The Las Vegas Outlaws traveled into Arizona Saturday night in an interesting position. No matter what the result of their game vs the Rattlers, they would still control their own playoff destiny at its conclusion. Entering week 16 the Outlaws held a one game advantage over Spokane, a two game advantage over Portland, and a three game lead over Los Angeles. They still have one game left with all three teams this season. All four are fighting for the final two playoff spots. So the question Saturday night was, how would they come out against Arizona?
Vegas came out on fire to start the game. QB, Dennis Havrilla (17-31, 289 yds, 6 TD’s) opened the game 3-3 and hit Jomo Wilson for the 13 yard TD. Arizona responded with a two play 31 yard TD drive of their own. The Outlaws answered right back when Tysson Poots got behind the entire Arizona defense for the easy TD, but a holding penalty wiped out the score, as well as any ounce of rhythm the Vegas offense had built. The Outlaws tried a long FG on 4th & 20, but it was blocked and Arizona took over deep in Vegas territory.
Eddie Moten bailed out his offense with a quick interception, but the momentum was short-lived after a 4 & out gave Arizona the ball back inside the 10. Nick Davila found Rod Windsor for the second time and put the Rattlers up 14-7 late in the first quarter.
The Outlaws went with backup QB Kasey Peters on their next series. Peters is the 4th QB the Outlaws have used this season, and it showed. Peters first series ended in an Arizona interception. The Vegas defense once again bailed out the O when Tanner Varner recovered a Rattlers fumble. Peters fumbled the ensuing snap, but was able to recover his miscue. After a great Tysson Poots catch on 4th down set the Outlaws up with a 1st & goal at the 7, Peters again threw a pick to halt the drive. But again the defense responded with an interception.
With the Peters experiment now over, Dennis Havrilla was back in and leading the Outlaws towards the endzone. On 4th & goal, Havrilla threw a desperate pass up for grabs and TE/OL Terrance Campbell was able to come down with the ball for the TD with just :34 left. Nothing about the drive was pretty, however. Both Havrilla and Peters looked a step behind on every throw after that first drive. The Outlaws looked like they would be lucky to hit halftime tied at 14.
But it wasn’t to be. After a horrific quarter filled with turnovers, the Rattlers scored with just :10 remaining on what should have been a modest 5 yard gain. Some absolutely horrible tackling allowed Rod Windsor to go 33 yards for the TD and to put Arizona in front 21-14 at the half.
Sometimes I wonder why the Outlaws even come out for the third quarter. The Rattlers outscored the Outlaws 23-0 in the third. Three Nick Davila touchdowns and a Rattlers safety put the game out of reach for Vegas.
The Outlaws aren’t ones to lie down and quit, and were able put together a nice 4th quarter. Havrilla threw four of his six TD’s in the 4th. The Outlaws also managed to convert on two 2 point tries, as well as a successful onside kick. Unfortunately, the defense, which had been on the field for almost all of the 3rd, could not keep Arizona out of the endzone enough to complete the comeback.
The Outlaws drop to 5-9 with the 57-43 loss while the Rattlers improve to 12-2 and keep their hopes alive for home field. Portland (4-9) won at home vs Jacksonville Saturday night and are now just one game back of Vegas. LA and Spokane will play tomorrow. A Spokane win will draw them even with Vegas. A Los Angeles win would put them at 3-11 and keep their slim playoff dreams going.
The Outlaws know what little breathing room they had is now gone. They do, however have the easiest remaining schedule of the four teams. They will play LA next week, followed by New Orleans, Portland, and Spokane. All three teams have losing records, and minus N.O. (yet to play) Vegas is 4-1 against them. The other three teams still have to play the top of the division, as well as teams like Cleveland and Tampa Bay.
Four teams. Two spots. The last four weeks of the 2015 AFL season will be exciting.