By Jaylon Thompson / The Alliance
SAN DIEGO – The Atlanta Legends battled rain drops and inconsistency against the San Diego Fleet on Sunday night.
The Legends started hot and scored on their first two possessions. They replicated their 15-play drive from Week 1 and followed it with the first touchdown in team history. Quarterback Matt Simms found Malachi Jones for a 19-yard touchdown after cornerback Carlos Merritt ignited the drive with an early interception.
Simms finished 17-for-25 and passed for 160 yards. He had a touchdown and an interception on the night. Jones hauled in three catches for 37 yards. Running back Akrum Wadley led all receivers with eight catches for 70 yards.
However, the Legends couldn’t muster anything else. Drives stalled in the second half as the Fleet came from behind to win 24-12 at home. The Legends dropped to 0-2 on the season.
The Legends return home to face the Birmingham Iron in their home opener on February 24 at 4:00 p.m. ET at Georgia Stadium. The game can be seen on CBS Sports Network. BUY TICKETS HERE.
“We got off to a decent start and I thought we were playing well on both sides of the ball,” Legends head coach Kevin Coyle said. “In the second half, we let the game get away from us. We made a lot of critical errors and had way too many penalties. It hurt us and we have to do a better job.”
The Legends scored nine of their 12 points in the first quarter. They sustained drives throughout the game but couldn’t cash in with points. This allowed the Fleet to climb back into the game as the Legends scored just three points after the opening frame.
“When you don’t score touchdowns, the game stays close on both sides,” Coyle said. “If we made those eight-point swings, the game changes dramatically. We got to do a better job at that. It was a big factor in tonight’s game.”
The Legends defense was strong early. They created two turnovers and were flying around the ball. Safety Tyson Graham Jr. led the team with 10 tackles and a fumble recovery. Fellow safety Ed Reynolds Jr. also had 10 tackles and defensive lineman Tracy Sprinkle had a sack.
However, the Fleet took control on the ground. San Diego rushed for 185 yards and wore down the Legends defensively.
Fleet running back Ja’Quan Gardner rushed for 104 yards on 15 carries. He scored two touchdowns that propelled the Fleet in the fourth quarter. His 7-yard touchdown with 4:00 left sealed the game for the Fleet.
“We had someone out there, but we just didn’t make the play,” Coyle said.
The Legends will get back to work next week. There were some positives against the Fleet and some things that need correcting.
The main area is execution and finishing four quarters of football. Wadley feels the team is close. They just have to show it in the big moments.
“We are really close,” Wadley said. “We got to get back to the drawing board and keep practicing. The most important thing is to stay together.”