Around the League – Week 5

Week 5 of the XFL season continued with more great play as teams continue to battle an up-and-down season. After two weeks of embarrassing losses, including a shutout loss to the last place Tampa Bay Vipers, the DC Defenders stunned the Saint Louis BattleHawks to take the lead in the East division. Meanwhile in the West, the Houston Roughnecks continued their dominance, with a win over Seattle to improve to 5-0.

Confusion In Houston

While Houston quarterback PJ Walker thrilled hometown crowds in a come-from-behind victory over a strong Seattle defense, the win was marred by the league’s first referee controversy. After scoring three consecutive touchdowns in the second half to overcome a 9 point deficit, the Roughnecks held the ball on their own 26 yard line.

After scoring a single first down, Walker took a knee four times to close out the game. However at the end of the fourth down play, 3 seconds remained left on the game clock. The on-field referee crew ruled the game over and ran off the field to the confusion of the Dragons’ players and staff. While statistically unlikely to succeed, Seattle deserved the chance to score, as a TD and a three point attempt would have sent the game to overtime.

Shortly after the game, the XFL released the following statement on social media.

While the result was unfortunate particularly for Seattle fans, management did the right thing, apologizing for the error of their officials, and reassigning the officiating supervisor of the game. The XFL again demonstrates transparency and handled the situation as well as possible. I can’t help but compare this to the deafening silence from Roger Goodell’s office following the blunders of NFL refs in the post season earlier this year.

The Mega-Snake

Fans of the DC Defenders had much to celebrate this weekend as they watched backup QB Tyree Jackson lead his squad to a much needed victory in Audi Field over Saint Louis. The win brought hope to Defenders fans who had witnessed their team struggle to find offensive success since Week 2.

It was the hometown stands that drew comments on Twitter as one of the largest beer cup snakes ever seen, this one encompassing 1,237 cups, became a sensation for fans around the country. The magnificent serpent trailed up almost 40 rows of seats where its tail met the Jumbotron.

Even XFL Commissioner and CEO Oliver Luck offered a sacrificial beer cup to the crowd, drawing cheers and a chant of MVP. With another home game coming up for the Defenders, we will see how the crowd can outdo itself this weekend when DC hosts the the Dallas Renegades.

Fan of the Week

It was a great week for Defenders fans and my pick for fans of the week goes to two men decked out in red suits, masks, sombreros and maracas to liven up the crowd.

Attendance

Week 5 brought the smallest crowds of the season, with the Wildcats continuing to scrape the bottom with a record low attendance of 12,181. Between the paltry crowd in Carson and the Dragons and BattleHawks playing on the road, the XFL posted their lowest overall attendance to date with only 64,246 fans in attendance last weekend.

Host TeamStadiumAttendance% Change
Houston RoughnecksTDECU Stadium19,77315.6
Dallas RenegadesGlobe Life Park15,95013.0
DC DefendersAudi Field16,3428.7
Los Angeles WildcatsDignity Health Sports Park12,1810.3
League Total% Change
64,2468.5

Unfortunately, it is almost certain the XFL’s attendance slide will become exponentially worse. A slew of cancellations and fan restrictions hit the sports world this week, beginning with the Ivy League cancelling its men’s basketball tournament and the NCAA announcing March Madness™ will be played with only essential personnel and limited family in attendance. The alarming announcements from various sports leagues began cascading into chaos today as the XFL announced the Seattle Dragons will play the Wildcats without fans in CenturyLink Field.

This announcement was far from the most alarming though, quickly eclipsed by the National Basketball League suspending its season until further notice. As the situation continues to unfold we will surely get some insight from the XFL as to the future of the 2020 season. Until then, we can expect at least a 30-40% decline in attendance this coming weekend as the league’s second largest market will be eerily absent.

Guardians win in Arlington

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Guardians traveled to Globe Life Park in Arlington and earned their first road win of the season over the Dallas Renegades 30-12. With the score tied 6-6 in the first half, the Guardians took over in the second half, scoring 15 unanswered points. The Renegades stumbled on offense without star quarterback Landry Jones, who was injured in last week’s 27-20 loss to the Houston Roughnecks.

