Following their first win of the 2022 spring season, the Pittsburgh Maulers faced the New Orleans Breakers to mark the halfway point of the USFL’s return to action. Pittsburgh trailed the entire game and made far too many mistakes on Sunday to spark a two-game winning streak after earning their first win last week. New Orleans (4-2) took care of Pittsburgh (1-5) and clinched the victory with a 38-yard field in the final minute to make the lead insurmountable for the Maulers, who lost 26-16.
The game was a defensive slugfest until the end of the third quarter.
Both teams began the day with three-and-outs before an impressive drive by New Orleans for the game’s first points.
The Breakers completed an 18-play, 94-yard drive, that included a 4th-and-4 conversion, finished off by a one-yard rushing touchdown by Anthony Jones. Taylor Bertolet’s extra point was successful as many teams continue to attempt a one-point conversion with chances for two or three points a possibility.
Each team punted on their next three opportunities to possess the ball. The punting game was put to rest when Maulers quarterback Vad Lee was intercepted by Ike Brown near midfield with over a minute remaining in the half.
Lee started his first game for Pittsburgh in his second USFL game after being signed prior to week five action. Kyle Sloter, meanwhile, has been solid for New Orleans and has thrown for the most yards of any quarterback so far.
Bertolet added a chip-shot field goal from 22 yards away to give New Orleans a 10-0 lead it took into halftime.
The Maulers struck first in the second half after receiving the ball to begin the third.
Pittsburgh finished off its longest drive, 14-plays, which was extended due to a New Orleans neutral zone infraction on a field-goal attempt.
A field goal would still be the end result despite the Breakers allowing Kirby Wilson’s team a chance to extend the drive.
Ramiz Ahmed’s successful 37-yard kick cut the deficit to 10-3.
New Orleans responded 10 offensive plays later. Ahmed’s kickoff landed out of bounds and gave the Breakers great field position to strike.
New Orleans went back to the ground game to score, this time on a five-yard run by Jordan Ellis on second down for the touchdown.
Driving and set to score its first points of the day, Pittsburgh let a golden opportunity turn into a massive points swing.
Lee was intercepted on 3rd and 8 at the New Orleans three-yard line again by Brown, who took it all the way to the opposite end zone for a 97-yard pick-six. The extra point attempt by Bertolet was no good, but the Breakers held a commanding 23-3 lead.
The Maulers stuck back one minute later after Bertolet kicked the ball out of bounds. Lee connected with Pittsburgh’s top receiver Bailey Gaither for a 22-yard touchdown. Ahmed’s struggles continued with a missed extra point, keeping the score 23-9 following the first Maulers touchdown with 9:47 left.
Following a Breakers three-and-out, the Maulers led by Lee and running back Madre London guided the offense back into the end zone. Lee scrambled for a four-yard score, with the extra point made, and put Pittsburgh one score away from a tie game. Five minutes and eight seconds remained on the clock when the Breakers were set to get the ball back.
Ahead 23-16, New Orleans ran the ball effectively enough to run out the clock on Pittsburgh. A 10-play drive that took over four and a half minutes resulted in a 28-yard make from Bertolet and the end of the Maulers’ hopes trailing 26-16.
Lee was 17-for-34 throwing the ball for 198 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. London led the way on the ground with 50 yards on 10 carries. Wide receiver Isiah Hennie was Pittsburgh’s top pass catcher with four grabs gaining 71 yards.
Dale Warren and Kyahva Tezino each had 12 tackles to lead the Maulers. Thomas Jefferson native Zane Zandier also had a tackle in the loss.
The Maulers remain last in the North Division behind New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Michigan.
Pittsburgh will face its toughest test of the season next Sunday. The Maulers play the undefeated Birmingham Stallions (6-0) at 2 p.m. on FOX. Birmingham is the host city for all USFL games in the regular season and has been excellent playing in front of its home crowd, drawing the best attendance of any other teams.