Drillers Ground Down By Hot Steel
Alvin Kamara scampers 40 yards to score for the Steelers.
The Scunthorpe Steelers advanced to ALFF Bowl 27 and looked every inch the No 1 seed as they bullied the 2 Minute Drillers 48-30 in an entertaining, back and forth high scoring all Bon Accord Division 3rd Rd clash. The Commissioner’s crew got off to a flier before going behind but clawed their way back in front in the late Sunday stanza before falling under the Steelers big gun steam-roller in the closing stages of this points laden showdown. The Saturday swathe of games saw surprise Adamski selection kicker Matt Gay go out first at Raymond James and after a slow start during which the Greg Zuerlien replacement missed a 54 yard FG , the rookie stepped up in his first PO appearance. A second attempt at the slightly “shorter” 50 yard range, gave the youngster a solid 5pt base upon which he added 2 XP’s before a 41 Yd FG padded the specialists total to a nice round 10pts. The Drillers Tampa defence, a late season bloomer in some respects, almost answered the bell when LB Devin White looked set to scoop up a fumble on the 38 yard line with nothing between him and the EZ… but a big hearted tackle by Texans QB Deshaun Watson of all people prevented that from happening and that was as close as they came to opening the Drillers account. On to the later Saturday activity at Levi Stadium and things could not have gone much better for the Ricker. Todd Gurley opened with a 5 yard TD rumble quite early in proceedings and with half time still some time off, doubled his scoring haul with a goal line blast. A third score at this point would certainly have made things interesting but Sean McVay’s play calling has been nothing if not unconventional this term and in a situation you might expect to run the ball more often… the Drillers No 1 pick never got another opportunity. 12-10 to the Drillers moving on to Sunday certainly set the stage nicely for what was to come. The No 6 seeds were one of only three sides to slow the Steelmen down this term and arguably should have swept them in RS competition but remarkably this was the first time the two BA rivals had met in knock-out competition, where often RS form counts for little. The split of NFL fixtures dictated the Steelers would be stronger in the opening Sunday period with the late stacked Drillers likely to mount a comeback before a pivotal head to head between Patrick Mahomes and Damien Williams in the NBC game at Soldier Field. Coach Meek’s Packers duo Aaron Jones and Davante Adams would have the final say on Monday night at US Bank Stadium. Vegas listed coach Meek’s side as 2pt favorites, suggesting a MNF Packers score would decide a tense encounter…. with a Damien Williams rushing TD the Drillers best chance of upsetting the odds. With their change of Kicker already played out, the Steelmen’s only other line-up adjustment WR Marqise Brown was one of three starters featured in the early Sunday skirmishes. The rookie was joined by veteran Julio Jones ( in Atlanta) but the big interest was in the mano a mano between Alvin Kamara and lone Driller Michael Thomas at Nissan Stadium. The elusive Saints runner has struggled to find the endzone this term but his coaches unrelenting faith in his explosive runner was repaid when it mattered most. A typical 40 yard scoring scamper put the BA Div champions back in front 16-12 before the retained player weighed in with a 1 yard blast, his first rushing double of the campaign. A score for either of the Steelers wide-out duo could almost have put the Sowf London combo out of sight, but both came up empty allowing Michael Thomas to cap a (NFL) record setting performance by getting the Drillers back to 15-22 with a late 2 yard TD grab. At this stage it has to be said the Ricker was rather rueing his decision to go with Tyrell Williams ahead of only other fit candidate Jared Cook at WR3 in place of injury doubt Curtis Samuel …. with the TE’s unclaimed 9pts looking very significant indeed. The second Sunday stanza was almost all about the Drillerdome combo. QB Carson Wentz & WR Amari Cooper were both in action in Philly while kicker Brandon McManus , had the supposed benefit of the altitude at Mile High. The aforementioned Ty Williams faced down the lone Steelers participant , their Oakland defence in LA. The 2 Minute passer started hot in The Linc scoring a swift 6 yard toss to reduce the deficit to 18-22 but he cooled of dramatically as his main targets fell foul of injury and did not bother the scoreboard operator again. Brandon McManus did come through for his coach with a pair of short FG’s and a PAT treble but hopes of a 50 yarder or two proved short of the mark as Broncos QB Drew Lock proved a bit too efficient when he had field to work with. There was nothing of note at all in LA at the catchy named Dignity Health Sport Park putting coach Rickaby’s side 27-22 in front at the conclusion of the late Sunday period …. and now those “missing” Jared Cook 9pts looked big indeed. For this tie to go in any direction but the Steelers way now, it need last Driller out Damien Williams to keep