The Firebirds aren’t going down without a fight. Atlanta kept themselves in contention with a 23-9 win over the New York Marauders in a brutal defensive battle.
“I love it. That was some physical, smash mouth football from both sides,” said Coach Rob Ryan. “Add some rain and mud and I would be so excited my nipples could cut glass.”
The game belonged to the defenses, with the teams combining for only 437 yards of offense, while punting a whopping 17 times.
New York opened the scoring with a first-quarter field goal, and Atlanta took the lead on a 38-yard pass from Matt Barkley to Derrick Griffin and a 48-yard Wil Lutz field goal. Lutz added to the lead with a 47-yard boot, and, after another Marauder field goal, Barkley threw his second touchdown of the game, this time on an 8-yard dump off to Matt Breida, to take a 20-6 lead into halftime.
The second half was quiet with a New York field goal the only points in the third quarter and a Lutz 44-yard field goal the only mark in the final frame.
Atlanta’s defense was especially suffocating in the victory, limiting New York to only 174 total yards and keeping them out of the end zone. Perhaps most impressive was their ability to limit all-world quarterback Vad Lee to just 6 of 20 passing for 49 yards and an interception.
“You’d be hard pressed to find a finer athlete on this beautiful planet than that Vad kid, so to be able totally lock him down is an accomplishment I’m really proud of,” said Ryan.
The defensive effort was led by Grady Jarrett, who was simply unblockable, racking up 4 sacks.
Barkley was limited to 19 of 42 passing for 214 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception in the sluggish outing.
The running game was totally stymied, with Breida running for 29 yards on 11 carries and Mike Tolbert hitting 21 on 8 attempts.
Cameron Meredith was the lone bright spot on offense, hauling in 8 catches for 119 yards.
Atlanta, now two games above .500 at 8-6, looks to stay in the chase this week with a home game against the 8-6 Los Angeles Stars.
“We’re going to have our hands full with another tough team, but I know my boys are ready,” said Ryan. “We want the postseason, so we’re going to go out there and put our asses on the line.”