Jonathan Adams snags last-gasp pass and a victory for Breakers
The Breakers struggled against the Gamblers on Sunday, but Jonathan Adams' late heroics saved the day, Eric D. Williams writes.
By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports Writer
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Jonathan Adams remembers the play call.
"Dual right, throw it to me," quipped Adams.
With 10 seconds left and his team on the Houston Gamblers’ 29-yard line, New Orleans head coach Larry Fedora decided against kicking a field goal, instead dialing up a play for his big-bodied receiver.
And Adams delivered, going up high to haul in a reception for a score on a go-route from quarterback Kyle Sloter.
After their defense held, the Breakers escaped with a 23-16 win over the Gamblers on Sunday in the final USFL game of Week 4 at Protective Stadium.
Highlights: Breakers top Gamblers with late heroics
Fedora could have kicked the field goal for the win, but felt good about the play call, giving a chance for the 6-3, 220-pound Adams to make a play in the back of the end zone.
Adams said he expected to get man coverage — which he did — on the winning score. He finished with a game-high six receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown.
"We weren’t going to put ourselves in a position to go anywhere else with it," Fedora said. "We didn’t want there to be a decision process. And if he didn’t have it, throw it away and kick the field goal."
The game was not a pretty one for Fedora’s Breakers, but they got the job done when it mattered. The Breakers rolled up 506 yards of offense, but also committed four turnovers and had a field goal blocked.
Houston Gamblers' defense forces four turnovers
"We felt like we made this game as hard as we could possibly make it," Fedora said. "But our guys just kept overcoming."
With the victory, the Breakers improved to 3-1 on the year, while the Gamblers lost for a third straight time, dropping to 1-3.
The USFL’s leading passer entering this weekend’s games, Sloter finished 26-for-41 for 397 yards — a league-high in this inaugural season — but threw three interceptions and also lost a fumble.
The Breakers did get a strong performance from running back Jordan Ellis, who finished with 104 rushing yards on 19 carries and a score.
Sloter’s counterpart Clayton Thorson had an uneven performance for the Gamblers, completing 15 of 27 passes for 127 yards, with a touchdown and no interceptions.
Specifically, the Gamblers have struggled on offense in the second half all season, scoring a combined 16 points in four games.
"We had really poor execution on offense for the majority of the game," Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin said.
Houston led 13-10 at halftime, but the Gamblers should have been up more after forcing three turnovers and having Chris Odom blocking a 53-yard field goal attempt by New Orleans kicker Taylor Bertolet.
Odom had a good game defensively for Houston, finishing with a sack, a forced fumble and two combined tackles. Houston cornerback Will Likely also played well, totaling seven combined tackles, six pass breakups, an interception and a fumble recovery.
New kicker a hit for Breakers
New Orleans added Bertolet to the roster this week, and he performed well for the Breakers, making field goals from 50, 45 and 28 yards. The Texas A&M product’s only miss was the 53-yarder that was blocked by Odom.
Bertolet replaced Austin MacGinnis, who went 2-for-5 on field goals and 4-for-7 on extra points through the first three weeks of the season.
"We’re proud of Taylor," Fedora. "He came here a few days ago and he’s well-liked on our football team, especially today. But he did that in practice this week. The guys tried to put as much pressure on him during practice yelling at him, and he never blinked."
Breakers bottle up Thompson
Gamblers running back Mark Thompson entered Week 4 as the USFL’s leading rusher with 310 yards.
However, the Breakers limited Thompson to a season-low 10 yards on 14 carries.
"Our game plan was to put body on body, corral him and take him down the best way we can," New Orleans outside linebacker Vontae Diggs said. "Get multiple guys there — one guy get a leg and one guy get to his upper body."
Sumlin said Thompson was a little rusty because he did not practice all week due to illness.
"We just got Mark back yesterday [Saturday]," Sumlin said. "But that being said, we’ve got to do a better job of giving him an opportunity schematically. I’ve got to be better. We’ve got to be able to block better — everything. You can’t put that on one person in a game like this."
Receiver Johnnie Dixon left the game in the first quarter after making a tackle on an interception. He was slow to get up, but after being attended to by the training staff, Dixon returned to the field. … Likely suffered a leg injury at the end of the first half. He went to the locker room for further evaluation and returned to the game in the second half.
Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @eric_d_williams.