Sloppy Play Sees SaberCats Ousted From Playoffs By Rival Rattlers
Coming into the 2012 Arena Football League playoffs, QB Mark Grieb was one of the most accomplished players in league history in the postseason. He has three rings to his credit and four trips to the ArenaBowl, and he has the second most yards for a quarterback in playoff history. However, he might have seen his illustrious career come to a close at the hands of his arch rivals on Saturday night, as the San Jose SaberCats dropped to the Arizona Rattlers 51-48.
In his playoff career, Grieb came into this one completing 68.0% of his pass attempts. That's why it was so shocking to see he and his SaberCats struggle so badly against an Arizona defense that allowed 148 points to them this year. Grieb finished the night going 26-of-57 passing for just 263 yards with five TDs and two INTs.
The turnovers were just as bad on the other side as well. QB Nick Davila was intercepted four times, two shy of the league playoff record. He completed just 21-of-42 passing for 246 yards with six touchdowns.
In and amongst the 14 stops (and one field goal for Arizona), the six picks, the three other combined interceptions that were called back via penalties, and the nine possessions that ended with either team getting a first down, what we had was a fantastic game between two arch rivals.
It really looked like the Rattlers were going to blow the Cats out of the water to start this game, as they jumped out to a 14-0 lead. San Jose turned the ball over on downs on its first two possessions, and then Grieb threw his first interception. The SaberCats fought back and tied the game at 14, only to fall behind 28-14 early in the third quarter. They went on a 21-3 run to take their first lead of the game.
WR Maurice Purify came back just two plays later and scored a 29-yard touchdown to give the Rattlers a 37-35 advantage, an edge that was extended to two scores when DB Arkeith Brown picked off Grieb and returned it 42 yards for a TD.
Following a touchdown on the next possession, it looked like the Cats had a chance to win, but an onside kick that had been recovered by the visitors was eventually overturned by an Arizona challenge when the kicker touched the ball at the nine-yard line, a yard before it could legally be touched by the kicking team. San Jose never had possession of the ball with a chance to get in the lead again.
The Rattlers actually didn't convert on a third down attempt (0/4) or a fourth down attempt (0/2) in the entire game. San Jose meanwhile, was 0-for-5 on fourth down before scoring on its last fourth down try of the duel.
The two teams combined to turn the ball over seven times. Arizona committed five of the turnovers but was still able to win this game, and it is believed that this is the first time in league history that a team has turned the ball over at least five times in a playoff game and still win. The 99 combined pass attempts by Davila and Grieb broke the league record for the most attempts in a playoff game in AFL history.
For San Jose, this season came to a bitter end. There are a heck of a lot of questions for the team to answer going into the offseason. Grieb is now 38 years old, and he is one of the 12 players on the team that are either active or on injured reserve that are at least 30.
Arizona now has 24 wins in the playoffs in franchise history, 19 of which have come at home. The victory moved the Rattlers in front of the Tampa Bay Storm/Pittsburgh Gladiators for the most playoff wins for a single franchise in league history. The 19 home playoff wins is also a league record.
In the end though, this was sweet revenge for the Rattlers. Over the history of this rivalry, they have usually come out on the wrong side of the crucial game, including going just 1-4 prior to tonight's clash in postseason games and 0-2 in ArenaBowls. Now though, while its rivals go home for the summer, Arizona is on to the National Conference Championship Game, where it will be hosting the Utah Blaze next week for the right to go to New Orleans for ArenaBowl XXV.