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For the Dragons, an Unusual Route to Victory

Andrew Mason
Monday March 15, 2004


Who needs offense?

In climbing back to 3-3 with a 40-35 win over the Tampa Bay Storm, the New York Dragons bypassed their usual philosophy, relying on special teams and defense to post just their second win with 40 points or less since the franchise relocated to Long Island four seasons ago.

Throughout the Dragons` history on Long Island, the team has been defined by quarterback Aaron Garcia and an offense so potent, it renders field position irrelevant and causes teams to re-think their strategies, such as how the Tampa Bay Storm went for it on fourth-and-10 from deep in its own territory on the game`s first possession Sunday.

In spite of the fact that the Dragons received the kickoff to begin the second half, their offense didn`t reach the field until 10:06 of the third quarter elapsed. By that time, New York`s defense had stopped the Storm twice, and its special teams accounted for two touchdowns via Lincoln DuPree`s two kick returns of 57 and 38 yards.

That allowed the Dragons to survive one of the most difficult days of Garcia`s career with the club. In 39 games over four seasons with the Dragons, Garcia`s average passing yardage per game is 295.7. Against the Storm on Sunday, he threw for just 130—his lowest-ever as a Dragon—while tossing two interceptions.

"It really came down to defense all game," Garcia said. "We struggled on offense today. I struggled. But our defense played great, and we had some big plays on special teams."

Were it not for DuPree`s touchdown returns, the Dragons would have gone scoreless for more than half the game. After Richmond Flowers scored his second touchdown of the game on a 17-yard catch from Garcia, the Dragons` offense wouldn`t visit the end zone for another 37 minutes and 59 seconds, until Garcia and DuPree connected to push New York`s lead back to 40-28 with 2:57 left.

Over four possessions in the second, third and fourth quarters, New York`s offense gained just 23 yards. One drive ended on an interception, another on a missed field goal, another on downs and another with the end of the first half. As the offense remained parched, Garcia struggled, completing five of 10 passes for 32 yards and an interception on that quartet of drives.

"At the beginning they self-destructed. In the middle, they played very good football and we kind of self-destructed," Garcia said.

The Dragons` offensive struggles allowed the Storm to crawl back into the game twice, first at 20-14 heading into halftime, then when the Storm took possession in the game`s final minute with a chance to win that went astray when a last-play pass was ruled incomplete.

"I don`t know that we let them (back into the game). We gave them opportunities, but they made plays," Dragons head coach Todd Shell said. "They played like they are the defending champions; they made plays, and they gave themselves an opportunity."

But the opportunity wasn`t seized, and for the Dragons, on a day when defense and special teams ruled, it was just enough.


 
Andrew Mason was at the Tampa Bay Storm`s first home game on June 1, 1991 and has followed the game ever since. While in college, he served as content editor and co-founder of The Storm Shelter, a Web site which covered the Tampa Bay Storm on the Internet from 1996-99. He also volunteered with the team`s media relations department in 1998 and currently contributes to ColoradoCrush.com. He's covered the NFL for various on-line outlets since 1999.
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.
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