Friday, September 25, 2020

XFL Week 2: For The Love Of Turnovers

This past weekend may only be the second week of the XFL, but already we’re seeing a bit of everything. Teams are starting to find their identity, players are quickly improving, and attendances are growing. Let’s take a look back at what you may have missed in Week 2:

Game 1: NY Guardians (1-0) @ DC Defenders (1-0)

These two teams put up strong performances in their first matchup as XFL teams. With both tied at the top of the East division, this game already had a lot riding on it.

Right out of the gate, the Guardians offence struggled. After their resounding victory last week, New York’s offensive momentum disappeared almost immediately against the DC defence. QB Matt McGloin struggled to connect on seemingly wide-open passes, and after a big fumble by running back Darius Victor, NY struggled to recover.

The early offensive plays for DC told a different story. QB Cardale Jones connected on multiple downs with WR Eli Rogers, who missed his mother’s funeral in order to play. Receiver DeAndre Thompkins (not to be confused with the Houston Texan, DeAndre Hopkins!) also made some big catches for the DC offence, and helped build momentum to get the Defenders on the board first.

After DC opened the scoring, things only got worse for the Guardians. Their offence seemed to completely fall apart, with McGloin giving an agitated halftime interview that set the tone for the rest of the game.

The QB completed only 8 passes for 44 yards and 2 INTs during his time on the field. McGloin was benched in favour of backup Marquise Williams late in the game, but by this point the offence had completely stalled.

The Defenders offence slowed down in the later stages, settling for field goals on multiple drives. Their defence put up points of their own though with top defensive player, Jameer Thurman, returning an interception for 6 points.

The NY Guardians need to head back to the drawing board this week and settle things down on offence. Flaring tempers and sloppy blocking on the O-line made it very difficult for them to move the ball. Meanwhile, if the DC Defenders can hurry their play calling, and keep their defence tight, they could go on to win it all.

Final Score: NY Guardians (1-1) 0 – 27 DC Defenders (2-0)

Game 2: Tampa Bay Vipers (0-1) @ Seattle Dragons (0-1)

Defence was the word of the day in Seattle, as the Dragons hosted the Vipers at CenturyLink Field. Neither team put up big offensive performances last week, so both teams headed into this week looking to build some momentum and get their first win.

The score remained at 0-0 till deep in the second quarter, with defensive plays aplenty for both sides. Viper QB Taylor Cornelius, who played in place of the injured Aaron Murray, struggled to get anything going early in the game. Cornelius quickly became a victim of the Dragons punishing pass rush, taking some big sacks, as well as throwing an interception mid-way through the first quarter.

After putting up 3 points from a field goal late in the second quarter, it was time for Tampa Bay’s defence to step up. Seattle had finally began moving the ball before Tarvarus McFadden scored the Vipers first ever touchdown with a 78 yard pick-six.

It didn’t take the Dragons long to respond though. After a quick drive on offence led to a TD by WR Keenan Reynolds, Seattle made some big defensive plays of their own. Defensive end Marcel Frazier received a gift of a pick-six from Quinton Flowers, giving his team a 12-9 lead. Seattle took a two-point conversion to make it 14-9 in front of a busy home crowd.

Offensive woes continued for the Vipers as they looked to mount a comeback. Punter Jake Schum bobbled the hold on a field goal attempt. Daniel Williams‘ endzone catch was called back for offensive pass interference. The Dragons ended the game with yet another interception and sealed the win in their home opener.

The Dragons defence may have won the day, but the Vipers poor offence gifted them a number of points. Teams need to look out for this Seattle pass rush though, as they are not afraid to rough up opposing QBs. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay need to build some confidence offensively. Hopefully with Aaron Murray back under centre, the Vipers offence can find their rhythm.

Final Score: Tampa Bay Vipers (0-2) 9 – 17 Seattle Dragons (1-1)

Game 3: Dallas Renegades (0-1) @ LA Wildcats (0-1)

For both teams, this game saw the return of their starting QBs. NFL journeyman Josh Johnson made his first start for the Wildcats, whilst the ex-NFL-turned-XFL-poster-boy Landry Jones made his return from injury for the Renegades.

