“Well, are you really that surprised?”
In the words of the iconic 1970’s pop duo, Hall & Oates, “Opening night, nothing new Atlanta.” The 10,717 fans in attendance at the Legends’ inaugural once again witnessed their team fail to secure a victory, after a 28-12 loss against the Birmingham Iron. Now 0-3 on the season, this loss was one of the most painful yet as the team’s mishaps outshined their progress. So, was I really that surprised by this game? My head says no, but my heart says yes. Hey, I guess that’s what a fool believes. (I applaud anyone who can spot all the 70s lyrics hidden in the article)
The negatives outweighed the positives in Week 3. Almost each would be “good” is mitigated by a correlating negative aspect making it difficult to find standalone takeaways to excite Legends fans. So, I acknowledge this is a section for optimists and for those who stop watching drives once they enter the red zone.
Big Week for Two Stats
The Legends accumulated a season-high, 21 first downs. This also was tied for most in the league for week three. That stat on first downs wasn’t good enough for you? Well, here is an interesting (or mildly depressing) statistic: in all three games, the Legends longest drive (number of plays) has occurred on their first possession. This week we saw the longest of the season with an opening drive of 16 plays! If the number of plays in a drive isn’t something to get excited about, I don’t know what is.
Tyson Graham, Jr.
The first half of week three, we witnessed Legend’s defense in prime form. They held the Iron offense to 100 total net yards, but eventually eroded in the second half. However, Defensive back Tyson Graham, Jr. had arguably the best individual performance on either side of the ball, recording 10 solo tackles, tied for the most by any player in a single game. Graham, the South Dakota product, also leads the league in total tackles with 24. Congratulations Tyson on being one of the Legends’ few highlights from this weekend.
*Bonus: Special Teams
I know we don’t normally talk much about special teams, but we need to find as many positives as possible. Half of Mark Criner, Atlanta’s Special Teams Coordinator / Linebackers coach, players (sorry linebackers) have been the lone source of consistency for the Legends this year. Kicker, Younghoe Koo has managed to stay perfect on the season nailing both field goal attempts. Punter, Cameron Nizialek set a personal high averaging 51.3 net yards per punt. Atlanta Legends long snapper Jeff Overbaugh, (I haven’t forgotten you) has been solid all season. Also, Jeff, if you ever Google yourself, I hope this article comes up and brings you joy.
So yes, the Atlanta Legends have looked bad through the first three weeks, ranking last in scoring offense and defense. However, what is more, alarming than the Legends’ record is their immense inconsistency and lack of identity on the field. One thing Legends’ fans can find comforting about their team’s inconsistency is the guarantee of at least one new talking point for this section every week.
A King Without a Crown
Two days before the home opener, Atlanta’s Quarterbacks Coach and defacto play caller, Rich Bartel, departed from the team due to personal reasons. This marked the third coach to leave the Legends’ staff. It is reportedly still unclear on who exactly was calling plays on Sunday, but it doesn’t take a fool to see that this sudden of a coaching change was a major contributor to the offensive woes on Sunday. The Legends’ coaching staff appears to be playing a game they can never win. (There’s a double-dose of lyrics for you)
A One-Hit-Wonder Offense
In 1970 Norman Greenbaum’s hit single, “Spirit in the Sky” sold 2 million copies and climbed to number three on the US Billboard 100. Now, have you ever heard another song by Mr. Greenbaum? I’m willing to bet your answer is, “no.” My point is that the Legends have a lot of Norman Greenbaums on the team. One example would be RB Lawrence Pittman. He showed his potential in San Diego averaging 4.7ypc on 9 carries for 42yds, but in week three he had 5 carries for 6 yards; Norman Greenbaum. Also all of our wide receivers who can’t stop dropping the ball; Norman Greenbaums
The Red Zone
There really isn’t much to be said here. If you tuned into Sunday’s game, you already know how embarrassing this was for the Legends. On offense, the Legends failed to generate any points on four trips inside the red zone. They also went for it twice on fourth and goal, one attempt from the 15-yard line, but I’ll attribute 50% of that to Bartel’s departure (the other 50% falls on head coach Coyle). Defensively the Legends allowed the RB Trent Richardson to rush for three touchdowns, all inside the 7-yard line. Overall, the Legends were pathetic in the red zone.
The Captain’s Final Take: Hey, Maybe Next Week
I know I didn’t address the elephant in the room, Quarterback Matt Simms. The QB did post-season-highs in passing and rushing (Simms led the team in rushing yards) Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to mask the three interceptions thrown as Simms now leads the league with six interceptions on the season. I’m sure the decision to leave him in the game stemmed from the coaching turnover, but this leaves fans in a difficult position. I would love to rip Kevin Coyle and bark for Aaron Murray (though I’m not entirely sure Murray would change much), but the truth is, we have no idea what in the world was transpiring on the Legends’ sideline. Week three leaves Atlanta Legends fans back in the same spot they’ve been in all season. All we can do now is say, “hey, maybe next week.”
1970’s Song Lyrics in the Article
- “Camellia” Daryl Hall and John Oates, 1974
- “What a Fool Believes” The Doobie Brothers, 1978
- “The Pretender” Jackson Browne, 1976
- “Jane” Jefferson Starship, 1979
- “Only a Fool Would Say That” Steely Dan, 1972
- “Do it Again” Steely Dan, 1972
- “Spirit in the Sky” Norman Greenbaum, 1970
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