The Atlanta Firebirds completed a season sweep of their division rivals with a week eleven road romp 38-24 over the Birmingham Predators.
“Anytime you can go out and score a solid road win over a division rival, you gotta be happy,” said Coach Rob Ryan. “We’ve been playing with some fire lately, and we’ve just gotta keep it burning hot.”
The Firebirds started the game red hot, driving 66 yards in 13 plays on their opening drive. They finished it off through the air with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Matt Barkley to Cameron Meredith. The defense followed it up with a 45-yard pick six by Bacarri Rambo.
“Getting a big momentum play like that, and doing it off a QB like Dork (Dak) Prescott is a real shot in the arm,” said Ryan. “We really fed off the energy.”
Birmingham bounced back with a 10-yard run by Alvin Kamara to cut the gap to 14-7 at the end of the first, but a pair of scoring passes from Barkley to Albert Wilson (32 and 15 yards) staked Atlanta to a 28-10 halftime lead.
The duo made it a hat trick to start the second half as Barkley hit Wilson for a 23-yard touchdown.
“We’ve got an offense full of weapons capable of beating you, and this week it was Big Al that stepped up,” said Ryan. “He’s a little dude, but he’ll whip you good.”
Faced with a daunting deficit, the Predators were able to score twice in the fourth quarter to trim the margin, but a 53-yard field goal by Wil Lutz with under three minutes to play helped ice the game.
After weeks of uneven play, Barkley had his best effort of the season, completing 22 of 34 for 277 yards, 4 touchdowns, and no interceptions.
“I know a game like that is more of a relief to Matt than anybody,” said Ryan. “He’s been working his tail off to turn his season around, and I hope this is a sign of things to come.”
On limited touches, Matt Breida paced the rushing attack with 41 yards on 6 attempts.
Wilson led all receivers with 116 yards and 3 scores on 6 catches. Cameron Meredith had another big game with 8 catches for 86 yards and a touchdown.
Nick Marshall led the defense with 8 tackles, and Joe Vellano picked up a pair of sacks.
The Firebirds aim for 9-3 and four straight wins when they host the 2-9 Columbus Explorers this week.
“You can’t afford to take anyone lightly. We’re going to have our guard up,” said Ryan. “The way they’re playing, especially that rookie QB (Josh Dobbs), they can put a scare into anyone.”