The final game of Week Seven in the Alliance of American Football saw Johnny Manziel make his return to American football, playing for the Memphis Express. It also saw the first overtime game in the league’s history, and a big comeback by the Express (without Manziel) for a 31-25 OT victory over the Birmingham Iron.
Brandon Silvers Leads Memphis Express Comeback Win Against Birmingham Iron, 31-25 OT
Despite having the worst record in the league at 1-5 coming in, the Express were getting some attention because of them signing Manziel. Brandon Silvers got the start at quarterback for Memphis. He helped get the game tied at 8-8. However, a long pass from Iron quarterback Luis Perez helped the Iron go back up 16-8 right away. Manziel got to play a series shortly afterwards, and led what could have been a scoring drive had Austin MacGinnis not missed his first kick of the year, leaving the halftime score at 16-8.
The Memphis continued to rotate quarterbacks during the second half, with Manziel getting more action in the third quarter. Not much happened at first, as the Iron extended their lead to 19-8. But after the Express blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown, the Iron lead was cut to 19-14. However, Perez threw another touchdown in the fourth quarter, making the lead 25-14. Then Memphis made a comeback with Silvers leading the way, tying the game at 25-25 with 20 seconds to go, sending the game to overtime.
The overtime rules here a bit different from the NFL. Each team only got one possession each, starting at first and goal at the 10-yard line–and no field goals allowed. The Iron failed to score in four tries, actually getting sacked on one of them. But on the second try of the Express, Silvers threw a walk-off touchdown pass, ending the game.
Silvers has come a long way in a short time since throwing a pick-six on his second pass attempt of the season. In this game, he went 24-for-35, 266 yards, and two touchdowns. Also having a great day for the Express was wide receiver Reece Horn, who caught seven passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, the running game was abysmal for the Express; Terrence Magee had a touchdown, but only got four yards on three carries. Manziel actually led the team in rushing with 20 yards. (He also went 3-for-5 and 48 yards as a passer.) Fortunately, this did not cause them to lose.
Perez didn’t play too bad either, given that he tossed two more touchdowns on the day after struggling to throw any in his first few games. However, his completion percentage was below 50%. He finished 16-for-37, 235 yards, and two touchdowns. Elsewhere, Trent Richardson was actually the only Iron running back to get any carries–16 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown. Amba Etta-Tawo led the team in receiving with three catches for 71 yards.
The Express defense didn’t start out great, but they came through when they needed to. DeMarquis Gates led the team in tackles with seven, including one tackle for a loss plus two quarterback hits. He also blocked the punt that was then returned for a touchdown by Terrell Bonds. Elsewhere, Julius Warmsley, Cory Crawford and Greg Gilmore each got a sack. No one pulled in an interception, which was also the case for Birmingham.
For the Iron, they had the opposite problem: they started out fine, but fell apart late. Beniquez Brown was their team leader in tackles with seven, including a tackle for a loss. Jonathan Massaquoi also made some plays, tallying two tackles for a loss plus a sack and three quarterback hits.
Manziel was supposed to be the story of the game, but instead he sat out the final few drives as Silvers led the Express to a huge win. Despite being 2-5, they’re still mathematically alive in the playoff race. Meanwhile, the Birmingham Iron have dropped to 4-3. They’re still in reasonably good shape with a winning record, but they need to up their game to avoid more losses like that. Next week they’ll have as good a chance as any to bounce back when they play the Atlanta Legends. Meanwhile, the Express will be playing the Orlando Apollos and hoping for another upset victory.
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