By Jaylon Thompson / The Alliance
ATLANTA — The Atlanta Legends christened Georgia State Stadium with their debut game, but several missed opportunities derailed their box office draw.
Failed trips to the red zone marred an electric atmosphere. The Legends mustered six points in the red zone and couldn’t convert twice inside the 5-yard line. The offensive sequences hurt as the Legends fell 28-12 to the Birmingham Iron on Sunday afternoon.
The Legends face the Arizona Hotshots on March 3 at 8:00 p.m. ET at Sun Devil Stadium. The game can be seen on the NFL Network. Buy tickets here.
“There were some things that we missed and errors that were made,” Legends head coach Kevin Coyle said. “We have to clean it up. We had three chances down in the red zone and we didn’t come away with the touchdowns that we could’ve got. That is the entire game right there.”
The Legends fell to 0-3 on the season. Inconsistency continued to plague the offense in both short yardage and on third downs.
Against the Iron, the Legends rushed for 43 total yards. The Iron’s stingy defense forced Legends quarterback Matt Simms to throw it 48 times. He was 28 of 48 for 328 yards. He threw one touchdown and three interceptions.
Simms was successful at times. He found running back Akrum Wadley in the first quarter on a nifty screen pass. He later hit Montay Crockett for a 23-yard touchdown late.
Crockett had two catches for 47 yards. Wadley had 38 total yards from scrimmage.
However, the Legends couldn’t score in crucial moments. In the first quarter, they didn’t cash in a 16-play, 79-yard drive. Later, the offense didn’t capitalize on a Carlos Merritt interception to get back into the game.
“We have to regroup and re-plan in every phase,” Coyle said. “We aren’t being productive as I know we can be. We are going back to work and look at the tape.”
Both plays turned things in Birmingham’s favor. The Iron relied on their running game to salt away the victory. Trent Richardson rushed for 46 yards on 17 carries. He scored three touchdowns to pace the Iron.
Richardson effectively put the game away with his fourth-quarter touchdown. He scampered into the end zone with 4:28 left and converted the two-point conversion. The drive clinched things for the Iron as they improved to 3-0 on the season.
“We are going to work hard to get this thing right,” Coyle said. “They are on board and it’s frustrating. It’s still fairly early in the process and our plan is to keep making this a first-class organization.”
The Legends head to Arizona to face the Hotshots next week. There are positives to take away from the home opener, but players feel it comes down to execution.
They want to nail each opportunity. For many, it’s a matter of making it happen.
“We got to stick to the schemes and continue to practice, build, and grow as a team,” Crockett said. “It’s one unit and one sound. We got to come out on all cylinders and capitalize on each and every play.”
Defensive end J.T. Jones agreed. As a team captain, he said it’s on the players to turn the season around and grab a victory.
“We got to keep our head down and keep grinding,” Jones said. “It’s not going to be given to us. Only hard work is going to overcome something like this. I feel like we believe in that and will contribute to get over this hump.”
Jaylon Thompson covers the Atlanta Legends for The Alliance of American Football. Follow him on Twitter @JaylonThompson.