very first pass that he threw in the game, an INT returned for a touchdown.
The story in this one was clearly the play of the Predators. They took a 41-17 lead at halftime and immediately took a 48-17 lead in the first drive of the second half. At that point, QB Justin Roper, who started in place of the benched QB Collin Drafts had gone 14-of-19 for 150 yards with six TDs and no picks.
And then it fell apart… From then, Orlando had the following possessions… INT, Fumble, Downs, INT, INT, field goal, missed field goal, field goal. Joyous. On those eight drives (seven of which were offensive drives), Roper went 10-of-27 for 95 yards with no scores and three INTs.
Just think about the magnitude of what Orlando could have done in this game. The Predators got the ball back up 48-24 with 5:51 to play in the third quarter. They ran 19 plays from then to the one minute warning in the fourth quarter, and at that point, they were still up by four points.
So let's go back and look at a drive chart again.
Roper was picked off on the first play of the next drive, a drive that took 0:28 to run. The next drive took 4:36 off the clock on eight plays. Next were four plays and a pick, taking 2:57. Then three plays and an INT, taking 1:16. In total, the team took 9:17 off the clock and didn't score.
On those drives, had Orlando just literally taken three knees and punted the ball (and yes, I said punted, not even attempted a field goal), the offense would have killed 2:30 per drive, or a total of 10 minutes, scoring the exact same zero points. Hell, throw in a delay of game or a false start penalty on each of those drives, and 12 minutes could have come off of the clock instead.
Amazingly, Pittsburgh didn't attempt a single onside kick in the game, and it didn't recover one ball off of the net or the bar.
As far as what we at ArenaFan can tell, this was the third biggest collapse in the history of professional football. The only game in which a team blew a bigger lead in the NFL was when Frank Reich led the Buffalo Bills from 32-points down to beat the Houston Oilers in the playoffs. Thanks to ArenaFan.com member QBall13, we have also uncovered the fact that the Tennessee Valley Vipers rallied from a 34 points down to beat the Arkansas Twisters in 2001.
(Note: The biggest comeback in the history of college football came when the Michigan State Spartans beat the Northwestern Wildcats 41-38 after trailing 38-3 in the third quarter.)
Unofficially, the biggest lead in the history of the AFL that was choked away was by the Columbus Destroyers in 2007 against the Dallas Desperados. In that game, Columbus was up 37-7 against a heavily favored Dallas team with 0:30 to play in the second quarter. The Desperados went on to score five of the next six touchdowns and went on to win 53-51.
Of course, Columbus went on to beat Dallas in the playoffs and then went to the ArenaBowl. Somehow, this writer doesn't think that the Predators are on their way to ArenaBowl XXV…
For what it is worth, the biggest comeback in NFL history in the regular season was 28. To this point, ArenaFan has not found a comeback in any of the other professional, minor league football leagues of more than 29 points.
So of course, the next question is what happens to the Predators. They have the worst record in the league at 0-5, and they are one of the two teams in the league (joining the Kansas City Command) that are winless. They are also three games back in the loss column in the Southern Division and in the playoff picture as a whole. The Georgia Force are on deck back at the Amway Center in Week 7, but if that game is lost, four of the next five are on the road, including two games in division and then games at the Philadelphia Soul and San Jose SaberCats, two of the best teams in the league.
It is clear that Drafts is finished, at least for the time being as the starting quarterback for the team. He never even touched a football on the sidelines, as it was clear that the pigskin belonged to Roper from start to finish in this one regardless of what he was doing. And, after such a ridiculously awful last seven drives of the game and this type of a collapse, it is a real question as to whether or not Roper can really saddle it up again.
Save for perhaps the 1991 expansion Orlando team, it is clear that this is the worst in the history of the team. The five-game losing streak to start off the season is the longest to start a campaign in team history. Dating back to last season's loss in the first round of the playoffs, the Predators have dropped six games in a row, the longest stretch in the history of the team. The previous longest losing streak came when Orlando lost the final two games of the regular season in 2007, a first round playoff game, and then the first two games of the 2008 season. The Predators only have two four-game losing streaks in a single season in team history, once in 2003 and once in 1991.
The big question that I was asking earlier this week was whether the Predators could keep their streak of consecutive seasons in the playoffs. It is clear that their mark of 19 straight postseason bids is as impressive of a streak as professional football has ever seen.
However, at this point, after hitting the lowest of the low, blowing a 31-point lead to a team that was playing with its de facto fourth quarterback, I feel like I'm Jim Mora right about now. The only question to ask?
Playoffs?!?!?! Don't talk about playoffs?!?!?! You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope the 2012 Orlando Predators can win a game.