Jessica Springer makes her way through the Machine line. Photo Credit: Ian Short
The Chicago Force opened their Women's Professional Football season Saturday April 9, 2011 against the Minnesota Machine at Winnemac Stadium. The Force looked like the World Champion Green Bay Packers taking on a Pop Warner team as they trounced the Machine 69 to 0. Head Coach John Konecki summed up the effort after the game, "this game was better than we could have ever imagined."
The Force started the game with some trickery, attempting an onside kick to start the game. After it failed, the Machine worked with a short field at the Force 46. The Machine wasted the opportunity only gaining a yard and failing on a fourth down.
The Force then took a page from the Urban Meyer playbook running a spread offense while surgically moving down the field through a series of well designed screen passes. Quarterback Sami Grisafe had an efficient day that rivaled the performance of Phil Simms in Super Bowl XXI as she went 17-19 for 208 yards.
Once the Force entered Machine territory the offense changed from sophisticated to smash mouth as running back Jessica Springer (#46) summoned her inner Mike Alstott, running over and through Machine defenders, for runs of 13, 11, and 9 yards, including the first score. Springer would score on the second drive as well and wound up with 48 yards on 6 carries in the first quarter.
Already up two scores midway through the first, the Force wasted no time putting more points on the board. Out of the spread, quarterback Sami Grisafe (#15) found wide receiver Ashley Berggren (#80) on a screen. Berggren broke a tackle and then made like Usain Bolt and sprinted down the sidelines for a fifty nine yard score.
Meanwhile the Machine offense was inept and confused all day. Often lining up in shotgun, they had trouble with multiple snaps. Their running game was non existent, and the offensive line had difficulty identifying the Force' multiple blitz packages. This culminated in a plethora of third and longs, with the Force causing numerous premature and errand passes through their pressure. One drive ended with an impressive blitz and sack by linebacker Leslie Darcy (#67), who made like Ray Lewis fighting off a block on her way like a laser to the quarterback.
In the second quarter, Springer looked more like Bo Jackson, showing a unique combination of speed and power. She broke tackles and took off down the sidelines for numerous long runs. Of her style, Springer said afterwards, "I'm very deceiving for my size. I push 200 pounds. I'm very strong but I'm very quick."
Following one Springer thirty nine yard dash, quarterback Sami Grisafe and wide receiver Brandy Hatcher (#28) looked like Tom Brady and Wes Welker, as they connected on a short slant. Hatcher broke a tackle and then galloped into the end zone for a twenty three yard touchdown. Grisafe also connected on a screen pass for another touchdown in the quarter.
Springer ended the half with gaudy numbers, 13 carries for 172 yards. The score was 50-0, and proverbial rout was on.
In the second half, Coach John Konecki benched both his stars, Springer and Grisafe. The offense was more subdued, giving the defense a chance to shine. The Force intercepted four passes. The Machine's first drive of the second half started in a promising manner with a couple first downs. That all ended with an interception by Emma Finestone (#14). Also intercepting passes in the second half were Darcy Leslie, Amber Burns (#32), and Lindsey Jacob (#30).
Jeanette Grey, who also had 4 catches for 34 yards, moved to quarterback in the second half. The Force relied heavily on the run in the second half, often handing the ball to Brandy Hatcher, who moved to running back. Hatcher summoned her inner Dave Meggett sprinting for several long gains on sweeps. That included a 27 yard gallop for a score in the third quarter.
The Force is 59-19 since its inception in 2003, but they're looking for their first championship. Majority owner Linda Bache liked what she saw saying, "I was expecting us to put it on them," but cautioned that the Force will see tougher competition soon, "our next two games will be competitive because we're facing two previous champions."