By Jaylon Thompson / The Alliance
ATLANTA – The Atlanta Legends look to turn the page after falling 37-6 to the San Antonio Commanders on Sunday.
This week, the Legends host the Orlando Apollos at Georgia State Stadium. The Apollos are 5-1 and sit atop the Eastern Conference standings. Under head coach Steve Spurrier, the Apollos operate with a mix of speed and aggressiveness.
The Atlanta Legends (2-4) conclude a three-game home stand against the Orlando Apollos this Saturday, March 23, at 2 p.m. ET at Georgia State Stadium. The game can be seen on TNT. Tickets to all Legends games are available here.
The offense isn’t afraid to throw it all over the yard. The defense isn’t afraid to take chances and create turnovers. Both units have made the Apollos successful this season.
The Legends have a first-hand account after watching the Apollos walk away with a dominant 40-6 season-opening victory.
However, Orlando has shown some vulnerability. Last week, the Apollos fell to the Arizona Hotshots in a tightly-contested game. The Hotshots defense quelled the Apollos passing attack and held quarterback Garrett Gilbert in check. Gilbert was 23-for-48 (47.9 percent) and threw for 268 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
The blueprint to stop the Apollos has been set. The Legends must match the Apollos on both sides of the ball. This means equaling the intensity from the first snap and taking care of the football. The Legends have done that in recent weeks, and have to maintain it this weekend.
Despite losing to the Commanders, here are significant takeaways that show the Legends have a shot to upset the Apollos in the return matchup.
The Legends controlled the ball for 34:17 minutes against the Commanders. They also had 17 first downs and rattled off six drives containing six or more plays. Offensive coordinator Ken Zampese emphasizes ball control with a methodical approach.
The offense did well in spurts. However, it was some mistakes that hurt them against the Commanders. Four turnovers equated to 28 points in favor of San Antonio.
Should the Legends clean up their mistakes, they can hang in with Orlando. Legends head coach Kevin Coyle said as much in his postgame interview on Sunday.
“There were similarities of today’s game to the opening game for me,” Coyle said. “We turned the ball over in the game against Orlando and got way behind, but I didn’t feel like there was that big of discrepancy between the two teams. I still feel the same way now.”
Defense still strong
The Legends defense performed admirably against the Commanders. However, there is still a lot of work to clean up on their side of the ball. The unit only gave up three points after halftime and forced the Commanders to punt six times. They also held San Antonio to just 234 total yards in the game.
Quarterback Logan Woodside threw for 164 yards and running back Kenneth Farrow II, who came into the game as the league’s leading rusher, had 35 rushing yards and a touchdown.
The defense continued to battle all night. They can have similar success against the Apollos as the unit is getting back to full health. Legends defensive coordinator Louie Cioffi can spin another defensive gem this weekend.
Offense must have balance
The Legends outgained the Commanders 290-234 on Sunday. They also ran 67 plays to San Antonio’s 48 and averaged 4.3 yards per play.
The offense had to move away from the running game after falling behind early. With a better start, the Legends can get into a rhythm against the Apollos.
It starts with running the ball. Prior to facing the Commanders, the Legends posted 306 rushing yards in a two-week span. Look for Zampese to get back to that this weekend. It will keep pressure away from quarterback Aaron Murray and help him be successful.
In a pivotal matchup, the Legends have the advantage of playing at home. The fans at Georgia State Stadium can make a difference with their energy and effort. With it being an early Saturday start, look for the Legends’ fans to provide extra juice as needed.
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Jaylon Thompson covers the Atlanta Legends for The Alliance of American Football. Follow him on Twitter JaylonThompson.