The Firebirds took another ding from a top team, falling to the 12-2 Buffalo Gunners, 30-24.
“I hate to lose any time, but say what you will, it’s taking a top effort to top us,” said coach Rob Ryan. “We’ve got to focus on finishing more of these games off, but we’re always right in the mix.”
Buffalo built an early 10-0 lead before Atlanta got on the board with a 51-yard Wil Lutz field goal late in the first.
A 30-yard pass from Nick Arbuckle to Ricky Seals-Jones tied the game, and Buffalo pulled back in front. Rodney Anderson broke off a 61-yard touchdown run to tie it again, and the Gunners booted a field goal to lead 20-17 at the half.
A disappointing trend continued as Arbuckle struggled badly, his fourth straight game completing less than 50 percent of his passes. His struggles have mounted to the point that he was pulled at halftime for Brad Kaaya in hopes of finding a spark.
“We’re not sure what’s wrong with Nick, maybe it’s a dead arm,” said Ryan. “My heart really hurts for him because he’s busted his ass for us all year, but he just doesn’t have it right now, and he understands we had to make the move.”
Buffalo ran their lead to 30-17 heading into the fourth quarter, when Kaaya hit Penny Hart for a 68-yard bomb, but they could not score again in the game’s last 13 minutes.
Arbuckle finished just 6 of 14 for 72 yards with a touchdown. In the second half, Kaaya completed 7 of 12 for 114 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception.
Rodney Anderson had an excellent outing with 128 yards and a score on 19 carries.
It was an uncharacteristically bad effort for the defense as they allowed 508 total yards, including 205 on the ground. Eric Berry led the effort with 11 tackles. Ethan Westbrooks and Kony Ealy each notched a sack.
Sitting at 9-5, the Firebirds look to bounce back and secure a playoff berth this week at home against the 8-6 Los Angeles Avengers.