Surgical Blades Carve Up Flopping Fins
LeSean McCoy sets the Blades on course for victory with this 16 yard TD grab.
The Westburn Blades 2017 play-off adventure and one team destruction of the Granite Division continued as they coasted to an easier than expected 27-10 win over the low key Arnhall Dolphins. Much was made in the pre game hype about the Fins Rd 2 exposure here with Zeke Elliot still out but slated to return next week and the gleeful Blades took full advantage of the Westhill based combo's worst performance of the year to record their first back to back post season successes since their Title winning 2005 campaign. So how did this one go down ? Well... bolstered by his nerve tingling victory over the GDiv's other wildcard entrant, the Deevale Desperados, coach Kiwi had the confidence to tinker a little. Out went under-performing Derek Carr with Blake Bortles making his first start of the whole campaign at QB, while a late developing injury situation saw LeSean McCoy re-instated ahead of the inactive Leonard Fournette with potential Rd 1 SOW Jonathon Stewart named as starting RB2. Coach Compost also dusted down his depth chart to give Frank Gore his first outing since Wk 6 and their was a minor realigning of his fast improving WR corps, Demaryius Thomas returning in place of doubtful Delanie Walker. Wil Lutz came in for Chandler Catanzaro at K in something of a surprise modification. Two of coach Sutherland's three "new faces" had the responsibility of getting their side off to a solid start as they went unopposed at Lucas Oil Field on Thursday but neither Gore or DeMaryius Thomas were able to get off the mark, in what proved to be a portent of slim Dolphins pickings to come over the course of events. More of the same was to follow on Saturday night as first the Blades Marvin Jones and then Pugwash's Kansas City defence both carded polo mints... but with three players down to his one, coach Bothwell the Younger had to be the happier of the two HC's going into the definitive Sunday sectors. The ALFF money men certainly supported Westburn's growing optimism, listing the No 6 seeds as 3pt upset favorites. The opening Sunday stanza featured two pivotal hot spots with Fins Isaiah Crowell going mano a mano against opposing K Justin Tucker at First Energy Stadium (Cleveland) , while Julius Thomas and Shady McCoy performed a similar exercise at Orchard Park but with Bortles , Stewart and Engram all in action for the Blades and Wil Lutz doing the same for Arnhall the opening Sunday stanza was more than just a sideshow to what looked like a late Sunday main event in Seattle. The opening two quarters would prove decisive. A swift Lutz 23 yard FG in the Dome finally got the Granite Div outfit on the scoreboard but what would prove to be their own lead of the night lasted barely 60 seconds before Justin Tucker leveled things up with a FG of his own, this one from 31 yards in Cleveland. Meanwhile over in upstate NY, LeSean McCoy picked up where he left off in the Wk 14 snow game, converting on a 4 yard TD run , and very promptly the Blades were 09-03 in front. A Lutz XP did get the No 3 seeds one point closer but over in Jacksonville newly inserted QB Blake Bortles opened his account with a short 4 yard strike to pad his sides growing advantage to 12-04. Thereafter there was brief passage of events that fostered a little hope in the Arnhall camp. Over in Cleveland, the Ravens spurned a chip shot FG to go (and fail ) for glory on a goal-line 4th down attempt... and on the very next play from scrimmage Isaiah Crowell ripped off a 59 Yd run that was one tackle short of a stunning 8pt TD. Almost in parallel their was an injury scare for Shady McCoy in Buffalo while Wil Lutz booted his 2nd XP of the evening. However, McCoy signaled his fitness and the onset of a Blades mini purple patch by pulling in a 16 yard TD and from that point on, the NZ based outfit never looked back. Two rapid fire Bortles TD's and two further Tucker PAT's came along in quick succession to extend the PDiv combo's lead to 23-05 just on the stroke of half-time and it seemed to most observers that the Fins simply had to reduce that gap or the game would be beyond their late running big gun Russell Wilson. Things quieted down considerably in the second half of the opening Sunday stanza with further scoring limited to the kickers... with what points there were, consigned to the late 4th quarter. Lutz managed two further PAT's to advance the coaching Umpire's total to a modest 7 but Justin Tucker went one better by tacking on an XP , plus his 2nd FG of the fixture, a decent 43 yarder. With a 27-10 lead the Blades looked secure heading to Seattle. Arnhall QB Russell Wilson is one of the names in the frame for a wide open 2017 League MVP race but it seemed almost impossible for him to bridge a 17pt deficit without recourse to Blades WR Jimmy Graham (or without coach Stuie's Seattle Defence getting involved) but in the event the passer never came close as the contest fizzled out. The Seahawks were all but shutdown by a dominating LA Rams with a lone garbage time TD (what was Wilson doing on the field at this point ?) the only incident of note. A scoreless NBC outing from WR Jason Witten provided the final footnote to a well deserved 27-10 Westburn Blades success. The NZ based combo march on to face the last Granite Div side standing, the Kincorth Killers, but coach Andrew's charges could prove to a very dangerous opponent and will be determined to prevent coach Kiwi from completing a GDiv clean