Physicality To Be Key in ArenaBowl XXIX
There are a lot of really smart people in the Arena Football League, and I've had the pleasure of interviewing several of them over the course of the last week. Most recognize the fact that the Philadelphia Soul are going to be decided underdogs on the road against the Arizona Rattlers in ArenaBowl XXIX on Friday night, but the common bond, regardless of who you speak to, suggests that physicality is going to end up being the key to the game.
The tone of this title fight was set right after the Soul punched their ticket to the game after beating Jacksonville. Dan Raudabaugh said with no reservation that the Soul were going to take it to the Rattlers. He doubled down on that statement in my interview with him from earlier in the week in what has amounted to be my favorite quote so far from anyone involved in this game.
"You've got to hit the gorilla in the mouth." – Dan Raudabaugh
It doesn't get any better than that.
Rattlers coach Kevin Guy speaks all the time about playing fast, playing physical and playing "Arizona Rattler football." He's developed this group of players which is out to not just beat you, but to beat you into oblivion. The Rattlers don't believe in taking their foot off the gas pedal until games are completely and utterly out of hand, and nor should they. It's how they've won three championships in the last four years and are arguably a total of one play and the perspective of one line judge away from having five straight championships to their name coming into this game.
The biggest part of the physicality comes from the Arizona wide receivers. Rod Windsor is 6-foot-2 and has some of the biggest hands I've ever seen in person. Maurice Purify is 6-foot-3 and plays like he's 8-foot-2. Even the third fiddle of this receiving corps, Anthony Amos stands at 6-feet.
When you hear people talk about the Philadelphia receivers, the discussion starts with Darius Reynolds. Reynolds is another big guy at 6-foot-2, and commentator Randy Gatewood described him as a man who "seeks out contact" at the receiver position.
Multiple players and commentators have mentioned the fact that the Philadelphia defensive backs are going to have to get into the face of the Arizona receivers and try to disrupt timing quite a bit. It didn't work against Joe Hills and Tiger Jones, men who often roamed free in the American Conference Championship Game, especially in the first half of the game. However, if the Soul can get their communication in order in the back and successfully bump and run with Nick Davila's three targets, this could become a much more interesting contest.
Ari Wolfe also mentioned that idea that the Soul have to come out of the blocks in a hurry. Raudabaugh's first pass against Jacksonville was picked off and returned for a touchdown. If he does that again in this game, it's highly unlikely the Soul are going to get back in things, especially since the Rattlers have scored 69 points in the second quarters of two playoff games this year.
If the Soul can stick around in this one for a while and ultimately punch Arizona in the mouth a few times, they're going to have a real shot at winning ArenaBowl XXIX. If they don't though, this will end up being their third time leaving the championship game without the Foster Trophy.