The DC Defenders’ defense and special teams play propelled them to victory in the first iteration of the new XFL. The new set of rules set forth by the newly-formed league was a fun change to the game that is about as American as anything. Sometimes, change is good. The Defenders were able to overcome a slow start to seal a 31-19 victory in the first game of the highly anticipated XFL season.
DC Defenders Defense Derails Dragons
Defending Isn’t Just A Name
When it comes to a new league with new rules and a new league, it would be expected that defense would rule. Seattle Dragons quarterback Brandon Silvers started the game strongly but faltered down the stretch. In total, he was hit four times, including a sack by Jonathan Massaquoi. Silvers finished the game with 21 completions on 40 attempts for 217 yards and three touchdowns. The difference in this game was the two interceptions he threw.
Silvers threw an interception during the first extra point of the year, but those don’t get counted. The score was 6-3 in favor of the Dragons and they were driving following a missed Defenders field goal. Silvers was looking for Austin Proehl across the middle for a first down, but Rahim Moore read it all the way. The second interception was the proverbial nail in the coffin. Down 25-19, Silvers and the Dragons were driving down the field and were facing a 4th and 7. Proehl was, again, the intended target but he slipped while running an out route. Defender Bradley Sylve capitalized on the mistake and returned the interception 69 yards for a touchdown.
Special Teams Is Special
Kickoffs in this new XFL are revolutionary. As previously mentioned in our XFL rules piece, kickers kick from their 30-yard line while the two teams line up on the receiving team’s 30 and 35-yard lines. It takes a second to get used to, but this way has plenty of potential for big plays, but it does what it’s supposed to do: minimize the concussions caused by full-speed hits.
The Defenders excelled on special teams. On the second Dragons punt of the day, Elijah Campbell came loose on the rush and blocked the punt for Jonathan Celestin to recover in the end zone for a touchdown. Blocked punts are one of the most exciting parts of the game, so it’s a good thing we did not have to wait long for the XFL to deliver. In a sideline interview, Campbell noted that the punt coverage team “gave a lot of ground.” So Campbell pressed outside, then cut inside much to the upback’s dismay.
Car. Dale. Jones.
The face of the DC Defenders is none other than former Ohio State, Buffalo Bills, and Los Angeles Chargers quarterback, Cardale Jones. Jones got off to a slower start than his Dragons counterpart, but it was a strong second half that propelled “Twelve Gauge” to victory. The 6’5″, 250 lbs quarterback was hard to bring down all game, though the lone sack came from a botched zone read. As a runner, Jones was primarily scrambling away from pressure, though he managed 28 yards on nine attempts.
The spark came from his first touchdown pass to Khari Lee. Lee, the tight end out of Bowie State, made the most of his lone reception. The most exciting play from this offense came a running back-to-wide receiver-back-to-Jones flea flicker. Jones found Lee along the sidelines, where he cut back inside and scored after making a few defenders miss. His second score came when Jones found former Arizona State Dun Devil Rashad Ross wide open for 31 yards. On multiple occasions, Jones impressed with his arm strength, but the most impressive part was his improved accuracy. It is not too much to expect a solid season from number 12 in the nation’s capital.
DC Defenders Defend DC
In addition to this game, the Houston Roughnecks took down the LA Wildcats, 37-17. Today (Sunday, February 9), the New York Guardians host the Tampa Bay Vipers and the St. Louis Battlehawks travel to the Dallas Renegades. Despite only having two games completed, it could be said that the XFL will have greater staying power than 2019’s failed AAF. The ten-game schedule for the Defenders will give them plenty of opportunities to solidify themselves. Let’s enjoy this season to pass the time before the NFL Draft.
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