Guardians Extend Win Streak

A slow first half led the Guardians into the locker room tied 6-6 thanks to two field goals by kicker Matt McCrane; from 36 and 46 yards respectively. The New York offense exploded in the second half with a strong opening drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown rush from Marquise Williams. The eight-play, 76-yard drive was set up by two long passes from Guardians quarterback Luis Perez to receiver Mckale McKay. Mckay made impressive grabs over defenders for two jump balls. Perez kept up the impressive second half with an 80-yard touchdown pass to Colby Pearson with 3:31 left in the third quarter. Pearson ran past his defender and broke a Renegade safety’s tackle at midfield and scampered another 50 yards for a touchdown.

On the following possession, Renegades quarterback Phillip Nelson, in his first start since Week 1, threw a pass intended for receiver Jeff Badet but was intercepted by Guardians linebacker Ryan Mueller. Muller returned the interception 33 yards for a touchdown, extending the lead to 26-6. A successful one-point conversion from Perez to McKay made the score 27-6.

The final score of the game came, from the leg of McCrane from a 26-yard field goal making it 30-12.

Renegades Fail to Find Answer on Offense without Jones

Phillip Nelson filled in for starter Landry Jones on Saturday and failed to generate a spark. The Renegades offense gained only 262 total yards of offense and only converted 4 of 15 third downs. The Renegades came out in the second half tied 6-6, but only managed to find the end zone on special teams; a kickoff from Guardians kicker Matt McCrane returned for a 97-yard touchdown by Renegades returner Austin Walter.

Up Next

The New York Guardians will look to stay hot when they host the Houston Roughnecks in Week 6. The game will be on Saturday, March 14 at 2:00PM EDT on ABC.

The Dallas Renegades will look to bounce back in Week 6 when they travel to Washington, D.C. to face off against the Defenders on Sunday March 15 at 4:00PM EDT on FS1.

Wildcats beat Vipers in comeback win

Carson, Calif. — The Wildcats found a way to edge out a victory over Tampa Bay in the first Sunday late-night game of the season. The Wildcats offense started slow but Johnson began heating up, when it counted, to lead them to a 41-34 victory.

Slow start for Los Angeles

After getting picked off on the first play from scrimmage, the game seemed like it was going to be another brutal outing for Johnson.

The Vipers cashed in with a field goal and Johnson was unable to move his offense to respond. Tampa was able to punch it in using their strong ground attack with running back Jacques Patrick keeping his scoring streak going.

A fumble cost the Wildcats yet another drive and the Vipers were able to score on a long drive capped by a two-yard run by quarterback Taylor Cornelius to go ahead 17-0.

Los Angeles was able to find an offensive stride when Johnson found wide out Jordan Smallwood for 54 yards to the 1 yard line. Running back DuJuan Harris found the end zone from a yard out but the Wildcats failed to convert the point after. On the ensuing possession, Cornelius was able to keep his offense moving and found receiver Jalen Tolliver for a 16-yard touchdown pass. Vipers were up 24-6 but the Wildcats were quick to answer.

Wildcats begin to turn it around

Running back Martez Carter ran for a 21-yard dash and then Johnson followed up with a 9-yard touchdown pass to DeQuan Hampton, who made an impressive grab.

Wildcats started to get pressure in the pocket defensively and forced a quick 3-and-out. Johnson dropped a bomb to receiver Saeed Blacknall for 48 yards setting up an easy touchdown pass to Brandon Barnes.

The Vipers’ kicker Andrew Franks missed a 57-yard field goal to keep it 24-20 Vipers at halftime.

Wildcats’ defensive front brings the heat

The Wildcats defense came out swinging in the second half, putting pressure on Cornelius and forcing a punt. Johnson was able to take advantage of the stop and move in to Vipers territory, but the Wildcats’ import kicker Giorgio Tavecchio missed a field goal from 55 yards. Johnson’s next drive was more productive as he completed 4 passes, one of them an 11-yard touchdown to receiver Tre McBride for the lead.

The Wildcats defense continued to apply pressure on Cornelius and forced an interception to big man, Reggie Howard. Johnson quickly put his team in the end zone with a strike to Saeed Blacknall for 17 yards.

