Soul fall to Rattlers in ArenaBowl for second season in a row, 48-39
ORLANDO – Maybe the Soul just isn’t good enough to beat Arizona. It’s hard to come up with a different conclusion after the Rattlers beat Philadelphia, 48-39, in ArenaBowl 26 before a half-full house in Orlando.
The Soul now have lost four times to Arizona in a little more than a calendar year. This one was the most difficult.
Despite a few self-inflicted wounds throughout the game, the Soul still had a chance at the end when – down by six – defenders Brandon Perkins and Ko Quaye forced a fumble by Rod Windsor as the Rattlers were going in for a clinching score. But the Soul’s offense couldn’t get a first down.
“As an offense,” wide receiver Tiger Jones said glumly afterward, “if we get the football back with 53 seconds left, we’re supposed to score. That’s all there is to it. It’s arena football. We’re supposed to score there. That’s on us … on me.”
Instead, Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh couldn’t connect with rookie Ryan McDaniel on a deep pass on 3rd-and-2 and Arizona defensive back Arkeith Brown dislodged a pass meant for Jones on fourth down that would have kept the chains moving.
The Soul didn’t play that poorly, but Arizona quarterback Nick Davila was nearly flawless with six touchdown passes and one interception in helping the Rattlers become the first team since Tampa Bay in 1996 to win consecutive AFL titles. The Rattlers thumped the Soul in last year’s title game and also dumped them twice in the regular season.
The Soul-Rattlers rivalry has become like when the older brother keeps his younger sibling at arm’s length by palming his forehead. No matter how much flailing the youngster does, he just can’t reach his tormentor.
Compounding the Soul’s difficulty was a Larry Brackins’ inability to play because of a hamstring injury he sustained last week. That left the Soul shorthanded inside the 10-yard line against Arizona’s aggressive coverage led by all-arena defensive back Virgil Gray.
“Larry’s a threat in the red zone,” Raudabaugh said. “He’s tough to press. He’s 6-5, 230 pounds. It’s tough for a 5-10, 200-pound safety to come up and put his hands on him. It would have been nice to have him in there to work some of those back corners with high (throws), but I thought Emery (Sammons) played a good game.
Making matters worse was second-leading receiver Andre Thurmond went out in the second quarter with an undisclosed foot injury.
“I don’t think we had a problem moving the ball,” Raudabaugh said. “It’s down there inside the 10-yard line, where you’ve got to cash your checks and Arizona answered the bell down there.”
The Soul outgained Arizona 329 yards to 319 and held the ball nearly nine minutes longer.
“We just had to win (individual battles) at certain times and we failed to do that,” said a tearful McDaniel, who posted career highs in catches (13) and yards (137). “You can’t miss an assignment against these guys. You have to come out here and be perfect, to be honest. You have to be perfect.”
Notable: Arizona’s Windsor, who had 10 catches for 145 yards was named the game’s most valuable player despite the nearly game-changing fumble in the waning seconds … Soul kicker Carlos Martinez missed three extra points while his counterpart, Arizona’s Garrett Lindholm made all six of his PATs and both field goal attempts … All-arena fullback Derrick Ross got just four carries, but scored a pair of touchdowns. Soul coach Clint Dolezel said afterward Ross was needed more for his pass protection … Former Soul coaches Doug Plank and Bret Munsey were in attendance … Davila (20-for-29) had nine incompletions compared to 20 for Raudabaugh (31-for-51).