Efficient Rattlers Continue Rolling in (First?) Trip to Orlando
Last year on May 26th, the Arizona Rattlers beat the New Orleans VooDoo 69-45. They said then that they didn't want that to be the last win that the team had in the Bayou that season. That's exactly how things played out, as the Rattlers won ArenaBowl XXV at New Orleans Arena just two and a half months later. Now, they're leaving Orlando as 84-63 winners over the Orlando Predators, and the message is exactly the same.
"You want to win every game, but when you play a game like this in the place the ArenaBowl is going to be held at, you'd better get that good win kind of feeling in your body," said Nick Davila following the victory.
It was only two weeks ago that I wrote an article stating the Rattlers were the best team in the league because of their efficiency. That efficiency was certainly in play on Saturday night.
Davila threw nine TDs and one INT, and he lost a fumble in the fourth quarter when the game was long out of reach. He threw for 324 yards in the first three quarters and 411 yards for the game. The 411 yards was the second highest total for a quarterback in a game this season. It was the third time that Davila threw for 400+ yards in a game, but the first since Week 10 of the 2010 season.
From the middle of the second quarter through the middle of the fourth quarter, Davila threw 14 straight completions, and he led the Rats on nine straight TD drives over a span of just over two quarters.
Oh by the way, he was battling illness all week long and sounded like a nasal nightmare after the game.
Arizona finished the day with 426 total yards of offense against a hapless Orlando secondary that had no answers whatsoever for Maurice Purify, Tysson Poots, and Rod Windsor. All three Arizona receivers had at least 100 receiving yards, and all three scored three times.
Purify was particularly massive in the second quarter. All six of his catches came in the second quarter, and his three touchdowns came in a span of just over five minutes of game time. It was the first time that Purify had scored a touchdown since Week 1.
"In the first two or three games back [from injury], he was just getting into the game again," said Head Coach Kevin Guy of Purify. "Now he's starting to get into stride. You saw what he can do when he's on the field with Windsor and Poots at the same time."
Again though, it isn't the raw numbers, but the efficiency statistics that have me beaming over this team with just three weeks to play in the season. Arizona only faced three third downs for the entire game, and it went 2-of-3 on those third downs. The team didn't even have to take on a single fourth down for the entire night. The offense also only ran a total of 39 plays, averaging 10.9 yards per snap of the pigskin.
The Rattlers also did all of the little things in the game to win. The team held Dominic Jones, one of the most explosive kick returners in the league to just 81 yards on just five returns. Though the average of 16.2 yards per return isn't all that impressive, it's the fact that Arizona kicked off 13 times that made those numbers so impressive.
With 25 seconds to play in the first half, Windsor caught a pass for 29 yards, and instead of going into the end zone, he intentionally fell down at the Orlando three-yard line to take time off the clock. Arizona scored with six seconds left in the half, and the Predators never got off another snap. It was truly clock management at its finest by Coach Guy and his team.
And that's the difference between the Rattlers and the rest of the league. When the Spokane Shock had the ability to finish off the Predators, they decided to try to throw the football to run up the score. What ensued was a wild finish in which Orlando snapped victory from the jaws of defeat.
Now, with Arizona putting away the Predators, it is just one win away from clinching the No. 1 seed in the National Conference.
For Orlando, it's back to the drawing board. The team is just 5-10 on the season and are now on the wrong side of the playoffs with just three games to play. The team has now allowed at least 80 points for the third time this year, marking an AFL record, while it also allowed at least 60 points for the seventh time this year, tying a franchise record. The argument could be made that this is the worst defense in franchise history, and certainly the weakest secondary that the team has ever had, as Davila proved to be clinical all night long.
Arizona hosts the New Orleans VooDoo next week. The Predators host the Iowa Barnstormers, who are only just barely clinging to their postseason hopes.