The Wildcats then got a delay of game penalty for too many men on the field, much to Johnson’s displeasure. Johnson was seen talking to Norm Chow over the phone and repeats “Stop it!” before telling him to “Just call plays”. Cornelius began moving his offense before he got picked again, this time, by linebacker Taiwan Jones. Fortunately for the Vipers, it did not count due to a holding call. They drove it close to the end zone before kicking a short field goal to make it 33-27. The Wildcats offense was unable to add to the lead but the defense found a way to find the end zone; Cornelius was strip-sacked by defensive end Cedric Reed and tackle Boogie Roberts brought it to the house for a two score lead.

Cornelius began to lead his offense down the field and completed a 24-pass Reece Horn for a quick touchdown to close the gap within one score. The Wildcats’ offense was stopped once again and Cornelius was given a shot to tie the game under two minutes left. He took them down to the 7 yard line, but was picked off by LA safety Jack Tocho to seal the victory for the Wildcats.

Next Up:

The Vipers will return home to host the Battlehawks on Saturday, March 14th at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. The game will be at 5:00PM EDT on FS2.

Los Angeles will be on the road as they will travel to CenturyLink Field to take on the Seattle Dragons on Sunday, March 15th at 7:00PM EDT on ESPN 2.

A Restart to a New Era

WASHINGTON — Because of a poor decision or a ridiculous play, the DC Defenders starting quarterback Cardale Jones was benched, putting the Defenders’ season on the broad shoulders of backup Tyree Jackson as they defeated the St. Louis BattleHawks 16-6.

Standing 6-foot-7 and 250-pound, Jackson took over when Jones was picked off by St. Louis safety Kenny Robinson with 8:37 remaining in the first quarter; Jones’ seventh interception of the year.

Jackson led a five-play, 45-yard drive finishing with a nine-yard laser to Bowie State standout, tight end Khari Lee for the touchdown, giving the Defenders a 6-3 lead with 1:02 remaining in the first quarter.

Avoiding mistakes is what kept Jackson in the game; however, his passing attack was not breaking records, finishing 9-of-14 for only 39 yards, and one touchdown. Nothing new to DC sports fans, but there is now controversy at the quarterback position in the nation’s capital.

Luckily for the Defenders, competent quarterback play was not needed for a win. The offense modified its game plan, leaning on a rushing attack that collected 229 yards, averaging 5.6 yards-per-rush.

The jet sweep was added to the repertoire of run plays as De’Andre Thompkins and Eli Rogers collectively gained 53 yards on three carries, 51 more yards than the duo gained receiving.

The Defenders may have found its stride in Jhurell Pressley as the leader of the ground. BattleHawk defenders failed to corral Pressley as he was able to extend a minimum gain into a 27-yard gain, with 5:40 remaining in the third quarter, contributing to his 107 yards on 15 carries.

On defense, the Defenders were bent but did not break. The BattleHawks offense outgained the Defenders 319-to-256 in total yards, but the DC defense was able to somewhat contain BattleHawks quarterback Jordan Ta’amu.

BattleHawks wide receiver L’Damian Washington blew up averaging almost 23 yards-per-catch totaling 114 yards but did not find the endzone.

Last week’s XFL Player of the Week was smothered, covered, and chunked by an awakened Defenders front line. Ta’amu was limited to 174 yards passing as four different Defenders sacked Ta’amu.

The St. Louis running game kept the game competitive, amassing 174 yards averaging 5.2 yards-per-carry, 139 from reliable backs Matt Jones and Christine Michael.

After two 60-yard drives, The Defenders defense forced two four-and-outs on the Battlehawks, sealing the game as Tracy Sprinkle and Siupeli Anau brought down the 6-foot-3, 231 pound Jones on fourth-and-one, with two minutes remaining in the fourth.

Sandwiched between was Defenders linebackers Jameer Thruman blocking a punt and Jonathan Celestin recovering the ball at 5:37 remaining in the fouth.

The BattleHawks defense did not relent, limiting Jackson to average less than three-yards-per-completion. The Defenders were held to three field goals for the remainder of the game.

The Defenders and BattleHawks now have the same record (3-2) and are on top of the division. The head-to-head win gives DC the edge in the division standings so they are once again the team to beat.

Some serious questions need to be answered over at Audi Field as the Defenders look ahead to the new #DallasWeek, hosting the Dallas Renegades Sunday.

