The USFL kicked off this weekend with four games in Birmingham, Alabama. The return of spring football brought some nostalgia to the revived league that attempted to challenge the NFL in the 1980s.
While the product did claim to have some rule differences from the most prominent league in American sports, it’s still football. As we saw over the quartet of contests, a couple of things hold true no matter what level of action or wrinkles appear in the game. One that proved decisive to victory was control of the line of scrimmage.
Fans know this: teams with superior line play usually win.
For Week 1 in the USFL, this was undeniable. The teams that produced the most sacks and tackles for loss in each game were the victors.
USFL Week 1 Recap
It started on Saturday night as the New Jersey Generals took on the Birmingham Stallions.
The “home team” produced three sacks and three TFLs, more total negative plays than the Generals’ four TFLs and a lone sack. The Stallions’ first sack preceded an intentional grounding call, while the second forced a fumble in field-goal territory.
While the Birmingham offense overcame a halftime deficit to win 28-24, the defense kept it close in the first half and put the team in position for the outburst late.
The Houston Gamblers won their opener, shutting out the Michigan Panthers in the first half.
Both first-quarter drives started with a TFL, while a strip-sack at goal-to-go led to Houston’s first touchdown. Houston got another strip-sack in the quarter, forcing three turnovers in the half. This also likely made our friend Thomas Casale pretty happy.
Philadelphia Stars Blocking Woes
New Orleans and Tampa Bay each tallied a combined 15 sacks and TFLs in their wins.
The Breakers sacked quarterback Bryan Scott six times to defeat the Philadelphia Stars in the afternoon game while blocking a first-half punt for safety.
A strip-sack in the fourth quarter gave New Orleans a chance to put the game away but they missed a late field goal. Interestingly, the Stars’ biggest play of the game, a 42-yard touchdown run by Darnell Holland was partly sprung by a Breakers’ rusher missing a backfield tackle, opening the running lane.
The Bandits rode a week-high of 12 TFLs for the most dominant defensive performance of the week, winning 17-3 over the Pittsburgh Maulers.
Two TFLs ended Maulers’ drives, while a third stymied a chance to score deep in Bandits’ territory. Even the lone scoring march of the evening included a five-yard TFL on second and goal that likely crushed any hope of reaching the end zone.
Overall, it was not the best week for offensive line coaches. Teams had all of four weeks to get ready for kickoff from the start of training camps. Honestly, the challenges of installing blocking schemes for brand-new players require more time.
We’ll see who can make the adjustments in Week 2 and try to reverse this trend.