The Soul started sloppy, ended sloppy and now stagger into the bye on a very sour note.
In a game littered with miscues, a bobbled snap punctuated a dismal effort as the Soul lost to Kansas City, 54-47, at the Wachovia Center.
Last night was supposed to be a mere formality for the Soul, who would have clinched a playoff berth with a win. Instead, they allowed the Brigade to score the first two touchdowns of the game and were forced to play uphill the rest of the way.
"We just can't afford to do that in this league," said Soul coach Bret Munsey. "Any team is capable of beating anyone. At times we didn't play well and it caught up with us."
It sure did.
The Brigade had only two wins all season and were 19-point underdogs. The Brigade's first score came when 375-pound lineman Jamarr Ward scored from 23 yards out on a screen pass. The first 21 yards were a result of the reception. He covered the last 2 yards by recovering his own fumble.
On the ensuing possession, Soul quarterback Matt D'Orazio was sacked by Chris Avery and fumbled the ball into his own end zone where Brigade defensive back Denario Smalls recovered for the 14-0 lead.
"That was a mental error by me," said D'Orazio, who was 24-for-34 for 268 yards and six touchdowns. "I take full responsibility for that."
The momentum built by the nine-game winning streak to start the season is gone and the Soul enter the off week having lost three of their last four. The defense, riddled with injuries, failed to get much pressure on Kansas City quarterback D. Bryant, who threw five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Bryant, whose full name is D. Alvin Bryant, had been splitting time at quarterback with Matt Kohn. But Bryant, who went 0-22 as a starter at Duke from 1999-01, settled in and played the whole game.
Lineman Bryan Save (torn triceps) is among those expected back when the Soul resume play with a critical visit to Dallas on Saturday, June 7.
"With him in the game," Munsey said, "we definitely get more pressure on the quarterback."
Philadelphia lost No. 2 wide receiver Larry Brackins with a head injury in the first half. Brackins had just one catch for 24 yards, but is expected to play against Dallas. Defensive back Mike Brown (hamstring) is also expected back after the bye.
Without Brackins and despite the poor play, the Soul still had a chance at the end.
Philadelphia had a 1st-and-goal at the one with 12 seconds left. With his defense limping, Munsey was not going to let Kansas City get the ball. The Soul went into a football version of holding for the last shot.
After a D'Orazio incompletion bled half the clock, the Soul tried a direct snap to fullback Clifton Smith. Philadelphia had scored earlier in the fourth quarter on the play. This time, though, the snap was high and Smith never got the handle. The clock expired before the Soul could recover the ball.
It was reminiscent of the Eagles-Cowboys 1997 game when Tommy Hutton and Chris Boniol gagged a chip-shot field goal attempt at the buzzer.
"You just want to be careful with the football," Munsey said. "We thought with 12 seconds left, we could get two plays. It just didn't work out."
The bye should have been a time to get healthy and enjoy an 11-2 start. Instead, Philadelphia is 10-3 and slipped behind first-place Dallas in the loss column.
"We'll re-evaluate our football team, watch some film and start to get ready for Dallas, Cleveland and New York," Munsey said, referring to the remaining schedule. "It's going to be a heckuva stretch. We're [virtually] a playoff football team, but our intentions are to get homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. That's what we want to do." *