Ask the San Antonio Commanders about the Birmingham Iron and a theme appears:
The Iron don’t make mistakes.
If you want to beat the Iron, you can’t make mistakes.
“I think they forced more punts than anybody in the league,” Commanders coach Mike Riley. “Then they’re just really, really solid. I think that’s their team. That’s why they’re undefeated.
“They’ve been in pretty close games. But they’ve won them because they haven’t beat themselves. I’m sorry to say we’ve beat ourselves. We’ve thrown two touchdown interceptions. Then we’ve had too many penalties. That’s kind of been the difference in the games.”
The Commanders (1-2) and Iron (3-0) play Sunday at 3 p.m. Central time. The game is televised on CBS Sports Network.
The Birmingham defense has made five interceptions, including two by Jamar Summers. The Iron defense allows a league-low 7.0 points per game. The Iron have given up only one rushing touchdown this season and no runs longer than 24 yards.
“Really good defense,” Commanders quarterback Logan Woodside said. “They have a really good linebacker corps. In the secondary they move around a whole lot. It will be a big challenge for us. I know they’re coached really well. So it will be fun to go down there and play against them.”
Birmingham quarterback Luis Perez has had modest stats but avoided turnovers. In three games he has thrown 102 passes with only one interception and no touchdowns. Woodside has thrown two touchdown passes this season, but also five interceptions including two that were returned for touchdowns.
“We’ve got too many mistakes, too many critical mistakes,” Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston said. “Some of these interceptions are game-changers. The two pick-sixes really changed the flow of that game each time. We gave up points in the red zone on another interceptions. Not only are they interceptions, but they’ve been costly.”
The Iron haven’t been putting up big rushing numbers either. Running back Trent Richardson, the most high profile player on the team, averages only 2.5 yards per carry. But Richardson has been tough to stop in short-yardage situations and has six rushing touchdowns. He has also caught 10 passes.
The Commanders have a stronger overall running game this season at 149.0 yards per game and 4.81 yards per carry. Kenneth Farrow II has run for two touchdowns. Trey Williams made his season debut last week and averaged 10.7 yards per carry.
But for the last two weeks, the Commanders have been hurt by turnovers and penalties and wound up with losses.
“I think we’ve had a good week,” Riley said. “I think the reaction to the last loss has actually been a good one by this group as far as their work. I think we’ve had three of our better practices of the year.
“That’s what a loss will do for you once in a while. I think enthusiasm for the work was maybe at a little higher level.”
A road victory Sunday would even the Commanders’ record to 2-2. A loss would give them a three-game losing streak with two more road games coming up before the team returns to the Alamodome.
“I think there is obviously a sense of urgency,” Riley said. “Nobody likes losing. I think the only way to dig is out of it is to really, really work at preparing and getting ready to play and the attitude is really the key to that preparation and preparation is the key to how you’re going to play. How you play is if you’re going to win. It dominoes.”