Defense lifts Force to first win

DULUTH - A turnover on downs ended the first drive. An interception ended the third one. Another turnover on downs stopped the fourth drive.

And that was just the first half.

Los Angeles came to Georgia with the AFL's top-ranked scoring defense but it was the Force shutting down the Avengers offense, forcing two turnovers and stopping them twice on downs and racking up a safety in the final minutes.

"This came from a great week of preparation," said Force defensive back Cam Newton who had an interception and a fumble recovery in the win. "It was pretty easy to go out there and make plays."

The defensive effort coincided with an offensive explosion as the Force rolled 58-34 win over Los Angeles for the first win of the season.

"It was great to finally go into the locker room after the game with a win," Newton said. " It was us finding our identity as a team."

In the first two losses the Force (1-2) stopped itself with turnovers and let drives continue with penalties. Saturday the offense only turned the ball over once and overcame its 50 yards in penalties instead of succumbing to them.

"We started getting rid of some of the penalties tonight," said Force coach Doug Plank.

But some were still there.

After opening with a scoring drive, Georgia was called for offsides on the kick off, negated only by Martinez's kick sailing over the net. It took one play for Los Angeles to move the ball down to the 4-yard line. On fourth-and-goal, Georgia was called for pass interference and the penalty gave L.A. four more downs. But again the Force held, thanks to a dropped pass and one off Timon Marshall's helmet.

The momentum ended three plays later when newly acquired receiver Charles Pauley fumbled on the 10. The turnover turned into points four plays later on a 14-yard pass from L.A.'s Sonny Cumbie to Kevin Ingram and the Avengers led 7-6.

It would be Los Angeles' last lead of the game and its last points of the half as the Force tied a record low for first-half points last reached in 2002.

"Our effort was the deciding factor," Plank said. "(The first defensive stop) set the tone for this game."

Newton's interception and a second forced turnover on downs ended the next two Avenger drives and the Force turned those two into 10 points. To take a 22-7 halftime lead.

The Force padded its lead by six points in the third quarter, with quarterback Chris Greisen throwing three of his seven touchdown passes. Greisen ended the game completing 26 of 41 for 366 yards and three of his touchdowns went for 43 yards.

"Once we realized that our offensive line could stop their defensive pass rush the ball was going down the field," Plank said.

Two of the 43-yard strikes went to Troy Bergeron (7 catches, 151 yards, 3 TDs) and the other went to Pauley (10-134-2).

But it was the defense that started the show with its eight-play stop and ended it with an Eric Johnson safety in the final minute.

"I am not going to tell you we are were we want to be right now," Plank said. "But we have adopted a more attack philosophy,

"If we start moving things in the right direction, to get better every week, then good things are going to happen for this football team."