within 5pts of the irresistible Partick Mahomes total at Soldier Field but an early 12 yard TD run by the multi talented signal-caller almost put a tin lid on proceedings. Ahead 28-27, Mahomes added a 6 yard counter before the end of the half and any doubts were extinguished. A late short hook-up direct to opponent Williams underlined the Commissioner’s game plan might have come off had the runner converted the opening 1 yard run rather than the passer…. but it was time to uncork the winning champagne for the Furnace faithful as the Chicago action closed with Adamski 34-30 to the good. The tie closed in barnstorming fashion with Aaron Jones tacking on a 12 yard TD run before doing a little grandstanding with a concluding 56 yarder, the first post season eight pointer since Saquon Barkley’s 78 yarder for the Wrecking Rebels last term., to give the final score it’s 48-30 look. At least from a 2 Minute point of view those missing Jared Cook’s points were no longer part of the equation ! For the record the aggregate RB points in this match-up was the highest ever for any play-off game in ALFF history. The Steelers, now 3-1 in the 3rd Rd stage of the post season competition, on the back of a franchise PO highest score, move on to 2nd straight attempt at ALFF title glory against the Granite Division’s JL8. The good news for coach Meek is he should be close to full strength for his 3rd attempt at a winning it all for the first time, and on this form the long time 2019 favorites will be hard to stop. Alvin Kamara’s return to scoring form could not be better timed with the only real issue facing Adamksi , his choice of kicker for the big game. The Drillers leave the tournament with their heads held high after a slightly frustrating campaign. This performance was actually their highest ever losing total in 25 post season competitions. Overall the founder member club raced to a 5-1 record to head up the BA Div before badly losing their way until around Week 11. The Commish has built his career strategy on “fixing” each problem unit on his side as the season progresses , but it has to be said that never truly happened at either QB or K all season long. Todd Gurley ultimately proved to be a solid if not traditionally spectacular 1st Rd pick but taking Damien Williams instead of Mark Ingram with his 2nd selection proved pivotal indeed. Amari Cooper largely lived up to his 3rd Rd billing but after that the Commish’s selections were iffy at best. Phil Rivers (4), Matt Breida (5) , Jared Cook (6) and Jake Elliot (8) all proved over valued with none of the four establishing themselves as pencilled in starters….. a review of drafting strategy is on the post season plan at the Drillerdome. Coach Rickaby will pick in the number 9 slot come next September.
ALFF Bowl 27
Scunthorpe Steelers v JL8
Jackson & Lutz Kill Off Kincorth
Lamar Jackson scored 3 TDs for the JL8.
The JL8 remain on course for an ALFF Holy Grail repeat title as they cruised to a comfortable 23-13 win over the injury ravaged Kincorth Killers. Twice over the regular season coach McGeachy Jnr’s outfit were too strong for their Granite Division rivals, but missing half his key starters this time round, the 3 times Title winner never looked like landing that rarely attained 3 game sweep as his side stumbled to their equal lowest ever post season output. The Merchants of Doom took control of this contest from the outset with a Carlos Hyde 1 yard TD run at Raymond James on Saturday evening and were never really threatened by an uncharacteristically limited Killers combo that got all but three of their final points total deep into a NBC cameo by kicker Harrison Butker . The result was not entirely a shock to the assembled ALFF punditry with the defending champs uncanny ability to find an opponent in low scoring form, again coming into play as they racked up a coach Cruickshank best 6th straight post season victory. In current guise the JL8 have never yet lost a knock-out contest. Following their promising Hyde inspired opening the champs selection committee took a gamble on the fitness of running mate Derrick Henry with the re-introduction of Jarvis Landry at WR in place of Cooper Kupp, the only line-up tweak to the starting eight that obliterated the Broch Bobcats in Rd 2. The Killers pre game roll call was a not a pretty sight. Out without question were team leaders RB Dalvin Cook & WR Mike Evans while QB Dak Prescott was listed as playing thru a shoulder injury (on his throwing arm). RB2 Joe Mixon was named active, albeit playing with a “stomach bug”. As a result Kareem Hunt was drafted in to partner MIxon in the Leagues’ No 4 ground attack , with Hunter Henry slotting into the vacant WR slot. Normally the pundits would have weighed the relative strengths of the respective outfits before naming the clever money favourite but given the JL8’s 6pt start and the Special K’s lack of warm bodies it was perhaps surprising the No 5 seeds were listed as “just” the 3pt preference. With no fewer than five players ( Hunt, OBJ and the Ravens D v Jackson & Landry) across the score-sheet going out at Cleveland, the