by Steve Vetack, Indianapolis CB
Gladiators Yield to Dynamic Red Devil Defense
Indianapolis came in with what could end up being one of the best defenses in the league coupled with a quick striker passing game. St Louis brought to the table a very run heavy game that broke out against Chicago in one of the early upsets of the year. The test was going to be whether Indy could adjust to the run centric Gladiators and whether St Louis could slow down or keep up with Nathan Lee and the Red Devil offense.
Red Devils Secondary More than Just Coverage
The big question was whether the Indy D, which is loaded with 5 star secondary players, could make the adjustment to what was anticipated to be a very physical style offense. That question was quickly answered with a resounding yes. St Louis HB Diaz, who ran all over the Chicago defense to the tune of 177 yards, was absolutely bottled up for 47 yards on 22 carries of which a majority was gained in the second half. Indy’s corners and safeties showed an aggressive commitment to stopping the run displayed by several big hits from both Vetacks and rising star, Paul Blake. On several occasions you could have mistaken any one of them as a linebacker filling the gap.
The inability of St Louis to get Diaz going forced QB Ethan Alexander to go to the air. Last week, he played a small part in their success with 47 yards passing and 1 TD. Unfortunately for Alexander, Indy showed us once again their coverage prowess. The Gladiators passing game consisted of an unusual amount of check downs to HB Diaz and FB Truckie Stec that bore little fruit. A combination of a questionable gameplanning and excellent downfield coverage kept St Louis in a stranglehold.
In what may become a trend, Indy was able to get another timely interception on the year to stop the only real momentum that St Louis had all game. With Diaz finally showing some life with back to back big runs, Alexander threw a slightly underthrown ball that CB Steve Vetack broke on the other way.
Punter Ashley Finch made a big impact early on to apply constant pressure to the Gladiator offense. Her first significant action this year saw her pin St. Louis inside the 5 and constantly saddled them with long fields to deal with. St. Louis averaged a field position of about the 25 yard line vs Indy’s 35 with 4 of the first possessions near midfield. Indy very seldom started deep in their own territory and St. Louis started above the 30 yard line once.
Notable Stat: St Louis had 53 passing yards at half with Diaz held to 19 rushing yards
Daily Dose of Daly
The Indy offense showed a much more balanced offensive attack than in Week 1 where it was the Nathan Lee Show all the time. St. Louis showed much better defensive ability than San Francisco, but was unable to contain rising star Dan Daly. Lee connected with Daly on 9 receptions with a huge 55 yard TD that got the early lead that would not be given up. Daly would catch 9 straight targets before dropping one to finish with 168 yards and 1 TD. Daly and Lee picked on CB #44 Colin Douglas for most of the game. Not to be outdone, WR Eli McCormack pulled in a 77 yd “get off me” TD, breaking a tackle in traffic that effectively sealed the game. Both WRs would finish with 100+ yards on 5+ receptions each with a TD.
HB Mitchell proved effective running the ball for the first time this year with 76 yards which kept the St Louis D honest. His performance was a big part as to why the Gladiators had to single cover Daly for most of the game. Indy was able to control time of possession (23:53) and dictated the pace of the game as they waited patiently for their sports. A true strategy of working the body for the uppercut knockout blows.
Notable Stat: Indy only had 3 three and outs to St. Louis’ 5 and 1 INT
Check Downs and Red Zone D
It proved to be a long night for the Gladiators first visit to The 9th Circle. The combination of an interesting game plan and what might be a very good Indy team had St. Louis frustrated. QB Ethan Alexander threw at least 15 swing passes and short flat routes to HB Diaz and FB Truckie Stec (best name in the game) with only two proving to be really effective. By the end of the game, some on social media had started to call the Gladiators the St. Louis Swing Passes, which will not sit well with ownership. Expect to see them cut down on that game plan significantly next week.
While the offense did them no favors, the Gladiator defense did an admirable job, particularly in the redzone. They held Indy to 4 field goals and no TDs, which provided a window for the offense to stay with the game. The only TDs came on big plays by Daly and McCormick from their own end of the field which may become commonplace for them this year.
LB Kilroy Kahlua had a great game with 11 tackles as well as DE Scott LeRoux. If the St. Louis D can continue to improve and the offense can become more balanced you may come to see a team that is punishing to play against and will make you earn everything you get. Ice packs will be needed.
Notable Stat: HB Denzel Diaz outgained himself in the air by 2 yards vs rushing. 48 catching, 46 rushing.
Game MVP – QB Nathan Lee 24/33 317 yds 2 TDs 122.9 QBR
Highlight of the Game: Eli McCormack catches a pass down the middle in traffic and rips away from a would be tackler for a 77 yd TD
Looking Forward to Week 3
Indianapolis travels to fellow 2-0 conference rival Tulsa for stop number three on the Dion Hawkins farewell tour.
St. Louis will try to get back to the win column against Oklahoma City who has started 0-2 on the season.[event_details 8125] [event_results 8125] [event_performance 8125]