To say the Birmingham Iron has exceeded expectations would be an accurate statement. This team was projected to be one of the worst in the Alliance prior to the Week 1 shutout of the Express. Following the Week 2 come from behind victory against the Salt Lake Stallions, perceptions have changed. Birmingham boasts the AAF’s second-best defense, behind only the Arizona Hotshots. They lead the Alliance in scoring defense and yards allowed per pass. They fall in just behind the Hotshots in yards allowed per play. Now the Iron Curtain takes the show on the road.
Looking to maintain their undefeated record, Birmingham heads to Atlanta to face the struggling Legends. Atlanta has been abysmal on offense and has been terrible against the run on defense. This could bode well for the Iron. Trent Richardson is a major part of the offense and could finally break out in Week 3. Only averaging 2.5 yards per carry, the former Alabama standout and the 3rd overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft has to be licking his chops. Let’s take a look at what the Iron need to do in order to cash in on win number 3.
- Run early and often.
Atlanta has the worst run defense in the Alliance. Offensive Coordinator Steve Logan will look to exploit this weakness and keep the ball in the hands of his star running back. Trent Richardson has yet to break off a run over 15 yards through 2 weeks. That should change this week. Ladarious Perkins will see his fair share of carries as well. While the Iron offensive line has looked soft in run blocking up to this point, I would expect to see a significant improvement for Week 3.
- Utilize play-action.
Atlanta’s defense hasn’t been much better against the pass than they are against the run. They are able to create pressure effectively with the front four, however. Tracy Sprinkle is a guy the offensive line will look to contain. The safeties for the Legends, Ed Reynolds and Tyson Graham, are definite ball-hawks. Along with corner Doran Grant, the secondary for Atlanta is nothing to sneeze at. Birmingham will need to get the run game established immediately and utilize their play-action passing game to freeze the safeties and delay Grant at the line of scrimmage. Grant appears on the injury report this week, and that could benefit the Iron as well if he is not at 100%.
- Keep Simms under duress.
Matt Simms has been underwhelming as a passer up to this point. A lot of that falls on his offensive line not providing him with great protection. This offense has scored only 18 points through 8 quarters of football. With no run game to speak of and limited opportunities to stand in the pocket and deliver, Simms has struggled. He will get no reprieve this week against Birmingham’s shutdown secondary and dangerous linebackers. Jonathan Massaquoi and Beniquez Brown should have a field day. According to Head Coach Tim Lewis Brown is the leader for the defense. I would look for him to have another solid day at the office.
- More “Special” Teams plays.
.@TheAAF Special Teams Player of the Week?
None other than @jsum‼️
— Birmingham Iron (@aafiron) February 19, 2019
Through the first two weeks of play, the Iron have claimed both AAF Special Teams Player of the Week honors. Nick Novak was crucial in the Week 1 win over Memphis. Last week Jamar Summers came up with a crucial forced fumble to swing momentum. Shaheed Salmon recovered the fumble in the end zone to put Birmingham on the board. That was the point in the game that the tide shifted. The Iron finished the comeback victory in the 4th quarter thanks to poor special teams by the Stallions. Punter Colton Schmidt has been a huge part of helping the defense create long difficult drives for opposing offenses. If Birmingham wants to continue their success, then the guys on special teams have to continue with clutch playmaking.
This is what many consider a trap game for Birmingham. Coming in too high after last week’s huge win at home, it could easily turn into an upset. The guys in Black and Silver must maintain focus and execute every play correctly. Mental errors will kill you. Birmingham has done a fantastic job limiting penalties. They have to continue this trend in a hostile environment away from home. #ForgeOn!