sweep. This win means the Pittodrie Div has the inside track on a Title winner with two sides in the last four. Stuie has done well to this point but still has to get the better of two of this campaign's Division Title winners to get his hands on an elusive 2nd Steven Wood trophy. Arnhall's departure was their 4th straight one and done exercise in the post season, the last 3 all at the 2nd Rd stage. In a knock-out competition that has gone to seeding thus far, the Dolphins are the first ball-club to lose to a lower ranked opponent. Again a campaign that had promised so much, saw coach Compost's charges fail to deliver at the sharp end. Indeed, losing when it mattered most was the story of a season that will go down as a "what might have been". A franchise best ever 10-3 record was not good enough to secure the Division title (thanks to those key game losses) along with the double bye week that would have seen them placed two games from glory.. with a fresh Zeke Elliott raring to go. It will be interesting to play "what if" over the next two weeks. That said, it was harsh indeed that the Westhill outfit's lowest score of the year came at just the wrong moment. QB Russell Wilson may not go on to League MVP glory but he was undoubtedly the MVP on this team , the sides No 1 ranked QB unit the only one in the League to breech the 100pt mark. Wilson was ably supported by a solid if unspectacular kicking game, in which the unheralded Chandler Catanzaro was something of a surprise package. As is his style, Mad Fish stocked up on RB's and his back up QB in the early rounds of the draft, but none of Crowell, Montgomery or Gore proved to be a useful foil to the ban threatened Elliott.. so when he went to the Wide Receiver well in Round 7... there was little in the way of week on week quality there for the taking. It was no surprise therefore the Fins ranked 11th at WR.. with only a late season rally preventing them from finishing as rank last. Right now 2017 will go down as a very good one in the Arnhall Dolphins archives... what Zeke Ellliott does over Weeks 16 & 17 will determine if it will change to the Title That Got Away. Ian will draft in the 8th slot come Sep 2018.
Play of the Week
The Posse v Apaches clash was fought out between the Leagues top ranked Big Play outfit's... and in keeping with the final outcome it was the former who won the Big Play duel as well. WR Tyreek Hill's 64 yard opener would have been a worthy winner in it's own right... but RB MarK Ingram's eight point 50 yard rumble closed the door on the Apaches and accordingly gets the prize. For the record the runner's score was only the 15th bonus yardage running play in play-off history .. and the first by a Posse player.
Play-Off's 3rd Rd Round
Kincorth Killers v Westburn Blades
2 Minute Drillers v Caledonia Express
Braves Bowled Over By Run Away Express
Its game set and match to the Posse as Mark Ingram scores on a 50 yard run.
The last time coach Marty tasted success in the play-offs, QB Neil O'Donnell (Steelers) and K Eddie Murray (Detroit) were among his scorers in a low key 19-10 win over the long gone Nigg Bay Nightmare in the League's very first knock-out tournament but 24 years of post season pain and a run of 12 straight knock-out losses were finally ended as the Caledonia Express simply blew away the bemused Argyll Apaches with a runaway 45-22 victory. Looking to exorcise their ongoing post season demons the Posse took this tie by the scruff of the neck on Saturday night before delivering an opening Sunday points barrage that effectively put the win away before the Apaches big guns had as much as got on the field. Despite winning their highly competitive Week 4 regular season clash 35-28, Geronimo was not all that confident of getting the better of his Pittodrie Div opponent, in this, their first ever post-season skirmish and that feeling was not helped by a low key Thursday opening at Lucas Oil Field in which the Braves TY Hilton and Denver defence combined for a dismal double blank. Marty's initial riposte came on Saturday night through WR Tyreek Hill and the newly crowed WR champion showed the Express were up for it with a typical 64 yard TD reception at Arrowhead. Already in something of a hole Big G stuck with a 4 WR set that he settled on since Wk 12 with no changes to the eight that ended the Lions reign as ALFF champions only a few days before. The Cove based CEO had the benefit of a week on the sidelines to ponder his team selection and subtle changes in form saw the return of QB Cam Newton and WR Ted Ginn, with the insertion of his New Orleans D giving his side a very heavy NFC South bias. Vegas had noted the Posse were 4-1 in games when Tyreek Hill has scored 6pts or more and with much expected from their two NFC south hotspots were "punditted" to just put up enough points to see off a late Heinz Field barrage from the late stacked Apaches and were thus anointed slender 1pt favorites. According to the experts Marty's big hitting Panthers were perhaps the most critical part of his game plan with the thought that if Newton & Gano could combine for around 20pts then anything his Saints trio add at the Dome could put them over the top. Latavius Murray v Adam Thielen (Braves only early starter) in Minnesota was identified as one of those little cameo's that could prove critical. From the Apaches perspective Vegas asserted that they could not afford to be more than 25pts in the hole when their vital Heinz Field quartet took the field late Sunday... . but if so they would