The Washington Valor had a tough act to follow Saturday night as they tried to feed off the momentum of a still-buzzing Verizon Center crowd who witnessed one of the greatest playoff moments in Wizards history just 24 hours prior.
Unlike the Wizards, unfortunately, the Valor couldn’t complete a late run and dropped their third straight contest, losing 41-33 to the visiting Tampa Bay Storm.
Here’s five takeaways that shaped the outcome of the game:
1) Still No Washington in D.C.
Valor receiver Mike Washington missed his second straight game on Saturday night and the team struggled to consistently score again.
Charles McClain is a part of the receiving group that must step up and he did the best he could, catching a team-high two touchdowns in the third quarter that helped the team claw back into the game.
McClain spoke about Washington’s impact even though he can’t join them on the field right now.
“Mike’s a big part of our team,” he said. We all compete in practice. Mike’s there…everyday always helping us.”
Washington was leading the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns before suffering a lower body injury in Week 2 against the Philadelphia Soul. He was clearly the team’s top option on offense and a viable target for quarterback Erik Meyer.
They were held to just one touchdown in the first quarter. Meyer couldn’t find a rhythm with any of his receivers, a problem he’s had the last 10 quarters since the departure of Washington.
There’s still no timetable for Washington’s return, but according to McClain, he’s getting “healthy” and when he does come back the team will “welcome him with open arms.”
2) Sixty Minutes of Football
The Valor are still struggling to string together a full 60 minutes of football.
Head coach Dean Cokinos spoke about this after game. “We had a game plan and stuck to it,” he said. The game doesn’t end at 30 minutes, as we’ve known.”
In their first two home games, Cokinos’ team jumped out to early leads only to fall apart in the second half. Inversely, the team came out slow on Saturday, then went on to outscore the Storm 19-14 in the second half. They had a chance to tie the score with just under a minute to play in the game, down just eight points and facing a 2nd-and-goal, but a botched snap resulted in a costly turnover that ending the game.
The fumbled snap was emblematic of a what-could-have-been game.
Valor wideout Greg Carr reflected on the missed opportunities after the game. “As a team, we gotta capitalize in those situations,” said Carr. “We fumbled the snap, and they took advantage of that. We hurt ourselves at the end of the first half not getting an onside kick, and they took advantage of that, too.”
The onside kick came after the Storm took a 21-14 lead with just over a minute left in the first half. The ball plopped along the left wall but somehow stayed in bounds and the Storm recovered it in stride to set up great field position.
Even still, the Valor defense stood tall and looked to make an important goal-line stand when linebacker Terrance Smith broke up a pass in the end zone as time expired. But a pass interference penalty would give Storm QB Randy Hippeard another opportunity, which he converted into six as he snuck around the left side of his offensive line to make the score 27-14 at the half.
4) Problem with Hills
Storm wideout Joe Hills continued his rampage through the league, extending his touchdown streak to 73 games.
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) May 13, 2017
The Valor secondary had no answers for the 6-foot-4, 220-pound receiver as he lit them up for three touchdowns.
5) Slowing Hippeard
Hippeard came into the game as the top passer in the AFL this season.
Coach Cokinos was pleased with his groups’ defensive effort in containing Hippeard.
“We wanted to slow down the motion a little bit and don’t give him easy throws, said Cokinos. We wanted to force him into long drives and keep consistently hitting him, and the guys did a really good job at that.” Hippeard finished with 205 yards passing, completing 20 of 31 pass attempts, but the Valor defense was superb for most the game, getting pressure in his face and collecting three sacks.
The Valor get a chance at redemption next Saturday, May 20 as they travel to Tampa to take on the Storm.