By Michael Lavery (@michaellavery98)
The first weekend of XFL football is in the books and after an exciting start it’s time to breakdown each of the games one by one and crown our winners and losers. One immediate winner is the XFL themselves, who not long before kick-off announced that they had sold more tickets for this season already, than the AAF had in its entire existence – an exciting announcement to denounce fears of a sinking ship style company. For more general analysis and first impressions be sure to check out “Initial Impressions of XFL 2020” by our own Shaun Blundell.
In terms of the footballing side of things, it’s safe to say that the Saturday slot of games provided a more entertaining watch than those on the Sunday. We also saw the benefits of playing in smaller stadiums compared to bigger arenas as the sight oF crowded bleachers helps in creating a better atmosphere as opposed to watching in an empty echo chamber like a partially full MetLife Stadium.
GAME ONE: SEATTLE @ D.C
Final Score: DC Defenders 31, Seattle Dragons 19
Cardale Jones’ shone brighter than most on opening weekend. He helped lead his D.C Defenders to a 31-19 victory over the travelling Seattle Dragons.
A game watched by just over 17,000 people it had an upbeat and engaging atmosphere right the way through. The new kick-off rule proved hugely popular with fans and the intimate insight from reporters on the field was a shock to the system of many viewers at first but felt pleasantly refreshing. As for the football itself, Jones’ performance helped spur on his Defenders to a win against a good Seattle side. Jones’ went 16/26 for 235yds, 2TD 0INT, 116.7QBR on the day. A relatively faultless performance and he was able to spread the ball around nicely finding eight different receivers and two different teammates for his touchdowns. He tacked on an extra 30 on the ground, moving freely and looking sharp.
Seattle didn’t play badly, they were in this game late into the 4th quarter until a Brandon Silvers pass intended for Austin Proehl was picked off and returned for six to put the icing on the cake. Proehl slipped on his route giving Bradley Sylve a clear avenue to walk in for the score. Earlier in the game Proehl scored the first touchdown in XFL history but unfortunately that is not how he, or anyone else, will remember this game. Silvers finished with a line of: 21/40 217yds, 3TD 2INT, 72.6QBR.
Head Coach Jim Zorn spoke after the game and said:
“We understand how a few errors can really affect a game and we have to overcome those”.dragons hc jim zorn
A good battle on both sides of the ball, it’ll be interesting to see if D.C can build on this momentum rolling in to week two. As for Seattle, it’s a return to the Pacific North West and Century Link Field for their home opener next week against the Tampa Bay Vipers.
GAME TWO: LA @ HOUSTON
Final Score: Houston Roughnecks 37, L.A. Wildcats 17
Welcome to the P.J Walker show. The Roughnecks quarterback had himself a day in the franchise’s first ever outing throwing 4 touchdowns to 4 different receivers. The Roughnecks intentions were clear from the start, they were going to throw the ball and it was up to LA to find a way to stop it.
The Run N’ Shoot offence was on display for the whole league to see and no doubt teams will be taking notice and preparing accordingly. Walker hit eight different receivers for 272yds off of 39 passing attempts and finished with a rating of 103.8. He was able to make all the throws that were asked of him and his accuracy on tight window throws was perfect when it mattered. His athleticism was on display as he completed several throws on the run rolling left and right. When he decided to run the ball he showed flashes of Lamar Jackson in mid-season form, making defenders miss and drawing big pops from the crowd.
His one interception came late in the 4th quarter when he tried to force a ball into the end zone for his fifth touchdown. It was a throw he didn’t have to make but given the form he was in he would have had no doubts he could make it. It wasn’t a bad throw, just a great play from the Wildcats safety.
LA had to start with back-up quarterback Chad Kanoff after it was announced their started Josh Johnson was dealing with a groin injury. Kanoff was able to hold his own throughout the game and had a respectable 21/40 214yds, 1TD 1INT and a rating of 66. The interception wasn’t an errant throw but was a fumble that fell into the lap of a Roughnecks defender who was on the floor after pressuring Kanoff. Kanoff was able to make the correct reads when needed and on the Wildcats opening touchdown drive, the offence ran the same play three times in a row to break down the defence. A simple stick concept to the left side of the formation forcing the defender to make a choice and third time round, when he finally came up to cover the flat, Kanoff hit Jordan Smallwood over the top who made a spectacular fingertip grab for the score.
