The margin for error is none.
That’s what Utah Blaze coach Ron James told his players this week before Saturday’s showdown with the Chicago Rush, the final of a three-game road swing that has featured back-to-back last-minute losses for the Blaze.
“I told us we have to be in playoff mode starting today,” James said.
The Blaze (4-6) take on a Rush team (6-5) at the BMO Harris Bank Center that came into EnergySolutions Arena on April 20 and shocked the home team 59-56 on a field goal as time expired. More than revenge and facing a must-win game to stay in playoff contention, Utah continues to deal with a midseason revamping of its game plan.
The record-setting offense from 2012 isn’t there this season, James said, and the coaching staff and players are adjusting to playing to their new strength, which is the defensive side of the ball.
“We kind of have to flip the script on ourselves,” he said. “Defensively, everything has been trending upward for us. Unfortunately for us, we’re just not playing at the offensive level we’re accustomed to.”
In order to get back on track, the Blaze will have to contain Chicago quarterback Carson Coffman — a rookie QB with Utah last season — who is coming off an eight-touchdown performance a week ago.
“We’re at the point of the season now where if you can’t make a push at this time of the year, you’re going to be left out of the dance,” James said.
Blaze at Rush
O At BMO Harris Bank Center (Rockford, Ill.)
Kickoff • Saturday, 6 p.m.
TV • CBS Sports Network (online stream)
Radio • 97.5 FM
Records • Utah 4-6; Chicago 6-5
Last meeting • Chicago 59, Utah 56 (April 20)
About the Blaze • The suddenly dominant Utah defense racked up six turnovers in last week’s last-minute loss to San Antonio. … Rookie defensive back Tony Tatum had an interception in his AFL debut. … The Utah offense ranks second in passing yards and third in total offense.
About the Rush • Wide receiver Reggie Grey leads the AFL in all-purpose yards with 2,066 and has 31 receiving touchdowns this season. … Former Utah backup QB Carson Coffman had eight touchdowns in Chicago’s win over Orlando last week. … Defensively, the Rush give up 54.3 points per game, which is 11th in the league.