Netherlands: Falcons Defense Pitches A Shutout, Team Fails To Convince

Photo: Jasper Barendregt
The Arnhem Falcons started the 2014 season with a 19-0 victory over regional rival Nijmegen Pirates last Sunday. On the back of a strong defensive performance in which 8 turnovers were created the Arnhem offense failed to impress.

It all started out exactly according to plan for the Falcons who once again turned their home opener into an event with music, fireworks and a play by play announcer. After Nijmegen won the toss and deferred to the second half Arnhem kick returner Joost Holtslag fielded the Pirates kickoff at his own 15-yard line and returned it all the way to the Nijmegen 5-yard line.

This gift was not wasted on the Falcons offense with runningback Brandon Stamper taking the ball to the endzone on the first play from scrimmage. The extra point attempt failed wide right.

Outstanding defensive work put the offense back on the field quickly after that, but it took another two drives for the Falcons to score again. This time the first Nijmegen turnover of the afternoon set up a Falcons drive that was capped off by a 30-yard touchdown pass from AJ Hobbelink to Rio Antonia who reeled in the pass at the right corner of the endzone. This time Tim van Mal added the extra point to put the Falcons up 13-0.

Unfortunately from that moment on the Falcons offensive motor started to stutter, with ineffective run blocking and many dropped passes leading to short possessions. Nijmegen then also managed to establish a little rhythm, moving the ball down the field with their new option based attack. The Falcons defense continued doing what it needed to do though, forcing fumbles and two more interceptions allowing the team to go into halftime with a 13-0 lead.

The lack of success in the passing game moved the Arnhem coaching staff to change tactics in the second half and to come out in a power-I formation in the second half.

Although this lead to longer drives by the Falcons offense, the Nijmegen Pirates were successful in slowing the pace down by tenacious defending with many players in the box.

It exactly this that eventually lead to the next Arnhem score. Starting QB Hobbelink was out on the sideline with an elbow injury and backup QB Rio Antonia was leading the drive towards the Nijmegen endzone. The practice of keeping most of the defenders in the box then came back to bite the Pirates as Antonia ran a few bootlegs, providing long gains and eventually the third Arnhem touchdown. On the PAT kicker Tim van Mal was again unsuccessful, again the kick sailed just right of the uprights.

Even though the defense kept providing the offense with opportunities through forced turnovers, the Falcons were unable to capitalize on the effort, eventually ending the game with a solid yet slightly disappointing victory.

Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Total
Pirates 0 0 0 0 0
Falcons 13 0 0 6 19