The Wildcats ended the first half by squandering a chance to take the lead going into the break. An early indication that the new rules will take some getting used to – a field goal try with :01 on the clock, the Wildcats didn’t get the snap off in time as the stop/start clock inside two minutes caught some players off guard who thought the clock started on the snap. A disappointing way to end the half but definitely a coaching point for all teams going forward.
In a somewhat shocking and sudden twist, it was announced Monday that the LA Wildcats had fired the defensive coordinator, Pepper Johnson after just one game.
GAME THREE: TAMPA @ NEW YORK
Final Score: New York Guardians 23, Tampa Bay Vipers 3
The Matt McGloin New York Guardians laid down a statement win on Sunday afternoon against a poor Tampa Bay Vipers team. The Guardians finished as 23-3 victors and enjoyed complimentary football resulting in scores on both sides of the ball. McGloin found his rhythm early and settled into the game. He scored the first touchdown in franchise history on a quarterback sneak from the one yard-line on the first drive of the game and throughout the whole game he reminded everybody of his professional calibre as he confidently and efficiently led his team up and down the field. His game: 15/29 182yds, 2TD (1 throwing, 1 rushing) 0INT, 82.8QBR.
An abysmal opening day for the Vipers was a mix of poor execution and good defence by New York. Ball handling was an issue all day, they had three fumbles on the day although only lost one of those. Quarterback Aaron Murray had a couple of picks, the first of which was a bad ball floated to the back of the endzone and swatted into the open arms of a Guardian defender. Murray didn’t make the throws he needed to when called upon and will leave many questioning his starter role ahead of Quinton Flowers who saw a little bit of game time but was used in a more Taysom Hill style role. Flowers finished as the team’s second highest rusher on the day. An understandably frustrated Murray spoke to the media after saying:
“If you turn the ball over three times and the other team doesn’t turn over, it’s simple. We drive down there, get to about the 5-yard line — and bad play by me throwing it up, should’ve just thrown that one away — we had four or five tries in the red zone and came away with no points.“Vipers QB aaron murray
A second road game in as many weeks for the Vipers sees them travel out west to play Seattle in what will definitely be a difficult game. The Dragons will be wanting to make use of home field advantage while the Vipers will be looking to right the wrongs of Sundays outing.
GAME FOUR: ST. LOUIS @ DALLAS
Final Score: St. Louis BattleHawks 15, Dallas Renegades 9
Despite being the first Quarterback to be a part of XFL 2020, Renegades signal caller Landry Jones spent week one on the side lines. Nursing an injury it was reported that Landry was good to go but was advised to take minimal snaps and so with that in mind Head Coach Bob Stoops opted to go with the back-up: Philip Nelson. Reports suggest Jones will be good to go in weeks 2 or 3 depending on how long the Renegades choose to sit him.
A pretty underwhelming game for the Renegades seen them register to touchdowns and get on the scoreboard through field goals only. Nelson tried to lead a last minute comeback drive which would have made him a team hero; instead he threw a game sealing interceptions and confirmed the loss for Dallas.
On the St. Louis side of things, they will be very happy with what they saw. The only team to get a road win this week, they done so by playing solid fundamental football and quarterback Jordan Ta’amu helped his team secure a first ever win with great play. He was also helped by a solid rushing attack which saw the Battlehawks go for 191yds on the ground. 77 of those provided by Ta’amu himself, including a huge 37 yard rush on a designed quarterback run.
The only fault in the Battlehawks game came on a Marquette King punt which checked up perfectly and was going to stop on the one, only for a Battlehawk to come flying through, scoop the ball and end up in the endzone resulting in a touchback and the ball coming out to the 35 yard line. Steve Beauharnais, the player in question jumped up proclaiming it was a live ball as it had struck the Renegades return man but his protests were in vain and a touchback was awarded.
St Louis go on the road again next week to Houston in a game which is sure to be a cracker, but they will need to keep this momentum up if they wish to return home to The Dome @ America’s centre with a perfect record in week 3.
Check back to Full10 Yards later in the week to catch our preview for week two of the XFL.