Roughnecks Win Spoiled by Controversy

HOUSTON — The Seattle Dragons were able to do what no other team so far has been able to, give the Houston Roughnecks a legitimate run for their money. The Roughnecks looked flustered early but were able to overcome a strong Seattle defense to secure their fifth win of the season.

Roughnecks Struggle Early

After an early sack by defensive end Jacques Smith, the Dragons recovered the fumble and scored on the ensuing drive to give Seattle an early 6 point lead. The Roughnecks were unable to find the end zone and a missed field goal by Sergio Castillo kept Houston scoreless through the first quarter. Meanwhile Seattle continued to find ways to score, increasing their lead to 14.

The Roughnecks finally answered with quarterback PJ Walker finding receiver Nick Holley for a touchdown to put points on the board. This was the spark the Roughnecks needed as they were able to use the momentum shift to score again. A rush by running back James Butler and a successful 2-point attempt pass to Nick Holley tied the game 14 – 14 going into halftime.

Second Half Scramble

The Dragons came out firing in the second half with quarterback BJ Daniels utilizing a balanced attack through the air and on the ground on the Dragons’ first drive out of the locker room, setting up a 47-yard field goal by kicker Ernesto Lacayo. PJ Walker threw his second interception of the game and nearly gave up a pick six, as defensive back Marco Myers was able to return the ball to the Houston 1 yard-line. Daniels rushed around the right to score quickly and after an unsuccessful 2 point attempt, the Dragons stood tall with a 9 point lead.

With their backs against the wall, Houston did what fans have come to expect from their high powered offense, they scored and scored quickly. First came a long pass to lead receiver Cam Phillips to set up a James Butler rushing touchdown which cut the Dragons’ lead to 3. The Roughnecks’ defense answered the call with consecutive sacks of BJ Daniels. After a drive that cut 5 minutes off the clock, Walker threw a short pass to Phillips to give Houston its first lead of the day.

With three and a half minutes left, Walker threw his third touchdown of the night to Cam Phillips, who led the Houston receiving corps with 10 receptions for 112 yards. This gave the Roughnecks a 9 point lead and made the score 32 – 23.

Officiating Issues

After failing to connect for a scoring drive, the Dragons fumbled and the ball was recovered by Houston but a unnecessary roughness penalty on the Roughnecks placed the ball on the Houston 26 yard line. After securing a first down, Walker took four consecutive knees in an effort to ice the game. On his fourth and final knee, the clock was left with 3 seconds left but the officials ruled the game over and ran off the field. After much protest and confusion by Dragons’ players and coaching staff, the game was confirmed as finished, giving Houston the win.

via ABC Network

The XFL released the statement below in response to the game. Seattle has every right to complain. If the rules of the XFL were correctly applied, they would have gotten ball back at the Houston 20 yard line with at least an outside chance of scoring a TD. That coupled with a 3 point attempt would have tied the game and sent it to overtime.

Takeaways

While it’s unfortunate that the game ended the way it did, the result of the game will stand, leaving Houston undefeated and the clear favorite going into to Week 6. They remain in first place in the West and the only unbeaten team in the league.

The Roughnecks will hope to keep the streak alive as they travel to face the New York Guardians on Saturday at 2 PM EDT. The game will be on ABC.

Seattle on the other hand, looks to stop a three game losing skid when they face the LA Wildcats at home. The last place Dragons will host the Wildcats on Sunday at 7:00 PM EDT. Coverage will be on ESPN 2.

BattleHawks at Defenders – Week 5

This weekend features a must-win home game for the Defenders as the 1st place BattleHawks come to Audi Field.

The DC Defenders opened the season 2-0 and chants of MVP boomed through Audi Field faithful for quarterback Cardale Jones, who was playing at an elite level. Fast-forward two games and the possibility of benching him seems like the only smart move for the team.

XFL Standings

At 2-2, the Defenders host the 3-1 St. Louis BattleHawks with a chance to correct their offensive woes. In the previous two games, the Defenders offense could only score nine points, all of which came two weeks ago against the Los Angeles Wildcats. The Tampa Bay Vipers shutout the Defenders last week.

Who are the BattleHawks?

Head Coach and General Manager, Johnathan Hayes, has built a well-balanced team.

