SEATTLE — A Saturday afternoon football game in the Emerald City quickly transformed into a good old-fashioned donnybrook between the Seattle Dragons and the visiting Tampa Bay Vipers. Defensive impact plays dominated the conversation as neither team found much room for scoring separation until late in the first half.
The game also marked the inaugural home opener for the Dragons, who were playing their first game inside CenturyLink Field in franchise history. A crowd of 29,172 looked on as Seattle Seahawks Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Steve Largent was announced as the first hometown hero to have the honor of lighting the “Dragon’s Cauldron” before the game began.
The first quarter developed slowly, with three of the first four possessions resulting in a punt. The outlier was an uncontested interception by Seattle defensive back Jeremy Clark, who turned on his afterburners for a 32-yard return. The Vipers defense proved to be the more dominant of the two, allowing only 12 yards of total offense in the first quarter.
The second half showed more offensive stagnation until Seattle drove within field goal distance. Kicker Ernesto Lacayo attempted a 48-yard field goal with 7:38 to go, missing it wide. Later in the quarter, Vipers kicker Andrew Franks attempted a field goal of his own, nailing the 36-yarder and putting the first three points on the board for Tampa Bay. The Vipers went into the locker room with a slight lead at the half, having held the Dragons to 41 yards of offense and just 10 yards through the air.
The Vipers continued to expand their lead in the third quarter with a touchdown off an interception returned 78 yards by defense back Tavarus McFadden, marking the franchise’s first interception and defensive score.
On his first pass since throwing the interception, Dragons quarterback Brandon Silvers retaliated with a 68-yard touchdown pass to receiver Keenan Reynolds.
The quick touchdown was a noticeable momentum shift that put the Vipers on their heels. Two possessions later, defensive end Marcel Frazier snagged a pass, seemingly out of the hands of Vipers quarterback Quinton Flowers, and walked it two yards into the end zone for the go-ahead score.
The sole score of the fourth quarter was Ernesto Lacayo’s 27-yard field goal that extended Seattle’s lead to eight points with 1:07 left in the game. Utilizing the novel 2 Minute Warning clock rules, the Vipers kept the game interesting with a 44-yard drive to the Dragons 23. The efficient performance by Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback Taylor Cornelius was halted with an offensive pass interference call and a mouth-watering end zone interception by Dragons linebacker Kyle Queiro to end the game.
Seattle was slow to start but ultimately rose to the occasion when the pressure was on, scoring 17 unanswered points in the last 26 minutes of the game. Brandon Silvers struggled at times but was able to maintain a 39% completion percentage and throw the 68-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Reynolds immediately after throwing an interception. He showed composure, even through adversity in the first half where he converted only one of six third down attempts.
Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Vipers could not find an answer to their offensive woes in either Quinton Flowers or Taylor Cornelius who combined for three interceptions and no touchdowns. Though their struggles on offense seemed insurmountable, the Tampa Bay defense executed above expectations, and currently lead the league in total defense at 425 yards allowed.
The Dragons are sitting at 0.500 in the middle of the XFL West, and will try to ride the wave into next week when they will host the Dallas Renegades in Seattle on February 22 at 5:00PM EST on FOX.
The Vipers will have to regroup and find an answer for the loss of quarterback Aaron Murray who was out this week. They return home to Tampa to host the Houston Roughnecks in Raymond James Stadium on February 22 at 2:00PM EST on ABC.