Davila down would leave Rattlers out
Everyone knew winning a fourth straight ArenaBowl would be extremely difficult. The Arizona Rattlers' play over the last month is making it look nearly impossible.
The three-time defending Arena Football League champions are struggling at the worst possible time. In losing two of their last three games, the Rattlers have also lost their mojo, lost their momentum and last weekend at San Jose, lost their cool and maybe their franchise quarterback.
In what was expected to be one of the league's marquee games this season, Arizona experienced a second-half meltdown in all phases of the game. The San Jose SaberCats delivered a clear message that they are the team to beat in the National Conference this season, easily dispatching the Rattlers 56-29 to clinch the top seed and leave second-seeded Arizona wondering if they can beat their arch rivals should they meet again.
Arizona put up some very un-Rattler-like numbers – 3 points in the second half while allowing San Jose to score 27 straight.
Clearly frustrated with their second-half play, it was an ugly scene at the SAP Center as the game ended. A few minutes earlier, wide receiver Rod Windsor took off his helmet on the field and appeared to throw a punch at a SaberCats defender. He was not flagged on the play but that was only a precursor to the postgame fiasco.
Rattlers Head Coach Kevin Guy clashed with SaberCats bench boss Darren Arbet as the teams headed to their respective locker rooms. Guy also got into it with SaberCats Defensive Coordinator Cedric Walker. Having watched the AFL for nearly two decades, it was one of the worst scenes I can remember seeing. This is the league's most-heated rivalry but this was totally uncalled for.
“Arizona’s a great football team,” Arbet told ArenaFan's Griffin Aseltine after his team dismantled the Rattlers. “Kevin (Guy) and his staff are going to rebound and they’re going to be OK.”
OK? Possibly. Champions for a fourth straight year? Doubtful.
Simply put, the Rattlers are too inconsistent this season. They will follow up their best quarter of the season with one of their worst.
Quarterback Nick Davila has not been quite the same since returning from an injury earlier this season. Against San Jose, Davila was routinely sailing throws 10 yards into the stands on plays he normally could make in his sleep. He was feeling pressure all night from a ferocious top-ranked SaberCats defense.
With the game out of hand, Davila was still in with about three minutes left and Arizona trailing by 27 points. Why he was still toiling under the relentless pass rush is anyone's guess and the Rattlers soon paid the price.
Davila, the reigning AFL most valuable player and face of the Rattlers' franchise, took a high-low hit from two defenders and was in serious pain. Replaced by Shane Boyd (who should have been in much sooner), Davila winced as trainers from both teams checked on his ribs from the sidelines.
There is speculation those ribs could be broken. If so, Guy will regret his incomprehensible decision to leave Davila open to injury in a blowout loss. Guy is the ultimate competitor but sometimes you have to think about the future – namely, the playoffs that start in less than two weeks.
Even the CBS Sports Network commentators, including Rattlers legend Sherdrick Bonner, were questioning Davila's presence in the game before the injury occurred.
Rattler Nation is on pins and needles waiting for the official diagnosis. No disrespect to Boyd, but he is not in the same class as Davila. Basically no one is.
If Davila is out for the playoffs, the Rattlers might need Ethan Hunt to step in at quarterback. Because without the Latin Laser, winning another championship might be mission impossible.
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.