(LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – TUESDAY, MAY 28th, 2019) Atlanta Coach Dane Robinson is feeling the heat, after again failing to defeat a team with a .500 or better record during the regular season. Time after time, the Atlanta Steam fall just short in competitive games, many of which the Steam are favored in.

The questions have been asked and many wonder what the Steam coaching situation will look like next year if Atlanta doesn’t win the Legends Cup this season. After the loss to LA last week, it’s clear there are areas of weakness on this Steam team that make a championship run an uphill battle. There is no question, Coach Robinson and his Atlanta Steam have their work cut out for them in 2019.

On the other end of last Saturday’s contest, the LA Temptation showed incredible improvement and appear to be shaping into a contender, in search of their fourth Legends Cup Title.

LA’s Nas Johnson was out in this Week-6 battle, which opened up an opportunity for second-year player Miriah Lopez to get her first start at the running back position. Lopez was phenomenal in her debut.

The most impressive part about Lopez’s night was the fact she carried the ball 22 times and never came close to fumbling the ball. LA pounded the running game, play after play, and relied heavily on Lopez for most of their offensive production. Her ball security was outstanding and the chemistry with quarterback Ashely Salerno on hand-offs, made it look like they had been in the same backfield for years.

In the game, it took Atlanta only 38 seconds to take the lead. Atlanta started with the ball and on the second play from scrimmage, Dakota Hughes and her Steam offense executed a flea flicker to perfection, as she connected with Lauran Ziegler for 32 yards and a score. Ziegler was able to get past the secondary and out in space, as Hughes showcased her arm strength providing the Steam offense a chance to rein in the first touchdown on the night. Atlanta led LA 7-0 after a converted extra point.

LA was able to score on their next two possessions, as well as holding Atlanta to consecutive four-and-outs. A Miriah Lopez 4-yard touchdown rush and a Salerno 1-yard touchdown rush gave LA a 13-7 lead heading into the 2nd quarter.

Atlanta was struggling to contain the run game. HOF linebacker Monique Gaxiola filled in at the center position, as she and Sherri Awagah played strong in the trenches for LA’s offense.

With just 15 seconds left in the first half and down by a score of 20-15 with the ball at their own 15-yard line, Atlanta drew up more trickery on offense.

As a matter of fact, that trickery was very familiar to the LA defense but they failed to defend it yet again. The exact same flea flicker worked for a second time as running back Nicole Hulce took the handoff from Hughes, and after a second, pitched it back to her gunslinger who launched a 35-yard scoring pass to Lauran Zieger to take a 21-20 lead right before the half.

LA’s cornerback Delaney Hall had a difficult time containing Ziegler, especially on the two big scoring plays. LA’s secondary could use improvement as they prepare for the rest of the season and potentially the postseason.

Weaknesses on the Atlanta defense were speed and strength up front. In order to compete in the playoffs this year with contenders like Seattle and Austin in the mix, Atlanta will need to improve greatly defending the run. The Steam defensive ends and cornerbacks were easily handled by the LA offense.

The third quarter was all LA, as Salerno scored her third and fourth touchdown of the game bringing the LA lead to 34-21.

In the fourth quarter, Atlanta scored on their first possession when Hughes connected with Keyon Harrison for a 6-yard touchdown pass bringing their deficit to just one touchdown and an extra point.

Up by a score of 34-27, LA sustained an offensive drive that burned over five minutes off the clock and LA found themselves within the 10-yard line, poised to take a two-score lead with just over two minutes remaining.

On a 3rd & 6 from the 7-yard line, LA called a play action pass which turned into their worst nightmare. Atlanta’s Lauran Ziegler found herself an interception which she returned for a touchdown, bringing the score to 34-33 with an extra point attempt to remain.

It was one of the many unbelievable plays Ziegler has made in her career and was followed by her now popular- helmet chest pump to the crowd. It was clear that no matter the scenario, with Zeigler on the field, there is always a chance for the Steam to find the endzone.

Regarding the extra point, many people in football say go for the win when on the road and that is exactly what Dane Robinson’s Steam chose to do. Atlanta went for two on the extra point attempt, targeting tight-end Aubrey Williams in the back of the endzone which failed. With weapons like Lauran Ziegler, Jolie Efezokahae, and Michelle Marshall on the field, many question the strategy of the play call, but regardless the attempt failed and LA was in control to win the game by a final score of 34-33.

As noted earlier, Miriah Lopez was phenomenal in her debut, rushing for 125-yards on 22 carries and finishing the night with one touchdown.

Ashley Salerno completed 4-of-8 passes for 69-yards, zero touchdowns, and one Interception. Salerno added to the ground attack with four of her own touchdowns, a personal best for the long-time LA signal caller.

Hughes’ passing totaled 100-yards and 3 touchdowns, as she completed 6-of-12 passes and threw one interception.

Atlanta’s rookie running-back Nicole Hulce averaged 6.2 yards-per-carry but only had 4 rushes, netting 25 yards. In just two games, Hulce has proven her dependability and it’s expected she will see increased rushing attempts in the remaining games this season.

Despite the MVP honors going to Miriah Lopez, Lauran Ziegler had an incredible game on both sides of the ball. Ziegler had 73 receiving yards, 2 touchdown receptions, 17 rushing yards, 4.5 tackles, and an interception returned for a touchdown late in the game to keep their winning chances alive. Certainly one of the more clutch performances in the Hall-of-famer’s storied career.

The LA Temptation (2-1) finish out their regular season on the road against the Austin Acoustic in a game that could have large playoff implications.

Atlanta (1-1) appears to have a fairly easy road to a 3-1 finish as they host the struggling 0-2 Chicago Bliss, as well as the rebuilt Nashville Knights who take the field next week.

With the new playoff rules this season, in which the teams with the best four records in the league advance to the postseason, Atlanta vs LA is a matchup LFL fans could see again before the 10th Anniversary Season comes to a confetti end.

Score 33 34
First Downs 10 13
Rushes-Yards (Net) 17-65 37-163
Passing Yards (Net) 100 69
Passes Att-Comp-Int 12-6-1 8-4-1
Total Offense Plays-Yards 29-165 45-232
Fumble Returns-Yards 0-0 0-0
Kickoff Returns-Yards 0-0 0-0
Interception Returns-Yards 1-47 1-5
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 4-10 1-5
Possession Time 15:55 24:05
Third-Down Conversions 1/3 7/9
Fourth-Down Conversions 0/2 0/1
Red-Zone Scores-Chances 2/3 4/8