The Firebirds might not be ready for prime time after all. A week after a disappointing loss in the season opener, the team returned to Atlanta for their home opener only to be throttled by the Michigan Stags 36-13.
“We looked at these first two games as a measuring stick because we had a pair of really tough teams on the schedule,” said Coach Rob Ryan. “Unfortunately, we didn’t measure up.”
For a half, the Firebirds hung with the title favorite. A 51-yard Wil Lutz field goal helped them keep pace in the first quarter, and he added another boot early in the second quarter. They grabbed their one and only lead of the game midway through the frame when Alex Scearce scooped up a fumble and raced 68 yards to the house.
It was all downhill from there as the Stags added two field goals to go back in front at the half, 16-13. After the break it was all Michigan as they outscored Atlanta 20-0.
“It felt like we stayed behind in the locker rooms in this one,” said Ryan. “It was a pretty disgraceful effort, and I’m not about to stand for anymore of this b*&&%^$#.”
The first key change came the next morning with news that ownership opened up the pocket book to sign Menelik Watson, a former big money NFL offensive tackle who is looking to show he is healed from an Achilles injury.
The hope is Watson can rejuvenate a line coming off a terrible performance where the team was limited to 28 yards rushing and just 2 yards per attempt. Quarterback Matt Barkley was harassed all night for 4 sacks, while completing 18 of 30 for 181 yards and an interception.
In a porous effort by the defense, Ronald Blair had the best showing with 8 tackles and a sack. Grady Jarrett added a sack of his own. Jarvis Jones had a team-high 9 tackles.
At 0-2, the Firebirds will search for a desperately-needed bounce back this week against the winless expansion Oklahoma Roughnecks.
“If we don’t win that one, you might as well start packing up my office because the fans will run me out of town on a rail.”