be looking for Brandin Cooks to be more than just a support act. Last Posse starter Juju Smith-Schuster was identified as a useful spoiler for Marty at the same venue. With Julio Jones in reserve on Monday the Braves would have one last chance if required. Right from the opening Sunday gun the Posse were on it. RB Mark Ingram lit the blue touch paper with a huge 54 yard catch and run in the Dome that although it did not result in TD, was a ominous sign for the Braves. Almost in tandem, lone Apache Adam Thielen took a short pass 21 yards to inside the 5 yard line in Minnesota but the wide-outs good work worked massively against his side as Latavius Murray then converted the red zone opportunity into a 1 Yard TD run. Back in New Orleans Ingram blasted in from the 1 yard line and abruptly the Posse were 18-00 to the good. That’s when Cam Newton took over the show at Bank of America Stadium. A 7 yard TD toss (to Chris McCaffrey) was the start of a 4 TD onslaught from the big QB, all , to Marty’s delight, topped with Graham Gano PAT’s. Newton's further scores from 30, 9 and 13 yards came with just one red zone failure… which of course still came with a CalX friendly 33 yard FG from kicker Gano. With Thielen limited to just two further short catches after his Murray friendly 21 yarder (neither in the scoring zone), things were looking desperate for the Apaches staring at a 00-37 mountain as time run down on the opening Sunday period. However they had scored 35pts on 3 occasions .. so with just a little bit of luck were not totally without hope,…. not that is until a final flash of Mark Ingram. With the Saints effectively in running out the clock mode in an ugly win over the Jets, Ingram broke off a 50 yard TD run to send the Posse sideline into raptures. The first post season 8pt running play in 3 years inflated the Pittodrie Div champs lead to 45-00, saw the founder owner club set a new franchise post season record points total, and it really looked like game over with the ALFF money men's predictions of a tight thriller in tatters. For the record the Campbeltown Heinz Field quartet did manage to put up some decent number without ever threatening to mount the Mother of All Comebacks. QB Ben Roethlisberger (regarded as a talisman in Kintyre as part of both their previous ALFF Title triumphs) weighed in with a TD double with Steelers stablemate Le’Veon Bell closing out a commendable post season tournament for him with a 3 yard TD blast. Geacher's Pats added 10pts more, 7pts from the boot of 5 times ALFF Kicking champion Stephen Gostkowski and a 4 yard counter from Brandin Cooks in the wide-out's last game as a retained Apache. One the euphoria has died down in Dunlin Rd and the pile of back monkeys detritus is cleared away, coach Marty has to plan for a huge Rd 3 clash with a 2 Minute Drillers side that beat them 18-32 in Week 7 of the RS. For the record had the two played this week….. the Commish would actually have won a stunner 46-45… but on this form and with all key players very much locked in to NFL sides who need to win all the way through Wk 17, the Posse truly look to be in the hunt for an elusive first ever ALFF title. For Geronimo, it was one of those days that you simply can't legislate for in the post season, with no second bite of the cherry. Indeed this loss mark's the 3rd time in 5 exits that the Bon Accord outfit have had to beat a score of 45pts or more in knock out mode. The Braves did have a "title look" for so long this term despite the Wk 1 season injury loss of RB champion David Johnson … but the Drillers again proved their nemesis … with an uncharacteristic coaching oversight regarding his back-up kicker in Wk 9 proving a big factor in locking them out of a BA title tilt that would have avoided having to battle through this ultimately fatal 2nd Rd tie. Underpinned by the peerless kicking of 3rd Rd Draft "gamble" Stephen Gostkowski the BA side got the best of a two headed QB combination with veteran Ben Roethlisberger picking the slack up nicely after Dak Prescott dipped on the back of the Zeke Elliott benching. First Round selection Le'Veon Bell was pretty much as advertised although he did go a little quiet over the second half of the season before getting his big boy pants on again for the play-offs. With Johnson's premature departure there was little or no depth behind the stand-out at RB however, forcing Geronimo to switch on a number of occasions to a 4WR set, that although relatively competitive (ranking 4th in the League), really was not as stand-out as big G thought he had on draft day. Given his retained list Geronimo's top 3 picks were arguably (and certainly in his one estimation!) the best in the draft.. although Julio Jones as No 2 selection again failed to perform to his lofty status. The big wide-out is without doubt one of the NFL's best receivers... but 12pts is a scant return for an ALFF 2nd rounder... and I will leave it there !! While Geacher the Elder can rightly point to his early draft prowess his selections from Doug Martin (8th Rd) onward were uniformly unproductive with the exception of Adam Thielen who proved to be a late round steal. A little like the similarly departing Dolphins a relatively successful Apaches 2017 campaign will come with that "what might have been asterisk". Big G will draft in the No 7 slot in 2018.
Sleeper of the Week
With two lopsided victories there was no game changing Sleeper of the Week to crown Week 15 .. so it's just a tame 6pt "miss" for coach Sutherland and his Baltimore defence.