Breakers weather storm, swarm Showboats with defense in runaway win

MEMPHIS — Lightning, wind-swept rain and a long weather delay could not deter New Orleans Breakers linebacker Vontae Diggs and his teammates’ quest for redemption.

Diggs and the Breakers wanted a little bit of get-back after losing to the Memphis Showboats earlier this season. They got it in the form of a dominant, 31-3 victory over host Memphis on Saturday at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium.

“We had a saying all week,” Diggs said. “I’m going to keep the French out of it, but that get-back is an MF — meaning we owe them, and we’re not going home without getting our get-back on them. 

“It is what it is. We don’t think they should have beat us the first time, and we had to go back and stand on that business the second time. And we did.”

The game was stopped with 1:04 left in the first quarter for three hours and 12 minutes because of a severe weather delay as a thunderstorm passed through the heart of Memphis. 

Highlights: Breakers swarm Showboats

Slanting rain doused the stadium. Thunder and lightning could be seen from the press box. 

However, the inclement weather didn’t stop a steady onslaught unleashed by motivated Breakers, who ended the Showboats’ five-game winning streak with the win.

The Breakers upped their record to 6-3 with the victory and now stand alone in second place in the South Division, while the Showboats dropped to the division cellar at 5-4 overall. However, both teams remain in the playoff hunt with one game remaining.

Memphis turned the ball over a season-high five times. Entering Saturday’s contest, the Showboats were No. 1 in the USFL with a plus-5 turnover differential. The Showboats were also 0-for-5 offensively on fourth downs on Saturday.

The Breakers also relentlessly pressured Memphis quarterback Cole Kelley, finishing with five sacks. Kelley completed 23 of 41 passes for 224 yards, with no touchdowns and three interceptions.

The No. 1 offense in the league, the Breakers recorded just 177 total yards on offense. USFL leading passer McLeod Bethel-Thompson completed just 9 of 16 passes for 88 yards and a score. But New Orleans didn’t turn the ball over.

“I could care less how many yards we have when we score 31 points and our defense has five turnovers,” New Orleans coach John DeFilippo said. “That’s called football. It’s really good football.

“As a wise coach once said — stats are for losers, the scoreboard is for winners.” 

The Breakers put this one away early by jumping out to a 17-point lead in the opening quarter. 

New Orleans got on the scoreboard first with a 43-yard field goal by kicker Matt Coghlin. The points were set up by Memphis tight end Jay Jay Wilson’s fumble after a 15-yard completion along the sideline, the ball jarred loose by safety James Wiggins and recovered by cornerback Adonis Alexander

New Orleans pushed its lead to 10-0 on a Wes Hills 2-yard plunge over the goal line. The score was set up by a 45-yard punt return by safety Jarey Elder. Hills finished with 50 rushing yards on 18 carries. 

The Breakers grabbed a 17-0 advantage on a 29-yard interception for a return by Diggs. 

The touchdown was a result of a bad decision by Kelley, who failed to control an unexpected, low snap by center Jordan McCray, and then compounded the error by trying to make a play down the field instead of falling on the ball or throwing it away.

After the long weather delay, the Showboats finally got on the scoreboard with a 50-yard field goal by Alex Kessman, his 19th straight made field goal this season. 

But the defining play of the game came early in the third quarter. Memphis appeared to cut the Breakers’ lead to seven points on running back Juwan Washington’s score from two yards out. 

However, the touchdown was reversed by replay. Washington fumbled on the next play on first-and-goal from just beyond the goal line after a personal foul penalty on the Breakers. Defensive lineman Anree Saint Amour recovered for New Orleans. 

“You want to just stick it in the end zone,” said Memphis coach Todd Haley, who considered calling a quarterback sneak. “And you just can’t fumble the football down there. That was just a killer because we were gaining some momentum.” 

The Showboats upped the lead to 24-3 on a 3-yard touchdown from Bethel-Thompson to Jonathan Adams on a slant route. Eli Stove finished out the scoring with a 29-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep. 

Injury update

Memphis running back Kerrith Whyte suffered an unknown injury in the first quarter and did not return. Whyte’s replacement Washington finished with 40 yards on 11 carries.

Memphis nose tackle John Atkins also suffered a neck injury late in the game and had to be taken to the hospital, according to Haley.

“We want to make sure we’re keeping him in our prayers, as the team did just now,” Haley said. 

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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