06/23/2012 9:47 PM
Only Bret Smith (pictured left) had more than 26 receiving yards against the Rush
- KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Sometimes all it takes is a familiar foe to get back on track. The Chicago Rush (9-5) used their first division game since May 6th to crown their first road victory since March by dismantling the Kansas City Command (3-11) 59-41 in front of 3,452 fans at the Sprint Center Saturday night.
Trading touchdowns for the first sixteen minutes on way to a 14-14 tie, an element of Reggie Gray’s 2011 game returned at the 13:44 mark of the second quarter. Taking the kickoff off the rebound net, the Western Illinois product shook a few tacklers and darted up the field 57-yards for a touchdown. It was his fifth career AFL kickoff return for a score and his first of 2012. His first half also included knocking down his third career Rush record this season with his 16-yard acrobatic touchdown catch. The yards on the reception put him ahead of Etu Molden for the most career receiving yards in Chicago Rush history.
Helping him attain the record tonight was quarterback Russ Michna, who continued his dazzling 2012 season. Breaking a Rush single-game record for completions that stood since 2001, he used those 32 completions to collect 301 yards and 6 touchdowns. Dating back to the Week 6 loss to Georgia when he threw four interceptions, Michna has elevated his game to throw 40 touchdowns and just 1 interception since.
Beginning the game tonight by throwing two of his first three touchdowns to Jared Perry (9 catches, 111 yards), Michna finished by returning to Reggie Gray for the final three in the second half.
Gray’s five total touchdowns was a performance the Command couldn’t place an intermission on. Outside of Jackie Chambers, who imitated Gray on way to his own kickoff return for a score, Kansas City’s only weapon that saw success was WR Bret Smith. Being the only Command receiver to total more than 26 receiving yards, his 9 catch, 140 yard and 3 TD effort was responsible for half of the Kansas City scoring drives.
The disappointing effort by the Command offense was due to an inconsistent pocket for quarterback Zack Eskridge (15-29, 190 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT). Constantly side stepping or scurrying out of the pocket to throw, the Rush front four disrupted the passer despite not recording a sack. It was the second straight week the defense held an opposing passer below 200 yards passing.
The game left the reach of Kansas City near the end of the third quarter when Michna floated a pass in the end zone that held up in the air long enough for Reggie Gray to race underneath it. The 5-yard touchdown catch gave Chicago a 49-34 lead, therefore pressuring Eskridge to take additional chances downfield on the ensuing possession. The 51% completion rate finally caught up to him as he tossed an errant pass 15-yards along the left sidewall that was intercepted by a Rush defensive back playing in only his second AFL game, Boubacar Cissoko. It was the second interception on the night for the Rush defense, as Jorrick Calvin grabbed his seventh interception of the year (3rd with the Rush) earlier in the first half.
An eight play, 28-yard scoring drive off the Cissoko interception gave the Rush their first three possession lead of the night and muted the remaining crowd inside the Sprint Center.
Eskridge’s second rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter pulled Kansas City back to within 15, but they decided against an onside kick with 6:34 remaining in the game. Michna responded to the missed opportunity by leading the Rush on their longest drive of the evening. The drive finished with Joe Houston making good on a 34-yard field goal to push the lead back to three scores and in turn eliminating all hope for Kansas City.
The 59-41 win supplies the Rush with their ninth win of the year, setting up a huge National Conference match up with the San Jose SaberCats (9-5) June 30th at Allstate Arena.