But Sunday night, the QB wasn’t Rivers, and the tiny rusher wasn’t Darren Sproles as Mission Valley hosted its first professional football game in 777 days. (But Chargers fans were present — with Bolts logos on tailgater tents, caps and other gear.)
The Fleet, wearing battleship gray and yellow, evened its Alliance of American Football record to 1-1 as it beat the winless Atlanta Legends 24-12 before an announced crowd of 20,000-plus.
The game was closer than the score indicated, with all Fleet scoring coming on three Donny Hageman field goals (the longest being 46 yards) in the first three quarters. (Gamblers were happy, as the Fleet covered its 9.5-point spread.)
The game was knotted 9-9 going into the final 15 minutes.
The Fleet had fallen behind 9-0 in a game aired live on Fox and the NFL Network. The rain was a nuisance, but didn’t dampen the San Diego crowd’s enthusiasm.
Gardner scored on 8- and 7-yard runs in the fourth quarter with the score at 12-12. The Fleet couldn’t convert its two-point tries (no point-after-TDs are allowed in Alliance play. No kickoffs either.)
Nelson was 6-for-17 for 71 yards (and an interception) in the first half, but improved to 8-for-13 for another 71 yards in the second half.
“There’s a lot of things offensively to clean up, but that first victory definitely helps us going forward,” Nelson was quoted as saying. “It was long overdue as an offense. I definitely felt some emotions going into the game. We all kind of had some nerves there.
“But we settled in, and once we got rolling we were in a zone there.”
But Fleet head coach Mike Martz, the former St. Lous Rams coach, promised to have a word with QB Nelson about a play with 6:13 left in the third quarter.
That’s when Nelson, under pressure from the Legends defense, threw the ball backwards, over his shoulders, with no chance to see any receivers.
Tight end Gavin Escobar caught the ball out of bounds.
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Said Martz in the postgame press conference: “Yeah, we’re going to talk about that. We’re going to have a long discussion about that.”
Nelson would say: “I hope I don’t get cut. I was trying to throw that ball away. When I heard, ‘Pass completed,’ I was like, ‘OK, thank you, God. Next play.’ ’’
The Fleet made changes on offense, defense and special teams from its losing opener at the San Antonio Commanders last weekend — the biggest, arguably, was bringing in Philip Nelson over QB Mike Bercovici.
“Mike’s just not ready,” Fleet head coach Mike Martz said before Sunday’s game. “Mike going to be a real good player. Mike has not been in this kind of system, Phil has.”
Nelson was the starting quarterback for the Martz-coached Team National in the 2017 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl college football all-star game, but he had a slow start Sunday night completing 14-of-30 passes for 142 yards and an interception against the Legends.
Safety Ryan Moeller nabbed an interception for the Fleet, helping cement the team’s first victory as a franchise and for head coach Martz.
The Fleet play host to the San Antonio Commanders next weekend.
San Diego Fleet Tromp Atlanta Legends in First Home Game at SDCCU Stadium was last modified: February 18th, 2019 by Toni McAllister
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