We are a third of the way through the AFL season. While there is still a lot of football left to be played, two things are very clear. The LA KISS are really bad, and the San Jose Sabercats are really good. LA was in Las Vegas last week and made the Outlaws look like one of the AFL elite. Vegas completely dominated LA and won easily 49-16. This week the Outlaws traveled to San Jose. The result was about as different as any result could possibly be.
San Jose received the opening kick off, and let everyone in the SAP Center know that they were in for a show. Reggie Gray got behind the Vegas secondary and hauled in a 28 yard pass for a TD on the games first offensive play. The Outlaws responded with a quick score of their own, a JJ Raterink QB sneak from the 1. As the great Yogi Berra once said, “Deja vu all over again.” On just the second San Jose play, Gray got open again for a 29 yard TD. Two plays, two touchdowns. The Sabercats capitalized on an Outlaws fumble on the kickoff, and before the seats in the arena were warm, it was 21-7. Vegas drove the length of field on their next possession, but their goal line offense once again failed them as it has so many times in this young season. On 3rd & 4th and goal from the 1, the Outlaws were denied a TD. San Jose once again responded with a quick TD drive. Gray’s 3rd TD catch of the quarter gave the Cats a comfortable 28-7 lead heading to the 2nd.
The Outlaws came out firing in the 2nd quarter. Raterink found Jomo Wilson for a 10 yard TD to close to within 14. Just 1 minute later, Darius Reynolds took a screen pass 34 yards for another San Jose score. When a defense plays a lot of man to man, d-line pressure is key. The Outlaws got no such pressure. Stanley was able to stand in the pocket without fear, and deliver strikes to receivers all night long. He picked apart the Outlaws secondary on every offensive possession of the half. Vegas did finally get to Stanley with just 1:00 remaining in the 1st. Momentum looked to be turning as the Outlaws recovered a San Jose fumble with :19 left down 34-14. A Score to end the half, plus getting the ball back in the second could change the game. But it was all for not. The play was challenged, and the call was overturned. On the very next play San Jose ended any thoughts of an Outlaws comeback with another TD. Vegas tried to get a score before the half, but Jomo Wilson was shoved out of bounds at the (fittingly) 3 yard line as time expired.
The Outlaws opened the second half with a very long (especially in AFL standards) 6 1/2 minute drive. JJ Raterink found Jason Willis for the Outlaws TD to make it 42-21. The Outlaws only shot to get back in the game was to go for the onside kick. San Jose was able to bat the ball out of bounds, and just like in the 1st half, it took only one play for them to get in the endzone. On the ensuing drive, with the Outlaws facing another 4th down, JJ Raterink was sacked by Donte Paige-Moss. Raterink fumbled the ball, and Rodney Fritz got himself the scoop & score TD for San Jose. It would be the final play of the 3rd quarter with San Jose leading 55-31.
Outlaws backup QB, Sean Brackett came in to start the 4th. His first pass was picked off, and again the Sabercats made the Outlaws pay with another score. The San Jose TD came at the 12:46 mark and gave them a 61-21 lead. Clint Soloman was able to give Las Vegas one last highlight. He got behind the San Jose secondary as a perfect Raterink pass fell in is arms. Soloman dropped it, batted it forward, then dove in the endzone and made the catch. #SCTop10 worthy, in my humble opinion.
The Las Vegas defense got their first, and only stop of the game with just 5:39 remaining. San Jose scored 9 touchdowns on just 8 offensive possessions. Efficient. The Outlaws can not play a team as good as the Sabercats and continue to have empty possessions. Too many drives this season have ended inside the 5 yard line without anything to show on the scoreboard. Turnovers on downs are no different than interceptions, and fumbles. As long as they continue to make those mistakes, the elite teams in the AFL will make them pay. After all, they only get to play LA one more time…
Las Vegas (3-3) will travel to Arizona (5-2) next week to play the Rattlers. The Outlaws got their first win as a franchise against Arizona back in week 2. No doubt the Rattlers are looking for a little payback.