The St. Louis BattleHawks are first place in the XFL East Division. The team is led by a new breakout star, former Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’amu.

Signed to the Houston Texans for less than a month as an undrafted free-agent (UFA), Jordan Ta’amu has made himself a household name in the XFL and his stock is rising. Through four weeks under center, he is leading the BattleHawks to to top of their division.

Not only can Ta’amu is make plays through the air, throwing for 876 passing yards, he also can make plays with his feet with 186 yards rushing.

Matt Jones, the six-foot three-inch former Washington Redskins running back is second leading rusher in the XFL with 244 yards on the ground. Former Seatle Seahawks back, Christine Michael adds some depth in the backfield as well.

The BattleHawks defense has only allowed seven touchdowns, four of which came in the loss to the top-ranked Houston Roughnecks. James Madison alumn and Gaithersburg native, defensive end Andrew Ankrah leads the team in sacks.

What do the Defenders need to do for victory?

Establish competent quarterback play

The lack of offense can be directed to the play of starting quarterback, Cardale Jones. If the Defenders are to find any chance of winning, Jones needs to find the form he played in the first two games.

Only completing 45.8 percent of his passes with five interceptions and no touchdowns in the Defenders’ two losses, the leash may be short for Jones and Coach Pep Hamilton may need to go to another option at quarterback: backup signal-caller Tyree Jackson.

Run the Football

The Defenders have not found a consistent way to move the ball on the ground. The best rushing game for the Defenders was a 200 net yard performance against the Wildcats; a blowout 39-9 loss. Outside that game, the Defenders only muster 3.3 yards-per-carry.

Stop the Run

Opponents have gained 490 yards against the Defenders. Except for one game, the blowout loss to the Wildcats, teams average 4.8 yards-per-carry against DC. Keeping the outside contained and closing the BattleHawks’ running lanes is essential to keep the Defenders offense in the game.

Wide receivers need to get separation.

There is an APB out on DeAndre Hopkins, Rashad Ross, and Eli Rogers. None of the three receivers have stepped up to declare themselves as the number one option. With that kind of uncertainty among receivers, it’s no wonder Cardale is struggling to find the end zone.

Prediction

The BattleHawks are riding a two-game win streak and the Defenders are coming off two embarrassing losses.

The Defenders are undefeated at home, while the BattleHawks are 1-1 on the road.

The Defenders are the home dogs (+3) but will bounce back at home.

Final Score: Defenders 21, BattleHawks 20.

Vipers at Wildcats – Week 5

Will the Wildcats bounce back?

Week 5 will finish with the Los Angeles Wildcats (-2.0) playing host to the Tampa Bay Vipers at Dignity Health Sports Park. The Wildcats are coming off a dud of a performance in MetLife Stadium where they lost 17-14 to the Guardians in a weak offensive showing. The Wildcats offense was inconsistent without their top receiver Nelson Spruce and starting running back Montez Carter. Los Angeles is hoping to have both playmakers back, but likely only Carter will return against Tampa Bay. Receiver Tre McBride will look to keep up his success from the past two games.

The Wildcats offense looked like it was playing too aggressive, going for the big play at times, leading to turnovers and failing to convert fourth downs. The Wildcats have shown to have issues with communication, with false starts, delay of games, and missed assignments. This falls on offensive coordinator, Norm Chow, who should find a way to control his offense in the next game. The Wildcats defense was solid against Luis Perez and the Guardians offense as they only allowed 17 points and 150 passing yards. LaDarius Wiley made his presence known in the backfield last week and will look to continue that trend. The Wildcats are in need of a win to avoid slipping to the bottom of the league.

Vipers Look to Stay Strong

The Vipers stunned most who had written them off coming into the game against DC They shutout the defenders 25-0 and proved themselves that they are not be the worst team in the XFL, for right now. The Vipers rushing attack was rolling as De’Veon Smith and Jacques Patrick combined for a solid 256 rushing yards against a shocked Defenders defense.

Quarterback Taylor Cornelius completed 24 of 31 passes for 211 yards while running for 36 yards and a rushing touchdown. The Vipers defense was the real story against the Defenders as they only allowed 107 yards of offense and forced 4 turnovers. The Vipers look to avoid a poor performance like the Wildcats had against NY after a big win over the Defenders.

