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2021 United Bowl: Defense Matchup Preview

September 8, 2021 - Indoor Football League (IFL) News Release

If defense wins championships, then the two contenders for the 2021 United Bowl are set for a slugfest on Sunday afternoon at Footprint Center in Phoenix, as two of the Indoor Football League's most dominant defensive units will look to slow each other down just enough to make their claim for the IFL championship.

Not much separates the two defensive units. The Massachusetts Pirates defense finished the season as the top-rated scoring defense in the league, only giving up 33.1 points per game. Right behind the Pirates, the Rattlers ended the year with the second-best scoring defense in the IFL, allowing just 35.8 points per game.

Massachusetts enters the United Bowl with the No. 2 ranked rush defense in the IFL, which will be put to the test against the Rattlers' No. 1 ranked rushing attack. The Pirates rush defense has only allowed 57.2 rushing yards per game and 3.3 yards per carry, but did give up 91 rushing yards to the Rattlers during their Week 13 matchup.

Arizona comes in right behind Massachusetts with the third-best rush defense, giving up only 67.6 yards on the ground and the second fewest rushing touchdowns (24) allowed this season.

A simple look at the All-IFL teams will further demonstrate the prowess of the two defenses. When the ball is kicked off on Sunday, there will be a combined eight players that were named All-IFL on the defensive side. Arizona DL Nikolas D'Avanzo and DB Dillion Winfrey were named to the first team, while fellow DB Tyrell Pearson was named to the second team. Massachusetts' All-IFL representatives included DL Roderick Johnson and DB Harlan Millier on the first team, while DL JD Griggs, LB Martrell Spaight, and DB Chucky Williams earned second team nods.

A quick review of that list will tell you that the defensive back groups for both teams will be formidable. The Rattlers finished with the second most interceptions as a team (17), thanks in no small part to Winfrey's 11 interceptions. He was especially impressive down the stretch, earning IFL Defensive Player of the Week honors in two of the last three games. Winfrey also leads the IFL in passes defended with 31.

Massachusetts' Miller finished fifth in the IFL with 14 passes defended, seventh with nine passes broken up, and second with five interceptions. Fellow DB Aarion Maxey-Penton ranked sixth with 13 passes defended and tied with Miller with five interceptions. A third Massachusetts DB, Chucky Williams, led the IFL with three fumbles recovered, while Miller was fourth in that category with two.

Not to be outdone in this defensive conversation, the big boys in the trenches on both teams will look to speed the game up and disrupt the opponent's rhythm during the game. Arizona's defensive front recorded the second-most sacks (20) in the IFL. D'Avanzo terrorized opposing offensive lines consistently throughout the regular season, as he finished second in the league in both tackles-for-loss (14.0) and sacks (7).

The Pirates ranked third in sacks (19) behind the hard-charging Griggs and Johnson. Johnson is also a massive run-stuffer up the middle, making Massachusetts tough to run against. It will be a great match-up between the Mass defensive front and Rattlers' QB Drew Powell, who has a great propensity to call his own number.

It will take both sides of the ball playing well for one of these highly-rated teams to ultimately come out with the victory, but expect the defenses to make their presence felt early and often in the game. Expect possessions to come at a premium and hard hits to rule the day. But what else would you want with the championship on the line and two of the IFL's best looking to deliver the knockout blow that will allow their team to be celebrating when the final seconds tick off the United Bowl clock?

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