THE TABLES HAVE TURNED IN CHICAGO-ATLANTA RIVALRY, STEAM HANDLE BLISS 30-8
The Chicago Bliss are clearly in a rebuilding phase, as suspected by many, after a disappointing performance against the Atlanta Steam in the Week 2 contest. A team known for stout defense and the league’s perennial top rushing attack, Chicago showed little signs of their former self to begin the 2019 season.
On the other end of the rivalry, it appeared Atlanta has assembled a team with a great chance to compete for the Legends Cup this season. With key off-season acquisitions, the return of quarterback Dakota Hughes, and the further development of current players, Atlanta displayed they are the team to beat in the East.
It didn’t take long for Atlanta quarterback Dakota Hughes to find her favorite receiver and best friend Lauran Ziegler. On the first play from scrimmage, Hughes struck Ziegler on a slant pass, which the HOF superstar took all the way to the end-zone, adding to the long list of touchdown connections between the two.
The Chicago Bliss defense looked lost on the play as there were multiple poor attempts to stop Ziegler. It was the first sign that the Championship caliber Bliss no longer existed.
To add to the deflation of a quick 6-0 deficit, on that first play- Linebacker Kristin Morrison went down with an injury and did not return to the field of play Saturday night.
Atlanta took an 8-0 lead after a successful extra point conversion from the legs of rookie Nicole Hulce.
Chicago’s offense, led by former wide-receiver- now converted quarterback, Tamika Robinson, and running-back Javelle Thompson failed to find the endzone until late in the second quarter. After a close scoring chance on their first possession that came up short on a 4th-and-goal, and then failing to sustain any sort of rhythm to keep a drive going, Chicago punted the ball with less than three minutes to play in the first half, down 24-0.
The game did not feel like the Chicago Bliss/ Atlanta Steam rivalry of former seasons, as Atlanta was in full control and Chicago looked lost. To the Bliss’ fortune, on that punt – Atlanta rookie Nicole Hulce muffed the return and Chicago recovered in the red-zone resulting in a much-needed turn of events.
On 3rd-and-goal from the Atlanta 2-yard line, quarterback Tamika Robinson found the endzone with her speed. The converted extra point attempt brought the score to 24-8 which is where the score stayed heading to halftime.
At the half, Atlanta had dominated Chicago on paper with 77 passing yards to Chicago’s zero, and 130 total yards from scrimmage while the Bliss had a meager 39 rushing yards accounting for their offensive production.
At the half, Steam quarterback Dakota Hughes was 7-of-9 passing with 3 touchdowns, spreading the wealth to Lauran Ziegler, tight-end Aubrey Williams, and tight-end Jolie Efezokhae.
It was apparent the Chicago Bliss were in for a rough evening, as Deanna Hightower, who was not a receiving factor for the Bliss at all during the Hac era, was their most targeted receiver in the first half.
The second half did not get any better for the Bliss offensively, however, there were bright spots on the defensive side of the ball. The Bliss defense held Atlanta to only one touchdown the remainder of the game and showed areas of promise in the secondary and defensive line. Without linebacker Kristin Morrison, other rookies were able to get their shot and stand out on film. Rookies Taty Blaise, Chaz Duson, and Emma Vanderheyden all showed solid potential at times on the defensive side of the ball.
The Bliss offense finished the game with just the one touchdown scored thanks to the Atlanta mishap on the punt in the second quarter. The running game was sluggish and Legends Cup MVP Javelle Thompson appeared to lose a step or two from last season. With 2019 being her fifth season in the league, the number of rushes might be taking a toll on the two-time Legends Cup Champion. Thompson only netted 29 rushing yards with a lack-luster 2.6 yards-per-carry average on the evening.
After Saturday’s game, Thompson noted “Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.” If the war this season is a Legends Cup Championship or even a playoff appearance, the Bliss are going to have to find a new way for sure.
Chicago was simply not ready for this game. They lacked execution and there was hardly any excitement and energy.
The 30-8 victory for Atlanta was the first time the Steam defeated the Bliss during the regular season, the only other win coming in the 2017 Eastern Conference Championship. Until now, Chicago has owned the upper hand in this rivalry.
Dakota Hughes finished the night near perfect- 9-of-11 passing for three touchdowns and no interceptions. Rookie Nicole Hulce was the rushing leader with 54 yards on 8 carries and converted multiple extra point attempts for the Steam. Her shiftiness and speed will provide her a good chance this season to compete for the Rookie of The Year award.
Chicago will have a chance for redemption, as this contest will take place again this summer when the Bliss visit the Steam on June 15th for round two. In the meantime, Chicago will quickly regroup for an important game against the Austin Acoustic on May 4th, a 2018 Legends Cup rematch. If Chicago falls to 0-2, it would be certain that the Championship Bliss are in the LFL’s rearview mirror.
Atlanta will head to LA for a Week 7 contest against the Temptation, expected to be one of the best games on the schedule this season. LA is a team that Coach Robinson has failed to defeat in two regular-season attempts, and they’ll have another tough outing on their hands this season visiting the Temptation May 17th.
|Passing Yards (Net)||91||21|
|Total Offense Plays-Yards||31-189||32-95|