Neither side wasted any time letting their fresh QBs take some shots down field. However, Johnson couldn’t find the endzone on LAs first drive and the Renegades failed to gain so much as a first down.

The Wildcats defence struck the first blow though, with an interception by Harlan Miller, who narrowly missed another interception on a similar play moments before.

Deep into the second quarter, it was the turn of the Dallas defence to get a takeaway. LA had begun to put together some plays for a lengthy drive down the field, but the Renegades made the first of their two redzone fumble recoveries in the game. 

Tenny Adewusi came up with the loose ball, that after a lengthy review (which thanks to the XFL broadcasting, we got to hear in detail) was ruled a fumble with a recovery by the Renegades.

The second half began at 3-3 and the low-scoring, turnover-fest continued throughout the third quarter. It wasn’t until the 4th that the game finally opened up. The Wildcats offence found the endzone first with a laser from Johnson to receiver Nelson Spruce.

The Renegades were quick to respond with a TD of their own after Cameron Artis-Payne turned the corner on a run and took it all the way. A 3-and-out for the Wildcats, followed by a big kick return, gave the Renegades offence some real momentum. Landry Jones threw his first XFL TD pass to Donald Parham to put the Renegades up 19-9.

The Wildcats were not going down without a fight though. After a second Spruce TD, LA made the first ever successful 3-point conversion – all be it from the 5 instead of the 10 after a defensive penalty moved them forward 5 yards. With Dallas leading by just a point, Artis-Payne scored his second TD on a well-fought run to put the game beyond LA.

Both teams struggled to get their offence moving in the first half of the game, but seemed to find their rhythm in the second. With LA already at 0-2, they need to find themselves a way out of this hole if they want to stay in the post-season picture.

Dallas may have found their first win, but practice and time is needed to get Landry Jones and this offence clicking consistently.

Final Score: Dallas Renegades (1-1) 25 – 18 LA Wildcats (0-2)

Game 4: St Louis Battlehawks (1-0) @ Houston Roughnecks (1-0)

The final game of Week 2 saw the Battlehawks travel to Houston to face the Roughnecks. Both teams were looking to stay unbeaten after victories in their first games.

The Roughnecks picked up where they left off last week and opened the scoring on the first drive of the game with a field goal. St Louis wasted no time in responding though, with QB Jordan Ta’amu checking down to Matt Jones who took the ball 25 yards for the game’s opening touchdown.

The early scoring wasn’t over yet. Roughnecks QB P.J. Walker marched his team right back down the field for a touchdown of their own. Receiver Cam Phillips made the catch for the score, before a failed 2-point conversion put Houston up 9-6 in the first quarter.

Running back James Butler gave the Roughnecks their second TD on a short dive, before Walker threw his second TD of the game, putting Houston up 21-6 at the end of the first half.

St Louis came out fighting in the second half, with Ta’amu throwing a TD early to kick start the comeback. The 22 year old then went on to show his athleticism and kept the ball on an RPO for a rushing TD. The Battlehawks went into the 4th quarter trailing by 3 at 18-21.

Just as momentum started to swing the Battlehawks way, a blown call on a neutral zone infraction led to a Ta’amu interception that was returned right to the St Louis goal line. Walker made quick work of converting the takeaway, and completed his hat-trick with a TD pass to Cam Phillips.

St Louis were undeterred though and converted a 4th-and-long on the first play of the XFL’s ‘comeback period’. L’Damian Washington kept the Battlehawks in it with a big run on the very next play.

For St Louis though, it wasn’t meant to be. The Roughnecks bled the last minutes off the clock to seal their second victory and remain undefeated. The Battlehawks have a lot to be excited about going forward though.

Their offence has a lot of potential and made some big plays against a good football team. The Roughnecks on the other hand, have the MVP so far in P.J. Walker and with a dangerous defence as well, they already look to have the ability to win it all.

Final Score: St Louis Battlehawks (1-1) 24 – 28 Houston Roughnecks (2-0)

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Adam Pettit
NFL and XFL writer. All round American Football enthusiast.

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