Football: San Diego Feet to Face Atlanta in their Home Opener Sunday

The Fleet Looks to put on their Best Defense against the Legends

By Jeff Goldberg

There are certainly worse things a football team can do then emulate the New England Patriots. In their season-opener last weekend, the San Diego Fleet’s defense was downright Belichickian in the way it bent, but didn’t break, in a 15-6 loss to San Antonio.

The Commanders racked up 364 yards of total offense. They held the ball for over 35 minutes. They converted 9 of 18 third downs and had 24 first downs overall.

And yet, despite all that – and despite reaching the red zone on five different occasions — the Commanders only found the end zone once, and not until early in the fourth quarter. Three times, the Commanders had first-and-goal opportunities and settled for field goals twice.

It was a stoutness under the hot glare of their own end zone that the Fleet can use to build momentum in their first home game Sunday at 5 p.m. PT (NFL Network/FOX5 local) against the Atlanta Legends at SDCCU Stadium. Tickets are available here.

“I think we played really well in the red zone,” defensive end Alex Barrett said. “Red zone play is huge and I feel like we did really well, holding them to just field goals. Keep them away from six, that’s our goal. Keep them from scoring in general. That’s how teams want to be these days, winning Super Bowls.”

For all the talk about the explosive capabilities of the Fleet’s offense under head coach Mike Martz, and the intrigue entering Week 2 after Martz changed quarterbacks, inserting Philip Nelson into the starting role after Mike Bercovici struggled against the Commanders, it is the defense that could well define the Fleet’s identity. It certainly made an impression on Legends coach Kevin Coyle, whose team managed just six points in its season-opening loss to Orlando last Saturday.

“The defensive side of the ball they run very well,” Coyle said. “They’re very athletic and play with a lot of intensity. That really impressed me. They played with great effort. From that standpoint, we have to be able to control the line of scrimmage with them. That’s a good San Antonio team, and to keep them to 15 points, that’s pretty impressive what they did.”

Still, no defense wants to flirt with giving its opponent so many chances to score by not getting third-down stops. The 9-for-18 was an issue the Fleet are hoping to correct on Sunday.

“We have to be better on third downs and get off the field, no doubt about it,” defensive line coach Vince Amey said. “I thought we were bend-but-don’t-break, but we can’t be on the field that long. It was good that we were stout in the red zone, but that’s not necessarily how we want to be. We just have to execute.”

Final injury reports for both teams:

Fleet: OUT: CB Jude Adjei-Barimah (wrist); DOUBTFUL: FS Demetrius Wright (thigh); QUESTIONABLE: CB Ron Brooks (thigh), C Jeremiah Kolone (ankle), LB John Lotulelei (knee), CB Curtis Mikell (ankle), LB Eric Pinkins (thigh). All five players listed as questionable were full participants in Friday’s practice. Wright was limited.

Legends: OUT: LB Dylan Donahue (calf), LB Tau Lotulelei (groin), CB Doran Grant (groin), OL Trae Moxley (head); QUESTIONABLE: CB Corey Griffin (hand). Griffin was limited in practice on Friday.

Press Release Provided By the Alliance Football League