Bad Decisions in Final Minute Cost Rush Against Talons
The Chicago Rush went into Saturday night’s game with a game and half lead over their Central Division opponent, the San Antonio Talons.
For over fifty seven minutes, it appeared as if the Rush would take control of the game and the division and put themselves in a solid position for a playoff spot.
Unfortunately for them, a full game is sixty minutes!
The Rush started a drive with 3:38 left in the game and a 54 – 49 lead. After obtaining a couple of first downs and running some time off of the clock, all logical thinking seemed to be lost.
After the one minute warning, the Rush had a first down from the Talons 14 yard line. Following a two yard run by fullback JJ Payne, the Talons took their first timeout.
On second down, instead of running the ball to eat more time and force the Talons to use their timeouts, the Rush decided to throw and quarterback Carson Coffman threw incomplete to Jared Jenkins. The incompletion stopped the clock and saved the Talons from having to use another timeout.
On third down, the Rush went to the air again with Coffman completing to Jenkins for a six yard gain forcing the Talons to use another timeout with 42 seconds left.
Then on a fourth down and two yards to go from the Talons six yard line, the Chicago Rush entered the Twilight Zone (queue music now!).
The Rush coaching staff decided to have Luke Drone come in to replace Carson Coffman.
On the play, Drone handed off to fullback JJ Payne who was stopped short of the first down. The ball was turned over on downs giving the Talons a chance to steal a victory.
Why change when the offense seemed to be unstoppable almost all night?
“My call 100 percent,” Rush head coach Bob McMillen stated. “I brought Luke in the game for an option play. Luke decided to give it to the fullback and we didn’t get it.”
“It was a fullback option to the left,” Drone said. “You have to read the end. If he takes a step upfield or if you think he is hesitating, you give it (to the fullback) and try to pound it through. Or if he comes down hard, I would pull it and go around the end. I read it as a give, but the guy I read ends up making the tackle. You obviously want to get the first down, but we just didn’t execute.”
What really doesn’t make sense in this situation is that it was obvious of what was going to happen once the replacement of Coffman for Drone was made. Nobody was fooled.
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” said Talons head coach Lee Johnson. “Luke Drone played for me and Coach (Mike) Hohensee with the Peoria Pirates in 2009. I know what he can do. Once he came into the game, I knew that was exactly what they were going to do. Either he was going to hand it off or have him follow the fullback. So I wasn’t surprised at all. If I had Luke (on my team), I would have done the same thing.”
What had been a struggling Talons offense found a quick way to score after the defensive stop as returning quarterback Rohan Davey found wide receiver Jomo Wilson in the endzone for a touchdown.
The Talons did not convert on the two point conversion, but took over the lead 55 – 54.
“We’ve had some trouble on offense this season,” Johnson said. “But we have been through eight quarterbacks. So it has been a challenge for us. When we needed stops in the second half we found a way to get them and that really helped us out and gave us a boost.”
The Rush would still have 28 seconds to move down the field and attempt to win the game. But on a second down play, Coffman threw a pass that was intercepted by Talons defensive back Carlton Brown.
Game over, right? Wrong. Not in the Arena Football League.
The Chicago Rush defense would still give its offense one more shot. Defensive Player of the Game Vic Hall intercepted Davey in the endzone with eight seconds left giving the Rush offense one more shot.
With their third attempt in less than a minute, the Rush still had a chance to win.
After an incomplete pass on first down, Coffman scrambled out of the pocket to his right on second down and heaved a pass downfield to Reggie Gray deep on the sideline. The ball went over the sideboard but was intercepted by Talons defensive back Fred Shaw at his own four yard line.
Cognizant of the ramifications of the game, Shaw emerged from the sideboard and proceeded to return the ball 46 yards for a touchdown. At the time, the Talons had the victory, but the return increased the margin of victory to seven points, 61 – 54.
The additional touchdown gave the Talons the tiebreaker against the Rush should the two teams tie for the division lead at the end of the season.
After the interception, the air was completely taken out of the Rush. Nobody attempted to tackle Shaw as he trotted into the endzone as time expired.
“A lot of us just thought the game was over and that he was just celebrating,” Rush fullback JJ Payne said. “Then you see him running down the field trying to score. You never assume that it’s over until it’s over. But we thought he was out and the play was over.”
Gray saw the play much differently.
“I didn’t touch him or anything because the ball hit the pavement and bounced up into his hands,” he said “At that point it’s incomplete. I guess the ref didn’t see it and on video they obviously couldn’t see it hitting the pavement, so I don’t know.”
McMillen challenged the play trying to only give up the one point loss, but the officials ruled in favor of the Talons and upheld the seven point win.
The final play left coach McMillen furious at his team.
“For fifty seven minutes we played great and for three minutes we played like absolute crap,” he said emphatically. “It is embarrassing to watch our team quit on that last play. And no one knew what was going on.”
Even more infuriating to McMillen was the play of his quarterback in the final stretch of the game.
“I am extremely disappointed in the play of our quarterback Carson Coffman,” he stated with a passion. “Extremely disappointed. We have 28 seconds left and we have to go 45 yards and he feels a little bit of pressure and he wants to throw the ball up (for grabs). He’s gotta learn to toughen up in those kind of games and know that he wants the ball. That is what a leader is on this football team. A quarterback is a leader. We have the ball with 28 sends left and I am going to make a play instead of just throwing it up and throwing a pick.”
On the last interception, McMillen questioned his quarterback’s effort after the interception was made asking “where was he standing? What was he doing? He was the last guy in the line of defense. Where was he?”
It is this lack of effort that still has McMillen wondering if he still has the right guy on the field in his leadership position.
“It is a shame. We are going to watch this week in practice to see who will start next week between Drone and Carson. I am not playing favorites here. I don’t care how well Carson has played the past few weeks. It’s what have you done for me lately is how I look at things.”
After having what many would deem a successful season given the circumstances to this point, hopefully the wheels are not falling off and the team pulls it back together after giving one away.
The loss halts the Rush’s three game win streak.
The loss makes the Rush 2- 5 in home games this season.
The Rush will play their final four games “away” where they are 5 – 1 so far this season.
McMillen was also not pleased with his kicker Jose Martinez. Martinez missed two extra points giving him five missed EPs over the past two games at the BMO Harris Center in Rockford. McMillen is concerned that Martinez may be injured.
Defensive tackle Darrell Campbell left the game with an ankle injury, but says he will be okay for next week’s game at Tampa Bay.
Jeff has been writing for ArenaFan.com since 2004. Originally from New York, Jeff has been living in the Chicago area for the past ten years and is an avid football fanatic. He holds a BA in communications from Hofstra University in New York and a sports management certificate from Loyola University in Chicago.