By Jaylon Thompson / The Alliance
ATLANTA — Legends quarterback Aaron Murray came to the sideline with a wry smile on his face after getting hit early in the first quarter.
As he prepared for the next drive, Murray told his teammates he was locked in. The hit served as a wake-up call and an introduction back onto the field he always loved.
The Atlanta Legends (1-3) return home to start a three-game home stand against the Memphis Express (1-3) on this Sunday, March 10, at 4 p.m. ET at Georgia State Stadium. The game can be seen on the CBS Sports Network. Tickets to all Legends games are available here.
“It’s good to get hit again,” Murray would say afterward. “I told some of the guys I hadn’t been hit in I think three years. I didn’t get hit in the preseason game and sometimes it gets the juices flowing to get knocked around a little bit.”
The hit energized Murray. He transferred the kinetic energy to his teammates and it worked as the Legends defeated the Arizona Hotshots 14-11 on Sunday.
Murray took over at quarterback after Legends starter Matt Simms left the game with an injured right hand. He finished 20-for-33 with 254 yards passing and led the team with 54 rushing yards.
In the fourth quarter, Murray engineered the game-winning drive — and the first win in Legends franchise history.
“It felt good to get out there again and the team played tremendously,” Murray said. “I got to give the offensive line a big shout-out. Those dudes just dominated, and it was something we pressed on those guys this week. They faced a different style of defense and front. They took it on their own tonight.”
Murray looked great against the Hotshots. He thrived under new offensive coordinator Ken Zampese and consistently moved the offense down the field.
Throughout the game, Murray utilized his ability to escape the pocket and extend plays. This allowed him to hit open receivers on all three levels and allowed the Legends to stay on the field by converting first downs.
Murray completed seven passes of 15 or more yards. He found receivers like Ervin Philips on a 21-yard gain on third down and James Quick on a 20-yard corner route.
His ability to avoid pressure impressed Legends head coach Kevin Coyle. He thought Murray showed good command of the offense and put the team in situations to win.
“He did a lot of good things,” Coyle said. “We felt all year we had four guys that are capable quarterbacks. Certainly, Aaron proved that.”
Several teammates agreed. Receiver Justin Thomas felt Murray’s ability to scramble helped keep the Hotshots off-balance. It was a big reason why the Legends possessed the ball for nearly 38 minutes in the game.
“I think when the plays broke down, he kept them alive,” Thomas said. “Murray made some big runs on third down. He came in and prepared well throughout the week. He was ready when his number was called.”
Murray credited Zampese for getting him prepared. He felt that his footwork improved and that he had a grasp of the offense. He looks forward to getting better throughout the season.
“He worked us a ton with great drills and I felt I got better this week in practice,” Murray said. “I felt I progressed as a quarterback. I am excited and he knows his stuff.”
With Murray’s successful performance, the Legends will decide on their starting quarterback situation. According to Coyle, they will continue to evaluate the position.
Coyle plans to look at the film and review Simms’ injury status this week. Both quarterbacks have done good work this season.
There is no timetable on when a decision will be made. However, Murray has certainly entered the discussion and garnered a chance for more playing time.
“Murray did some really good things,” Coyle said. “I am not going to make a decision without watching the film and seeing the whole game. Aaron did some good things tonight and Matt did some good work earlier in the season.”
# # #
Jaylon Thompson covers the Atlanta Legends for The Alliance of American Football. Follow him on Twitter JaylonThompson.