What to Watch

The Wildcats offense is lacking strength and they could really use Spruce and Carter back for this game against a solid Vipers defense. The rushing attack of Tampa Bay will be key and running back De’Veon Smith should be a player to watch with his combination of speed and power.

How will the Wildcats offense bounce back after a struggle of a week?

Will Norm Chow change up the game plan from last week?

Both teams come in to the game 1-3 and will be looking to improve to keep momentum in the right direction.

Game Info

The Los Angeles Wildcats (-2) take on the Tampa Bay Vipers at 9:00PM EST The game will be played at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. Broadcast coverage will be on ESPN. (O/U – 40.5)

Prediction: 18-12 Wildcats

Difference Makers: Josh Johnson, De’Veon Smith, Mike Stevens

Around the League – Week 4

We’re at the midpoint of the 2020 XFL regular season and in Week 4, the action has not slowed down. From injuries on and off the field to sustained crowds in Saint Louis and the inaugural Texas Throwdown, it was another week of captivating storylines.

Renegade Leg Injuries Abound

It was Landry Jones who drew headlines when he re-injured his knee on Saturday. Jones was tackled in the fourth quarter and after an MRI it was announced that he sustained further damage to his left knee. Hopefully Landry will be able to recover quickly to full health and we wish him the best of luck in his treatment.

However it was his offensive coordinator who made Twitter news when it was announced that he had broken his leg after being run into by his running back Cameron Artis-Payne. Renegades OC Hal Mumme coached the rest of the game and will be calling next weeks game against the NY Guardians from the booth.

Mumme wanted to make sure it was clear that he was in good spirits about the injury tweeting, “I’m not soft #AirRaid.”

Fans of the Week

XFL fans continue to be creative with homemade and incredible costumes to show their support for their teams. Our two favorites of Week 4 include the giant bunny head at the Guardians game and another home made costume from a Tampa Bay Vipers fan.

via ABC
via ESPN

Players of the Week

Attendance

Attendance seems to be reaching an equilibrium within the league, with every team having played at least two home games. The St. Louis Battlehawks continue to lead the league in filled seats, in fact they announced on Wednesday that they will be opening the upper deck of the Dome.

Here is the XFL’s Week 4 attendance numbers

Host TeamStadiumAttendance% Change
New York GuardiansMetLife Stadium12,11631.2
St. Louis BattlehawksThe Dome at America’s Center27,5276.85
Dallas RenegadesGlobe Life Park18,3326.5
Tampa Bay VipersRaymond James Stadium12,24932.3
League Total% Change
70,22414.4

Landry Jones reinjures MCL

The Dallas Renegades have released a statement on the condition of quarterback Landry Jones who suffered a leg injury after a 4th down run, towards the end of the 4th quarter against the Houston Roughnecks.

“DALLAS — Renegades quarterback Landry Jones underwent an MRI Monday and results revealed the reaggravation of his left knee injury that was suffered on the first day of training camp in January.

The recovery period is expected to be at least two weeks.

Dallas will add a quarterback to its roster concurrent to XFL rules on short-term injuries. If a quarterback incurs such an injury and the prognosis for recovery is short-term, then a roster exemption shall be granted so the team may add another quarterback to its active list.

A determination on roster additions for the Renegades will be made by the team in the coming days.”

Jones was tackled on a 4th & 1 run, with 4:30 left in the game. Though he advanced past the line to gain, he was in visible pain and stayed on the turf while the Dallas athletic training staff attended to him. After a few moments, he was able to walk off the field of play under his own power, but was heavily favoring his right leg. He did not return to the game.

Though the Renegades will opt to use the XFL’s short-term injury clause to add another quarterback to their roster, current backup Philip Nelson will likely start under center while Jones recovers. He looked to have a handle on finishing the Renegade’s final drive Sunday but came up short when receiver Flynn Nagel bobbled a short screen pass, resulting in a game-ending interception.

