Soul prepping for first-round playoff game against New Orleans

Posted: July 27, 2012

IN PREPARATION for Saturday's playoff game, the Soul's coaches popped in the video of the season opener against New Orleans. They might as well have shown one of the Jackass movies.

Nobody got hit in the crotch with a sledgehammer or anything, but there were enough gaffes on tap to bring a chuckle throughout the team's film room. They were not the dominant team then that they are today.

"We were laughing about how [sloppily] we played in that game," wide receiver Donovan Morgan pointed out. "We didn't look like the Soul. There was one series where I messed up on five plays, and [offensive coordinator Clint Dolezel] pointed it out to me."

The Soul brass went back to the March 18 game because New Orleans has drawn the short straw to be the Soul's first-round opponent this weekend. The VooDoo went 8-10 in the regular season and backed into the playoffs. It has lost three in a row, the last two by a total of eight points.

"We barely won that game," Soul coach Doug Plank said of the 63-62 victory, "so there is certainly no feeling of overconfidence here. Any team in these playoffs is capable of beating the other."

The Soul narrowly escaped that first meeting, thanks to Bryan Robinson's blocked field goal as time expired.

New Orleans does own two wins over second-seeded Jacksonville and won at Utah in March. The VooDoo was 3-15 last year, making this year's postseason bid arguably more impressive than that of the Soul, which went 6-12 in 2011.

"At this point last year, we were home," said Morgan, who suffered a knee injury in last year's finale that ruined any hopes he had of signing on for an NFL training camp. "Our bags were already packed. No one was in the locker room. We weren't even on this field. But today, knowing we have a playoff game at home is a blessing and an opportunity to show that the team we had last year wasn't what Philadelphia was about. This team this year is showing that Philadelphia is a winning city, and we're going to go out there and try and win this thing."

It's a new season, as Morgan said. As scintillating as the Soul has looked during its eight-game winning streak, none of it will matter if it comes up small on Saturday. Recordsetting quarterback Dan Raudabaugh (115 touchdown passes) is embracing the challenge of winning his first postseason game.

"We're going to go out and have fun, like we've done all year," said Raudabaugh, who is 0-1 as a starter in the postseason. "That's what it's all about: let it all out. The time is now."

Look for the video preparation to include more recent games, such as the win last week against Utah or the dominant victory over Jacksonville on June 16. That New Orleans tape might as well have been shot by Cecil B. DeMille.

"During that game [March 18], I remember coming back to the bench and players were just exhausted," Plank said. "That was our first game. I don't think they were in physical shape. They were worried about just breathing and getting air into their lungs. I compare that atmosphere to what I see now. I come to the bench area now, like last week, and everybody is just dialed into the game. That is so important."

Getting his kicks

Plank was mildly impressed with kicker Remy Hamilton, one of the league's all-time greats, who made his season debut for the Soul last week. Most of Hamilton's kickoffs reached the opposing net, which makes life difficult for the opposing return team. Hamilton also knocked in nine of 10 extra-point attempts, but doinked a 21-yard field goal. It was the first and only field goal the Soul tried all year.

"We told Remy not to worry, that he'll never have to kick a field goal," Plank said, laughing. "Then we called for it, and we may have caught him off guard."

Contact Ed Barkowitz at barkowe@phillynews.com.

|
|
|
|
|