early Sunday focus was primarily on the events at First Energy Stadium although with both Derrick Henry and K Wil Lutz in action at Nashville , there was more than a little interest in the JL8 camp on that front. The early signs on the shores of Lake Erie were not too discouraging for Geacher the Younger as the more Brown reliant coach saw the home side keep Lamar Jackson largely in check for most of the first half but the news from elsewhere did little to dispel the feeling the Killers were just on course for “one of those days”. WR D J Moore exited proceedings at Lucas Oil Field with a Q1 injury and took no further part in the contest and it was also apparent that while “active”, Joe Mixon did not have his normal “zing” en route to a frustrating goose egg. The fact Derrick Henry didn’t suit up for the JL8 in Music City went some way to redress the absence of Davin Cook on the opposing team lines but with nowhere else to turn, it really was all on Cleveland at this point for Andrew. However there was little for Kareem Hunt or OBJ to live off and two scores just before half time for the slightly subdued Lamar Jackson , the first from 39 yards, the second 25 yards nearer, gave a sense of inevitability to proceedings as kicker Wil Lutz added a 47 yard FG and an XP to pad the score to 16-00. Lutz kept a flow of XP’s coming in the second half so when the League MVP elect’s third TD toss of the night arrowed home from 14 yards out , the Doom Meister’s had a more than useful 23pts on the board. Ultimately neither Kareem Hunt or the Ravens D were able to break the Kinkers Krewe’s duck but finally Odell Beckham Jnr did save the Points Champions blushes courtesy of 3 yard counter in the closing minutes of the pivotal first Sunday stanza. At this juncture the Framlington outfit had just WR duo DK Metcalf and Tyreek Hill to push the points envelope , so a 03-23 lead with opposing QB and Kicker to come was not necessarily a concrete game winning position for the defending League champions but it wold take a combined Killers response to threaten that with QB Dak Prescott having to do his share at Lincoln Financial Field. As it turned out the passer looked hampered by his troublesome shoulder and never bothered the scorers , joining team mate Hunter Henry and opponent Metcalf in the doughnut line. With the score-line unaltered this tie was done. Harrison Butker did rustle up a face saving 10pts at Soldier Field in the NBC action (with nothing in reply from Tyreek Hill) but no-one was in any doubt his efforts were of the cosmetic variety only. The champions move on to a 2nd straight Bowl against the much fancied Scunthorpe Steelers, knowing a record equalling 7th straight play-off win will secure that them a famous repeat title. Only 3 sides have ever won the whole enchilada from a pure wildcard berth, so there is a lot at stake for Ronnie in Week 17. The availability of QB Lamar Jackson and Derrick Henry’s hamstring are sure to be the topic of conversation in the pre Bowl build up, with both likely to be needed in what promises to be a challenging contest. The more edgy pundits are keen to see how the JLB handle an opponent who puts up numbers the topside of 22pts (the most points against in their current 6 game run). It will the manner of his exit that grates the most for coach McGeachy the Younger with both his leading RB and WR sitting in the stands. That said , if there was a criticism of the Double K this term it was their lack of depth behind their unsurpassed core of Prescott, Cook , Evans and Harrison and while the timing of his injuries was unfortunate to say the least….. they were almost unique across the League in not experiencing a key injury over the course of the regular season campaign. Overall 2019 has to go down as a very strong campaign in Killer annals , with the ALFF Points title ( a 2nd in franchise history), a 3rd Granite Div pennant and an individual Kicking Title for Harrison Butker among a glut of high points, if ultimately a 3rd Steven Wood proved out of reach this time round. I won’t go into any depth on Andrew’s draft as his results speak for themselves…. but as usual his habit of ditching individual likes or dislikes of teams or players stood him in good stead. OBJ as his No 1 pick (9th player overall) has to go down as a bust… but was significantly outweighed by the steal of Dalvin Cook (Rd 2) and Dak Prescott (Round 10 !!). Andrew will pick in the 10th spot in the 2020 draft.
Sleeper of the Week
With both games decided by significant margins... there was happily no game changing Sleeper. It did seem that way for a long time in the Drillerdome where the Commissioner's decision to go with Tyrell Williams ahead of Jared Cook at WR3 looked like it could be the difference maker. Instead its just a "gentle" missing 9pt RD 3 Sleeper of the Week.
Play of the Week
Eight points plays in PO games don't come around that often. It was only window dressing in the overall outcome, but Aaron Jones 56 yard scoring scamper for the Scunthorpe Steelers did set a new single PO aggregate RB scoring total for the post season, and is the Play of the Week.