Football is a game of inches, and every aspect of every play can affect the game in a positive or negative way.
For a team to win, they have to do almost everything right. Rarely can a team only control three aspects of a game and win. But there are always the three they must control if they want to walk out of the stadium with a win.
These three aspects of the game are all things the San Diego Fleet struggled with during their game against the Commanders and will have to fix against the Atlanta Legends. I fully expect them to do so, as this could be a bounce-back game for this San Diego offense.
1. Protect the QB
This has to be the most important thing for the San Diego Fleet going into Sunday’s game. In the games they have played, the Fleet has given up 13 sacks. That much pressure on the quarterback is never good and is one of the main reasons they lost last week. Mike Bercovici and Phillip Nelson never had a chance to get comfortable in that offense. If they are given time, they will have a chance to make plays in Martz’s downfield offense. Martz also has to make sure he gives the new starter, Phillip Nelson, a chance to get rid of the ball quickly to start the game.
One big step towards being able to protect the quarterback is being able to get starting center Jeremiah Kolone back on the field. Guard Damien Mama played center last week, and while he didn’t play bad, his shotgun snaps seemed to be off target and limited the options Mike Martz had when he was dealing with the quick pressure from San Antonio. With Jeremiah Kolone back in the lineup tomorrow (he is questionable), Mike Martz will have a lot more options as he continues to grow this offense.
2. Stop the run
They have to stop the run and make the Atlanta Legends one dimensional. Atlanta couldn’t really run the ball very well against the Apollos, but the Fleet wasn’t all that good at defending it either. They gave up 125 yards rushing to the Commanders, allowing that Commanders offense to stay on the field for long periods of time. This kept the Fleet offense off the field and was a big reason they were held to only six points last week.
Another reason they need to make the Legends one dimensional is that Matt Simms didn’t look good when the offense depended on him to make plays. One of the best ways for a coach to make a quarterback comfortable is to establish a running game. If the Fleet can stop the run, they will be able to keep Matt Simms uncomfortable with an unrelenting pass rush and stop that Atlanta Legends offense from exposing their deficiencies in the defensive backfield.
3. Give Ja’Quan Gardner the ball
This one should be obvious. He only had 10 touches in last week’s game against the Commanders, but he averaged 7.2 yards per touch… There is no reason he shouldn’t have 15 or more touches this week as the Fleet try to find their way on offense. Gardner is a reliable weapon running or catching the ball.
By getting Gardner the ball quickly, the Fleet could slow down any quick pass rushes simply because they have to be aware of Gardner being a threat out of the backfield. His ability to rack up yards after the catch (20 YAC on two receptions) is a dangerous weapon that the Fleet should utilize a whole lot this week. Also, his ability as a playmaker with the ball in his hands gives the Fleet a reason to give him the ball. He had three runs of over 10 yards on only eight carries. Imagine if he had gotten 20 carries. There is no reason this offense should not rely on Gardner’s ability with the ball in his hands.