Birmingham Stallion key player has decided not to play due to…

The San Antonio Brahmas take on the Birmingham Stallions for the UFL Championship on Sunday, Jun. 16. Despite being the only team to beat the Stallions earlier this season in week nine, the Brahmas are three-point underdogs (via FOX Bet) for this one.

The following are three keys for the Brahmas if they want to “upset” Birmingham, again, in the biggest game of the season:

1. Run, Run, Run

The Brahmas started the season as a pass-first team, but have since gradually shifted over to being a more run-heavy team. This is primarily due to the fact that they have had much success with their run game. And props to offensive coordinator A.J. Smith for adjusting his play-calling accordingly.

McFarland has run for 190 yards and one touchdown on 47 carries, while Lovett has 423 yards and five touchdowns on 103 carries. San Antonio’s run-blocking is graded as the second highest in the UFL with a PFF grade of 53.6.

When these two teams met in week nine, Birmingham struggled to stop San Antonio’s rushing attack, allowing 126 rushing yards. And that was without Lovett, who is equally as explosive, if not more, as McFarland. Lovett will be active this Sunday for the championship to complement McFarland in the backfield.

Last week, McFarland and Lovett combined for 193 rushing yards on 29 carries against a stout St. Louis defensive front in San Antonio’s playoff win. Quarterback Chase Garbers had 21 passes in the win, half of what he had in his team’s 30-26 loss against the Battlehawks in week three.

The earlier the Brahmas can get their run game going on Sunday, the better, as it will maximize offensive coordinator A.J. Smith’s options in terms of play calling. If Birmingham overplays the run, then San Antonio can utilize its dynamite on the outside in receivers like Jontre Kirklin and Marquez Stevenson. No matter what, San Antonio’s offensive success will rely on the run game.

2. Keep Adrian Martinez in the Pocket

Despite being benched at the end of the USFL Conference Championship last week, Stallions head coach has confirmed that Adrian Martinez will be starting on Sunday. Now, maybe we will see Matt Corral come in for a couple drives, considering what he was able to accomplish last week in leading his team to victory. But either way, stopping Martinez will be harder and should be the main focus for San Antonio.

For their week nine game against Birmingham, head coach Wade Phillips said his team game-planned for Martinez like he was Cam Newton. I’d imagine the case will be the same for this upcoming matchup. And rightfully so, as Martinez is truly a dual threat—leading the UFL in rushing yardage (528) and third in passing yardage (1,750).

The Brahmas have an extremely strong defensive front headlined by Prince Emili and Caeveon Patton. But that won’t matter if they can’t keep Martinez contained in the pocket on Sunday. Yes, San Antonio has a secondary that is excellent in coverage, which should help when Martinez escapes the pocket, but only on a limited basis.

Martinez has historically played better in unstructured situations and that’s what San Antonio’s defense has to keep him out of. The Brahmas should not have to rely on the back end of their defense if Martinez evades out of the pocket and gets out of hand with his knack for being able to improvise in unstructured situations.

The Brahmas displayed good gap discipline and not over pursuing Martinez last time they played Birmingham. For the pass rushers, it’s not about getting to him and sacking him. Just keep him contained in the pocket, where it will be harder for him to be the playmaker he is.

3. Capitalize on Opportunities

This is a much more general, yet important key, as we have seen many UFL games decided by one possession this season. In the championship game between two of the best teams, with little-to-no-skill gap, this mantra will definitely apply.

The Brahmas have forced 1.1 turnovers per game this season. Odds are, they will force one on Sunday, and how they capitalize on the short-field advantage (ideally) from that forced turnover, or potentially multiple, will be important.

Finishing out red zone drives will also be crucial. In a contest featuring two of the best defenses in the UFL, I’m expecting a low-scoring game. Thus, being as efficient as possible on the few drives that actually make it all the way to the red zone will be key.

Mental lapses and mistakes are bound to be made on both sides of the ball from both teams—it’s part of the game. Generally speaking, both the Brahmas and Stallions have been two of the top teams in limiting their penalties and other unforced errors. It won’t be the team that makes fewer mistakes that gets the advantage; rather, it will be the team that better capitalizes on its opposition’s mistakes in what I’m expecting to be a closely contested matchup.


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