Defenders improve to 2-0, Dragons earn first XFL win

Defenders improve to 2-0, Dragons earn first XFL win

Seattle Dragons 17, Tampa Bay Vipers 9

Given how the rest of this one played out, it seems that Seattle Dragons receiver Justin Santiago’s 63-yard kickoff return did more than just motivate his team coming out of halftime.

It invigorated the Tampa Bay Vipers, as well, resulting in the two teams slugging it out until the closing seconds. But, in the end, it was the Dragons who flew past the Vipers and earned a 17-9 home victory, their first of the season.

Six plays following Santiago’s return, Vipers cornerback Tarvarus McFadden temporarily halted Seattle’s surge after picking off Dragons QB Brandon Silvers and taking it 78 yards to the promise land. It was Tampa’s first TD of the young season, and it gave them a 9-0 lead.

Apparently, McFadden’s big play awoke the sleeping Dragons as Silvers, after having just seen the deficit grow, raised the stakes with a deep shot to receiver Keenan Reynolds, who took it all the way for a 68-yard catch-and-run score.

Two short drives later, Dragons defensive end Marcel Frazier literally snatched control of the contest, picking off Vipers QB Quinton Flowers as he backpedaled 11 yards from Seattle’s endzone, and landing in the endzone to make 12-9 at the 5:27 mark of the third.

A successful two-point conversion upped the lead, and the teams would remain in a stalemate until late in the fourth when Dragons kicker Ernesto Lacayo converted a 27-yarder.

The Vipers attempted to come up in the clutch on the game’s final drive but a game-sealing pick on a Hail Mary by Dragons Kyle Queiro sealed the deal.

Reynolds earned game ball honors for Seattle, finishing with 87 yards and the TD. Silvers continued his lukewarm start to the year with 91 yards, a TD and pick on seven of 18 attempts.

For the Vipers, starting QB Taylor Cornelius went 16-of-27 for 154 yards and two INTs while Flowers, who spelled Cornelius at times and played some running back, went 3-of-7 for 43 yards.

Seattle’s defense recorded 11 tackles for a loss (three sacks)and six passes defensed. Linebacker Steven Johnson led the way with 10 tackles and two TFL.

D.C. Defenders 27, New York Guardians 0

For the first time since 2011, a football team based in our nation’s capital has begun its season 2-0.

As tough as that has to be for Redskins fans, Saturday’s 27-0 rout over the New York Guardians has to be music to the ears of everyone hopping on the D.C. Defenders bandwagon.

Defenders receiver DeAndre Thompkins, who made his debut after missing Week 1, got the ball rolling following a 13-yard strike from quarterback Cardale Jones to give D.C. a quick 6-0 lead.

From that point, everything proceeded to come up in favor of the Defenders, particularly in the second half.

Aside from the defense holding New York scoreless for the duration, the last 30 minutes saw the Defenders offense really make the Guardians look silly.

Up 18-0, Jones, with some help from running back Donnel Pumphrey, completed the XFL’s first double forward pass on the first snap of the fourth quarter. Thompkins was on the receiving end of the trick play.

Later in the drive, Jones completed a 25-yard pass to Thompkins after dropping back, scrambling away from pressure, stumbling and then fumbling the ball, only to recover it and complete the play. And, to put the cherry on top of this one-sided affair, the Defenders attempted the league’s first three-point conversion up 27-0 with 1:24 to go. The play, a slightly disrespectful display considering the margin, was unsuccessful.

Jones turned in another solid albeit up-and-down performance, completing 62 percent of his throws (23-of-37) for 276 yards, two TDs and one interception. He is now 25-1 in college and pro games that he’s played in, and 13-0 when he starts. Jones will have a chance to improve that record against the L.A. Wildcats on the road next week on Feb. 23.

Thompkins contributed six catches for 92 yards and a score while Rashad Ross, a wideout who played in the AAF and has spent time with 10 NFL teams since 2013, led all receivers with 95 yards.

Kicker Ty Rausa nailed three field goals from 27, 36 and 26 yards out, respectively, while linebacker Jameer Thurman put up some point on the board following a 46-yard pick-six early in the third quarter.

Less than 24 hours after being dealt from the Wildcats, highly-touted defensive tackle Anthony Johnson flashed the grittiness most associated with his name and came up with three tackles and 1.5 sacks, making what was already a glowing day for the defense (more on that shortly) even better.

Overall, this game was a good second outing for the Defenders. The same couldn’t be said, whoever, for the Guardians and their QB Matt McGloin.

McGloin, a journeyman whose had stops with the Raiders, Eagles, Texans and Chiefs after going undrafted in 2013, had an abysmal afternoon. And he wasn’t afraid to verbalize the clear frustration he had been showing with his body language.

“We need to change the whole entire gameplan,” McGloin said while being interviewed heading into the locker room at halftime. “It’s just a lot going on right now. It’s embarrassing for us as an offense. So, a lot of things we want to fix and correct.”

McGloin turned in a 5-of-13, 32-yard, one INT stat-line at half, and finished the game 8-of-19 for 44 yards and two INTs. His second pick — the aforementioned D.C. pick-six — was his last snap of the game before being benched in favor of Marquise Williams halfway through the fourth. Rough.

“There’s a lot of stuff going behind closed doors. I think we need to clean that up, communication especially is one. And it showed today,” McGloin said while being interviewed shortly after the benching. “At no point in time, did I think we were comfortable out there. At no point in time, did I think we were in a position to try to be successful. I think it was pretty easy to see.”

Considering that N.Y. punted five times, had three turnovers, went 1-of-11 on third down and failed to reach the red zone all afternoon, it’s safe to say that McGloin’s assessment is a fair one.

Don’t look now but, if the Defenders continue to play like they have so far, the Redskins could be in danger of being knocked off their perch as the city’s premier football franchise. Well, at least for the remainder of 2020, anyway.

Also, a special shout-out to Defenders WR Eli Rogers, who missed his mother’s funeral Saturday to help his team earn a win. “I was really just thinking about her and what she would want from me,” Rogers said post-game. “We have a certain relationship where she understands I’m not too fond of certain things. I just wrote a letter, I let my family read it at the funeral.” Rogers finished with five catches for 49 yards.

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