WASHINGTON, D.C. – The DC Defenders opened their season on an exceptionally strong note with a statement win over the Seattle Dragons.
Defenders K Ty Rausa had a strong outing in his first game since his days playing in an arena. He went 2-3 on field goal attempts, making 34 and 55, and missing from 35. The 55-yarder marked his career long.
Early in the first, Rausa put the first points on the board, but it would be the sole digits for the Defenders in their inaugural first quarter. Seattle responded with a quick drive, capped off by a 14-yard TD pass from QB Brandon Silvers to WR Austin Proehl. After a failed one-point conversion, the Dragons were ahead 6-3 and held onto the slight lead through the end of the first quarter..
In the second quarter, the Defenders’ Defense and Special Teams found their stride with an interception by recent roster addition Rahim Moore and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown by Elijah Campbell.
Failed PAT’s became a theme and the Defenders only took away six from Campbell’s blocked punt.
Seattle responded on the subsequent drive with a TD by Trey Williams to give Seattle a 13-9 lead.
Ty Rausa brought back some energy to the Audi Field crowd with a 55-yard FG, closing the deficit to a single point.
After a relatively conventional first half, viewers quickly began getting glimpses at the new format of the XFL with live halftime locker room coverage, showing coaches talk to their players and make adjustments. The ten minute halftime proved to be a greater advantage for the Defenders, who began a campaign of domination in the third quarter.
Cardale Jones and the DC Offense executed a textbook flea-flicker to WR Khari Lee for a 39-yard touchdown pass, onto which a successful one-point conversion was added to give DC a 6-point lead.
The Dragons responded quickly with a 57 yard bomb from Silvers to Proehl for the pair’s second touchdown connection. Failing to convert the point-after, the game was tied at 19 all.
The Dragons, who fought through three quarters to stay in the game, ultimately yielded two unanswered touchdowns; a 39-yard pass to WR Rashad Ross and pick six by CB Brandon Sylve. The late Seattle slump gave the Defenders a cushioned lead to end the game ahead 31-19.
Behind by 12 with 1:17 left in the game, Brandon Silvers injured his right ankle, forcing Seattle’s backup quarterback, BJ Daniels, to take the helm in dire straights. Though he and the Dragons offense didn’t give up under the pressure, the matchup with DC’s Defense proved insurmountable and the Defender’s won their first franchise game 31-19.
The most valuable contributors to the Defender’s convincing win were the playmakers on the defensive side of the ball. Elijah Campbell, Brandon Sylve, and DT Elijah Qualls (Fumble Recovery) who forced critical turnovers. Had the Dragons not lost the turnover battle, the strain on their offense would’ve been far less significant. On the other side of the ball, Cardale Jones had an exceptional first start since his time with the Buckeyes, throwing sixteen passes for two touchdowns and over 300 yards.
The inaugural game of the 2020 season was a positive first impression for the XFL, displaying a number of interesting changes. The Sky Judge’s discussion integrated into review timeouts kept the fans watching from home much more engaged. Additionally, the different types of PAT’s added additional depth to in-game strategy.