Bryant leads Brigade past Columbus

If Brigade quarterback D. Bryant is worried about being replaced by recently signed Quincy Carter, he’s not showing it.

Bryant completed 22 of 30 passes for 215 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and ran for another score as the Brigade defeated the Columbus Destroyers 59-43 on Saturday night at the Sprint Center.

Kansas City, 2-8, scored its second-most points in a game this season and allowed its fewest points of the year, much to the delight of an announced crowd of 12,736 that included Chiefs coach Herm Edwards and his family.

The Brigade, the second-lowest scoring team in the AFL to Columbus, 2-8, last week signed Carter, a former NFL starter with the Dallas Cowboys, with an eye toward igniting the offense.

But Bryant, a rookie activated four weeks into the season, is going to make it tough to replace him.

Bryant built on last week’s 30-of-37, five-touchdown performance last week at Utah by completing 13 of his first 14 passes with three interceptions in the first half Saturday in a game the Brigade never trailed.

“I can only take care of the stuff I can control,” Bryant said of Carter’s looming over his shoulder. “I’ve been trying to improve and progress every week. Last week we didn’t win, but we played well offensively.

“That’s been the trouble for us, (not) playing well offensively and (not) scoring points. The last couple of weeks we’ve got 50 or more. That’s what you have to do in this league.”

Bryant’s longest completion was just 22 yards (compared to touchdown tosses of 45 and 46 yards by Columbus’ Matt Nagy, who threw five touchdown passes with two interceptions). But Bryant found seams in the Destroyers’ zone that was geared to stop the Brigade’s Mike Horacek.

“A lot teams are going to play zone against me,” said Bryant, who led the Brigade to seven touchdowns and a field goal in their first nine possessions. “That means underneath is going to be wide open for us. So the last two, three weeks, that’s what we’ve been doing. The underneath balls, the guys have been making plays and catching them.

“I’m taking what the defenses are giving me, and the receivers are making plays, so we’ve been successful.” All four players who caught passes — Jerel Myers, Ces’are Manning, Horacek and tight end Jamarr Ward — caught one touchdown pass each.

Myers caught 11 passes for 82 yards and also contributed the key play of the game, a 56-yard kickoff return in the third quarter. Columbus had just scored on a 46-yard bomb from Nagy to Calvin Russell, drawing to within 35-28 and sucking the air out of the arena. Myers responded by bolting 56 yards up the middle with the ensuing kickoff, rebuilding a 14-point lead and regaining the momentum.

“We’ve been working on that all year,” Myers said of the Brigade’s second kickoff return for a touchdown this season. “I give all the credit to my blockers. I made a move to get through the first wall, and after that, it was off to the races.

“When the momentum changed, you’ve got to make something happen, and that’s what we did.”

The defense took care of the rest in the second half. Cornerback Jerald Brown, who had been burned on both of Columbus’ deep touchdown throws, snuffed a drive by intercepting Nagy at the Brigade 1 late in the third quarter; and on the Destroyers’ next possession, linebacker Denario Smalls intercepted a fourth-quarter pass at the Brigade 12.

“It’s arena football,” Brown said of getting burned twice and returning the favor with an interception. “I’m aggressive. I was told by the coaches they were going to try a screen. I was told to jump the screen, I jumped the screen, but they didn’t run the screen. Those things happen.

“We told our defense, we have to play against their defense. We can’t worry about our offense. If we get more stops than their defense, we win the game. That’s what we did. We changed our thought process and came out victorious.”