The Rush finished the 2012 season with a 10-8 record but failed to make the playoffs.
The Chicago Rush played their 11th season in the Arena Football League in 2012, and I witnessed it first hand.
Overview: The Rush began the 2012 season with a lot of promise. Coming off of a division championship season in 2011, the Rush were hoping to carry that momentum into 2012. The Rush began the season with a 4-0 start, they suffered their first loss in Week Six at Georgia.
That loss would be the beginning of what would be a miserable season on the road. The Rush began the season in first place, but a Week Eight loss at San Antonio would change all of that. The 56-55 loss would give the Talons the division lead and they would never look back.
During April and May the Rush went a combined 2-4 with all four losses happening away from the Allstate Arena. Two of those losses were part of the crucial May ending road trip to Arizona and San Jose which set the tone for the playoff race. The Rush would break the streak as they opened the June portion of their schedule with a home win over Spokane. It was a key victory in their fight to make the playoffs.
But the very next week, they would find themselves losing on the road again. A 40 point loss at Utah would leave the Rush on the outside looking in at the final playoff spot in the National Conference. They would rebound with back-to-back wins against at home against Georgia and on the road against Kansas City.
And during this time the Rush found themselves back in playoff position. But the Rush would be eliminated from playoff contention by losing their final two home games against San Jose and San Antonio in consecutive weeks. They were the two teams that the Rush needed to defeat in order to stay alive.
Despite losing out on the post-season, the Rush never gave up and played on hoping to finish on a positive note. After the bittersweet loss in their final home game, the Rush took out their frustrations on Milwaukee. It would be only their third road victory of the season.
The Rush finished the season away from home against Cleveland in Week 20. The Rush would lose on a hail mary at the end of the game. The Rush still managed to finish 10-8, but the guys in that locker room will tell you they could have done much better. Coach McMillen and the guys were not completely satisfied with this year’s results.
But there was some good to come out of this season. And that good is enough to give me faith that the Rush will do better next season.
Here is a breakdown of how the Rush performed in 2012 according to my view from the press box:
1. Reggie Gray and Russ Michna. Perhaps the best quarterback, wide receiver combo in the AFL this year. Both men together set and/or broke numerous league and franchise records this year. They were the driving force behind this Rush offense. Gray also led the team in all-purpose yards and played defensive back a few times.
2. Jared Perry. The Rookie Of The Year candidate came out of nowhere this year. He worked his way into the Rush lineup and started every game this season. He was second on the team in receiving with 1,811 yards and 31 touchdowns.
3. The Rush won their first six home games this year. They finished with a home record of 6-2, one of the best home records in the AFL this year.
4. Kelvin Morris. The leader of the Rush defense all season long. He was also a big contributor on special teams and even played offense when needed. Kelvin Morris scored a few touchdowns this season when playing both fullback and wide receiver when called upon.
5. Nekos Brown. Brown was brought in during the month of April to fill a void at the mack linebacker position. Russell Monk was projected to be the starter but he got injured in training camp, he wouldn’t join the team until May. Defensive end Courtney Brown started the season at mack linebacker, but eventually departed from the team. Nekos Brown joined the team at a crucial time and made an immediate impact.
6. Terrance Turner. He was third on the team in receiving this year with 83 receptions, 867 yards, and 13 touchdowns.
7. The Rush defensive line. Together the Rush defensive lineman combined for over 20 tackles and roughly 10 sacks.
But with the good came the bad….
1. Playing on the road. The Rush only managed to win three road games all year. And out of their six road losses, four of them had playoff implications.
2. Not running the ball consistently. The Rush historically have been a team that can run the ball. For many years the Rush were one of the few AFL teams who were known for running the ball consistently. This year the Rush did not run the ball as often as they should have. They ran for a total of 313 yards and 28 touchdowns. 180 of those yards were courtesy of fullback J.J. Payne. 14 of those touchdowns were courtesy of backup quarterback Luke Drone. Most of those yards and touchdowns occurred on goalline and short yardage situations. The Rush could have done a little more in that department in my opinion.
3. Injuries. The Rush were ravaged with injuries, especially among their defensive backs. Vic Hall missed a handful of games including four of the last seven with a nagging leg injury. Brian Leinart also had some injuries after being signed mid-season. Semaj Moody played a few games while banged up, and Reggie Gray filled in for all of these guys at multiple points during the season. Offensive lineman T.J. Watkins also found himself on the trainers table this year as did his line mate Billy Eisenhardt.
4. Clock Management. The Rush had some issues when trying to kill the clock late in games. And because of this issue, the Rush either lost, or nearly lost a few games this season. When the Rush struggled to run the clock out in Week Three against Orlando, the Rush barley escaped with a two point win. The Week Four game at Iowa went to overtime because the Rush could not run the clock out. The Week 12 game at San Jose could have been a victory had the Rush been able to gain positive yards past the one minute warning. The SaberCats came back to win because of this failure. And the Rush lost the season finale to Cleveland because they turned the ball over while trying to seal the victory.
But the good thing is that there were more positives than negatives. There were also some things that caught Rush fans off guard this year.
1. Jorrick Calvin. He was added to the roster after Vic Hall went on injured reserve the second time. He was the best defensive back on the team towards the end of the season. He had four interceptions and took two of those picks in for touchdowns. He also helped out on special teams as well. He also covered opposing receivers like glue, and he was at his most dangerous in zone coverage. Just imagine him and Vic Hall in the same defensive secondary next season.
2. Luke Drone. He joined the team after original backup quarterback Justin Roper was traded as part of the deal that brought Nekos Brown to Chicago. He was mostly used on short yardage and goalline situations. He scored a touchdown almost every time he ran the ball. He also held his own when filling in for Russ Michna, and he was the second leading rusher on this years squad.
3. Jared Perry. The best rookie receiver in quite some time. Jared Perry started all 18 games for the Rush this year. He was second on the team in receiving, he deserves to be rookie of the year, and he was one of the major reasons why the Rush won 10 games this year.
But with surprises comes disappointments:
1. Russ Michna’s injury. For the third straight year, Russ Michna’s season ended with him on injured reserve for the final two games. This year it was a shoulder injury that ended his season prematurely.
2. Reggie Gray snubbed. He was not considered for the Iron Man Of The Year award even though he deserved at least that much.
3. Not making the post-season. For the first time in team history, the Rush did not make the AFL playoffs. They did so in their previous 10 seasons.
In my next report, I’ll talk more in-depth about the players that drove this Rush team.
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