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Former NY Jets clinch home-field advantage with UFL’s St. Louis

Anthony Becht, NY Jets, St. Louis Battlehawks, UFL
Anthony Becht, New York Jets, Getty Images

Two former NY Jets players coached the UFL’s St. Louis Battlehawks to home-field advantage in the playoffs

Last year, former New York Jets tight end Anthony Becht made waves as a rookie head coach of the then-XFL’s St. Louis Battlehawks. The Battlehawks finished with a 7-3 record in his first season, but would miss the playoffs due to a tiebreaker. This season, St. Louis has secured home-field advantage in the playoffs. Yet, while some things stayed the same, others changed drastically.

Same record, different results

Now in the UFL (after the XFL and USFL merger), the Battlehawks’ record might be the same, but the circumstances are far different. Not only has St. Louis clinched a playoff berth with a 7-3 record, but their win over the San Antonio Brahmas (led by former NFL coach Wade Phillips) on Saturday clinched home-field advantage for their playoff game.

A big reason for the Battlehawks’ victory was due to the prowess of the former Jets tight end. Becht challenged that the Brahmas had an ineligible man downfield on the two-point conversion that would have given San Antonio the lead. Becht won that challenge, and the two-point try was taken away from the Brahmas.

Later in the fourth quarter, the former No. 27 overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft had another move up his sleeve. With the Brahmas in field goal range, Becht called a timeout prior to what would have been the game-winning field goal by kicker Ryan Santoso. On the second attempt, Santoso’s kick was tipped by Hakeem Butler and fell short. That secured the 13-12 victory for St. Louis.

While Becht is (rightfully) given plenty of credit for his job coaching the Battlehawks, the defensive side of the ball features another former Jets player doing a spectacular job.

Former Jet has Battlehawks taking flight

Former Jets cornerback Donnie Abraham has been with his Gang Green teammate in St. Louis since 2023, serving as the Battlehawks’ defensive coordinator. This season, Abraham has put together a stout unit.

Among the eight UFL teams, the Battlehawks surrender the third-fewest points per game (17.4), second-fewest yards per game (258.9), and the second-fewest passing yards per game (169.4). While the team’s run-stopping ability could improve (their 89.5 rushing yards allowed per game ranks fourth), Abraham’s unit is full of players with a nose for the ball.

The Battlehawks’ nine interceptions are tied for second in the UFL. The team also has 43 pass deflections, good for third among all teams. Meanwhile, St. Louis’ 11 forced fumbles are tied for the league lead. And given their defensive coordinator’s history as a player, it all makes sense.

The former Jets cornerback was a ballhawk in the NFL, having secured five or more interceptions five times in his nine-year career. As a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Abraham led the NFL in interceptions in 1999 with seven. Abraham’s 38 career interceptions rank 91st all-time in NFL history. And as St. Louis prepares for its playoff match, you can expect Abraham’s unit to wreak havoc again.

The Battlehawks are set to rematch the Brahmas, this time in the first round of the UFL playoffs. San Antonio will travel to St. Louis on Sunday, June 9, with the winner securing their spot in the UFL championship game. If the former Jets are able to take home the UFL trophy, jobs in the NFL could be around the corner.

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