DC Defenders Pull Off Improbable Late Comeback, Stun Arlington Renegades

DC Defenders Pull Off Improbable Late Comeback, Stun Arlington Renegades

In an XFL Championship rematch from last season, the DC Defenders visited the Arlington Renegades at Choctaw Stadium to open up week three in the UFL.

With both teams needing a win this week, it was almost certain that this affair would be high scoring and come down to the wire…

First Quarter

Arlington’s Luis Perez and Tyler Vaughns found early chemistry on the opening possession of the game. Perez found Vaughns on the longest play of the drive with a 19-yard third down connection to keep Arlington alive. Vaughns finished with three receptions on the drive. 

The Defenders opening offensive possession was filled with pressure by the Renegades defense, but Ta’amu was able to evade on multiple occasions, leading to a 54-yard Matthew McCrane field goal to give DC the first quarter lead, 3-0.

Defenders TE Briley Moore was injured during the scoring possession, he was initially ruled questionable to return. 

Second Quarter

Luis Perez and Tyler Vaughns continued their hot start to start the second quarter, with Perez finding Vaughns for his sixth reception on a 19-yard jump ball connection for the first touchdown of the game.

DC stuffed Arlington’s 2pt attempt to keep the Renegades lead at 6-3. 

The Renegades regained possession after stopping DC’s offense, and began to hit their groove on the ground with RB De’Veon Smith. Smith and Arlington’s offensive line continued to eat away at the Defenders defense, setting up this wide-open touchdown completion from Perez to Javonta Payton for Perez’s second touchdown of the day. 

The Defenders were able to answer Arlington’s second score with one of their own, courtesy of WR Chris Rowland from the slot on a pass from Jordan Ta’amu. A much-needed answer from DC. Rowland is filling in for Keke Coutee as he recovers from a groin injury. 

The Renegades led 14-9 at halftime.

Halftime Notes

Third Quarter

DC Defenders kicker Matthew McCrane continued his hot start to 2024 with a 58-yard FG to cap off DC’s opening possession of the second half. Still trialing Arlington, 14-12. 

Tyler Vaughns was a problem for Gregg Williams’ defense all afternoon, finishing with nine receptions for 109 yards, and one touchdown. Arlington finished off their first possession of the half with a Taylor Russolino FG. 

Defenders WR Brandon Smith has not had the start to 2024 that he had he most likely hoped for. The proclaimed WR1 by HC Reggie Barlow was quiet last week in the win over Houston, but truly came alive late in the third quarter vs. Arlington. During this play, Smith fights and wins his route over Renegades CB Darren Evans, and Ta’amu places it in the perfect spot for Smith to come down with the TD grab. 

Fourth Quarter

Jordan Ta’amu’s ability to use his legs when in trouble may have been DC’s saving grace today against Arlington. Ta’amu finished with 53 rushing yards on nine carries, with at least half of his rushes moving the chains for DC. 

On the flip side, the Renegades continued to use QB Lindsey Scott Jr. throughout the game in different situations, similar to how the Defenders used D’Eriq King last season. Scott saw his most action of the season today, and finished off a fourth quarter drive with a sweep-option that left him unscathed for six points. 

Following a lifeless drive from DC, the Renegades continued to add to their lead, this time with another Taylor Russolino field goal. Growing the Arlington lead over DC, 28-18 with just over two minutes remaining. 

As we’ve grown to know in this young league, special teams are a major part of the game and can completely change the trajectory of an outcome. Chris Rowland showed another example of that on an inspiring kick return, giving DC’s offense excellent field position heading into “do-or-die” time.

The Defenders rushing attack, led by Cam’Ron Harris, finally came alive on this essential drive for DC. Harris brought DC’s offense to the one-yard line, then finished it off with a bulldozing score from a yard out to bring DC within one possession again. 

With just 48 seconds left in the game and zero timeouts, the Defenders were forced to attempt the 4th and 12 to regain possession, down 28-26. Ta’amu found his favorite target of the season, Ty Scott, to move the chains on this pristinely timed catch and throw. 

With possession back in hand, DC methodically moved the ball into field goal territory, setting up this 49-yard attempt for Matthew McCrane…

And improbably, the DC Defenders complete the comeback, defeating the Arlington Renegades, 29-28 in grand fashion. Sweet revenge for DC. 

Final Thoughts

The Defenders comeback from down ten points with just over two minutes left, moving to 2-1 this season. 

Meanwhile for Arlington, they fall to 0-3 and to the bottom of the XFL conference. There was clear disappointment from Renegades HC Bob Stoops in the postgame press conference following today’s loss. Coach Stoops has reason to be upset, especially after glancing over the third down and time of possession numbers from today’s game. 

Defenders HC Reggie Barlow also spoke postgame, specifically about his decisions/philosophy on going for it on fourth downs: 

Matthew McCrane was dynamite for DC, as he’s been so far all season. Today, McCrane hit from 54, 58, and 49. He remains perfect this year, now 9/9. 

Another all-time classic finish between these two XFL teams, with the feel of a true rivalry beginning to brew. 

The Defenders continue their road trip next weekend, taking on the Birmingham Stallions at Protective Stadium. 

Arlington will face cross-conference Texas foes, the Houston Roughnecks, at Rice Stadium in Houston. 

Did you watch this matchup between the DC Defenders and Arlington Renegades? Who was your favorite player today? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!