“I thought Phillip Nelson came in and did a great job, awesome job of always being ready to play. He does a great job in practice and he came in ready for the opportunity.” -Bob Stoops, post-game press conference

If Landry Jones’ recovery fits the expected timeline, he will return before the Renegades’ trip to Raymond James to face the Tampa Bay Vipers. Until then, Bob Stoops and Hal Mumme will have to work out a new game plan utilizing Nelson and perhaps another new face at quarterback. They will also probably rely more heavily on the dynamic rushing duo of running backs Cameron Artis-Payne and Lance Dunbar, who combined for 79 yards on 21 attempts and a touchdown.

Defenders’ struggles continue as Vipers earn their first win

TAMPA – In a non-contest, the Tampa Bay Vipers (1-3) earned their first win, shutting out the DC Defenders (2-2) 25-0. After outscoring opponents 58-19 in their first two games, the Defenders lost consecutive games, outscored 64-9.

Courtesy of ESPN

The Vipers received competent quarterback play from quarterback Taylor Cornelius who completed 24 of 31 attempts for 211 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Additionally, Cornelius added 36 yards rushing, including a 17-yard touchdown run with 4:36 left in the third quarter.

The exact opposite happened for the Defenders as quarterback Cardale Jones followed up a disastrous performance against the LA Wildcats with another putrid showing, going 9-of-22 for only 72 years and another interception, his sixth in four games played.

Courtesy of the XFL

What went wrong for the Defenders?

The Defenders could not defend the run as the Vipers averaged 5.4 yards-per-carry, totaling 266 yards. De’Veon Smith had 122 yards on 24 carries and Jacques Patrick rushed 21 times for 108 yards including a “beast mode” style eight-yard touchdown run at 8:43 in the first quarter.

Courtesy of the XFL

The Vipers ran 80 offensive plays, compared to the Defenders’ 39

Defensively, the Vipers pressured Jones, bringing him to the ground twice. After opening the XFL season 2-0, completing 62 percent for 499 yards, four touchdowns, and only one interception, Jones only has 172 yards with no touchdowns and five interceptions, completing only 51 percent of his passes.

On the one shot the Defenders had to get on the scoreboard, after forcing a Vipers turnover, Jones overthrew a wide-open Eli Rogers that got behind the defense with 6:38 in the third quarter. Jones was intercepted by Tarvarus McFadden, the 6-foot-2 cornerback from Florida State, giving the ball right back to Tampa only one minute later.

What went right for the Vipers?

Courtesy of the XFL

Everything. Except for one ill-advised pass from Cornelius trying to float a pass to Reece Horn that was intercepted by Defenders safety Rahim Moore on the Vipers’ one-yard-line at 6:48 in the third quarter.

The Vipers were 3-of-5 scoring in the red zone, while the Defenders’ rushing attack was non-existent. Donnell Pumphrey and Nick Brossette combined for 13 carries for 46 yards. Apart from one 14-yard rush, the running lanes were closed by the Vipers’ defensive front-seven. The Vipers spent plenty of time in the Defenders backfield recording five tackles-for-loss.

Tampa’s defensive backs prevented the Defenders receivers from getting any separation. Rogers was targeted nine times for only four receptions, and Ross targeted seven for only three receptions. Both receivers only gained 43 yards, averaging only six yards-per-catch. The defensive back knocked down four passes.

Time-of-possession heavily favored the Vipers. The Vipers 80 plays controlled the clock for nearly 40 minutes: if the other team never has the ball, they can’t score any points.

What is next for the DC Defenders?

Some significant decisions need to be made by head coach Pep Hamilton.

Courtesy of the XFL

Everyone’s favorite player, when the starting quarterback is struggling, is the backup. In clean-up time, DC backup quarterback Tyree Jackson was 1-or-2 for three yards under center.

Is it time to switch to the 22-year-old Buffalo product?

This week in practice, Coach Hamilton needs to take a serious look at his options at quarterback. The offensive line might need some revamping as well.

Tackles De’Ondre Wesley and Malcolm Bunche need to stay competitive to keep their position and guards Chris Brown and Rishard Cook need to be more aggressive protecting the run game.

On the other side of the ball, the Defenders’ defense has a nonexistent pass rush in their consecutive losses, allowing a combined 489 yard through the air while only managing three quarterback hurries.

This Sunday, March 8 at 3:00PM EDT, Defenders look to right the ship at home in Audi Field as Jordan Ta’amu the 3-1 St. Louis Battlehawks in a battle for first in the conference.