They say Defense wins championships, and if that’s the case… Philadelphia might just have the winning formula in this weekends championship game. This past weekend against the mighty New Jersey Generals offense, the Stars defense stood tall on multiple occasions including a key fourth down stop. Can Philadelphia repeat this performance and shut down a Stallions offense that hasn’t looked flawless as of late?
Stars Defense Lays the Wood
Going back a couple weeks, we started to see a trend develop on Philadelphia’s defense. It seemed, that Cody Brown was popping up on Viral video clips for his devastating hits in the Philadelphia secondary. Either Philadelphia Starr‘s defense took week 10’s loss personally, or the man known as Hitman is starting to rub off on his defense.
After a loss and weak tend to the very team they faced in the playoffs, the stars came into this rematch as an underdog. However, if you looked closely at the week 10 victory by the generals, you would see a different story. While the stars ultimately lost the game, they were within three in the fourth quarter in case Cookus through an interception to close out the game.
The big take away from that week 10 loss was that the defense needed to step up and stop the run game led by Trey Williams and Darius Victor. As mentioned in my previous article, a key to this game was getting off the field on third down for this defense. Special-teams had been a point of contention for the generals all season long and it was no different in this playoff game.
The Stars were able to slow down the offense just enough to force them into fourth down situations. I felt it was very telling, when we saw the generals attempt to convert these fourth downs rather than trot out the kicking team on multiple occasions.
In a game that was decided by just five points, the kicking game which had been an issue for the generals all season long, ultimately played it’s part in their downfall in the playoffs. Ultimately the Generals were stopped on fourth down within the ten yard line.
Philadelphia Offense Does Their Part
It cannot be ignored that the newest Philadelphia football team finds itself in a very similar situation to their “older brother” the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2017 on their way to a Super Bowl victory Carson Wentz was injured late in the year, during what looked to be an MVP level season. Ultimately his backup, a man now enshrined with a statue outside of Lincoln Financial Field, Nick Foles would lead them to the promised land.
This started a chain reaction of events that I believe led to the ultimate firing of Doug Pederson, the trade of Carson Wentz, and the eventual draft pick spent on Jalen Hurts. However that’s an article for another day and another website. Follow me on Shady Sports Network if you’d like to eventually catch that article as well. Also don’t miss my interview with Cody Brown of the Philadelphia Stars the day before the game at: Shady Sports Network on Twitch.
Now we see the USFL’s Stars forced to follow a similar path. However, this time around I get the feeling that the unquestioned starter in Philly is still Bryan Scott who was the franchise quarterback and inaugural first round pick. Prior to injury Scott was averaging one of the highest passing yards per game averages in the league and he still ranks top ten in many categories.
Frankly I feel it’s more likely we see a team like Pittsburgh, or Houston attempt to swing a trade for Case Cookus knowing Scott is the guy for the Stars. Ultimately the parallels will forever be drawn in Philadelphia if Cookus is able to lead the Stars to victory this weekend.
Run Game Needs to Get on Track
There was a stretch of 6 weeks where Matt Colburn looked dominant. The problem is in the two weeks before that, and the three weeks following, things haven’t been nearly as impressive. The Stars did rush for over 100 yards, and average over four yards per carry but the leading rusher and only offensive player to score on the ground was Cookus.
This cannot continue to happen in the Championship Game if you intend to beat Birmingham. The Stallions play a ball control style of offense, short quick passes, and the run game are their bread and butter. If you don’t operate in this manner as well, or produce big plays regularly like they did last week to find victory.
The thing is Cookus is a game manager. He is a guy who limits mistakes, operates with anticipation and timing. Doing his damage on the short to intermediate game. However as I have spoken about with Luis Perez this negatively effects the run game. If the safeties have little threat that you can beat them deep, soon enough they walk up in the box.
To be fair this can be used to your advantage to produce big plays on play action, or double moves as the game goes on. The thing is you have to be able to operate efficiently to keep the defense honest. 10 of 20 for 6.6 yards per attempt isn’t cutting it. Philadelphia needs a solid game out of Cookus, and they need to threaten the defense will the deep ball as well. Don’t let those safeties take away what Cookus is best at, and allow for more running lanes benefiting your offense as a whole.
Final Word on the Championship Game
The Stars have been inconsistent at times, thanks in part to what Cookus has done. They ride or die with their quarterback, and I’m hoping this weekend Cookus brings us another 20 of 26 and 5 touchdown performance we saw a few weeks ago when he diced up Michigan.
Looking back to that game it’s interesting to see Philadelphia winning in-spite of Cookus and not because of him. The bottom line here is you have to get him going and keep the defense honest to get this moving this weekend. If the Stallions are allowed to key on the run and short passing game. This week might be a perfect game to unleash more misdirection and trick plays with Maurice Alexander who we saw return a kick for a TD, and throw a pass.
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