Through the first three possessions, it looked as though defense was going to be the tops for Friday's game between the San Jose SaberCats and the Spokane Shock of the Arena Football League. Rarely does a game ever go three possessions in the AFL without a score, but that's exactly what happened live on the NFL Network.
And then quarterback Mark Grieb got fired up. The man was laser accurate all night, with amazing touch on the ball en route to 315 yards and seven touchdowns. He went 28 for 41 on the night ... the numbers are impressive, when you consider he came into the game with 14 touchdowns and just over 600 yards. He didn't throw an interception. His play led the SaberCats to a 69-35 victory over the Shock.
There was one point early in the game in which Grieb overthrew his receiver running a tight post on the right side of the field. He calmly went back to the line, instructed Samora Goodson to run the same route, and floated the ball beautifully to get the game's second touchdown. At halftime, Grieb was asked if he, a 37 year-old veteran of the league, still had what it takes to run for a touchdown.
He said no. Then ran for a touchdown at the start of the third quarter.
Going forward, Grieb really should be a little bit more careful, and choose his opportunities to run. The SaberCats should also be a little bit smarter with how they manage him, as they elected to keep Grieb in with a sizable lead into the fourth quarter. They had the backup warming up, but sent Grieb out for another drive, on which he was rocked pretty badly. He was sandwiched between two players and had his head hit another player's knee.
Grieb was clearly dazed when they were looking at him on the sideline, which is always a scary sign. And one that didn't need to happen, as the SaberCats were leading 63-28 at that point. We'll know more about Grieb's status soon, but for now, back to the positives.
Grieb was great, and for the first time in a long time, his defense was just as great on the road. That's been their biggest issue - winning games on the road. Going into Friday's game, the SaberCats had lost eight-straight on the road, including a heartbreaker against the Utah Blaze, in which the SaberCats missed four extra points and lost 60-59. Ben Nelson and James Roe both had three touchdowns on the night.
Speaking of extra points, the SaberCats were able to pick up a win despite Jacob Harfman, who is a kickoff specialist and punter, missing a couple kicks. They need to address that position sooner rather than later, because it's looking more and more like he isn't the guy going forward. At one point, San Jose simply abandoned going for extra points and went for nothing but two-point conversions.
That defense was great, especially in the second half of the game. After the Shock scored with 22 seconds remaining in the second quarter, they were held scoreless through the third quarter and more than half of the fourth, before Adam Froman hit Adron Tennell to give the Shock a little boost.
San Jose's defense forced two interceptions before the Shock put points up on the board, and forced Froman into a pretty rough game. They did falter once they started going for the bigger plays and heavier hits though, making mistakes and allowing Froman to scamper for two rushing touchdowns.
At any rate, going forward, the SaberCats at least know they can win a game on the road, and can work on getting back to the ArenaBowl ... providing Mark Grieb remains healthy. Next, the SaberCats will take on the San Antonio Talons on April 6 at the HP Pavilion.