The XFL wrapped up the playoff weekend with the North Divisional Championship, as the DC Defenders (9-1) hosted the Seattle Sea Dragons (7-3) at a rowdy Audi Field on Sunday.
DC swept the Sea Dragons during the regular season, most recently in week eight when DC narrowly won 34-33. Since then, DC has played in two more games that they won in thrilling fashion, in week nine against the Renegades in OT 28-26, then in week ten against the Brahmas 29-28. Even though DC has been finding ways to win, their late collapses are very concerning entering the playoffs. Meanwhile, Seattle has been rolling recently after picking up a vital win at St. Louis in week nine, and last week against Vegas 28-9.
Could a real rivalry be brewing in the XFL North?
Seattle opened the game receiving the ball as Kelvin McKnight returned the opening kickoff to the 26 yard line.
While under immense pressure, QB Ben DiNucci sent a prayer up to WR Jahcour Pearson, which Pearson somehow reeled in. DC was also called for roughing the passer on the play to tack on extra yardage. Seattle kicker Dominick Eberle was able to convert a 33 yard field goal to give Seattle a 3-0 lead after the opening drive.
Pooka Williams Jr. was able to answer the FG with an impressive return (which was recurring), and was soon followed by a 58 yard connection from Ta’amu to TE Briley Moore for 58 yards into the red zone.
After being stonewalled in the red zone, DC was able to put some points on the board after a 24 yard field goal by Matthew McCrane, making it 3-3.
Seattle’s next possession consisted of two more dropped passes, totaling 4 drops through the first two possessions for Seattle. The drops forced a punt for the Sea Dragons.
DC took over possession and wasted little time finding the end zone, after Ta’amu connected with WR Lucky Jackson on a slant route that Jackson took 44 yards for a touchdown. DC’s failed 2pt conversion made the game 9-3 DC.
DC’s woes continued on the next offensive possession when Ta’amu forced a pass inside, which was tipped and intercepted by Seattle. This was Ta’amu’s first obvious mistake of the game, after finishing the first quarter 3/5 with 111 yards, and a 143.5 passer rating.
After holding Seattle to a punt following the turnover, DC started the ensuing drive inside their own ten yard line. When the drive looked like it was over multiple times, DC was bailed out by Seattle flags on multiple occasions.
Just as DC was approaching the end zone, the seven minute drive was halted due to a wild Seattle interception in the red zone by Sea Dragons safety Antoine Brooks.
After a three and out drive by Seattle, DC found their way back to the end zone on a Ta’amu to TE Ethan Wolf touchdown pass. WR Josh Hammond played a major part in that drive, contributing 3 receptions for 30 yards on the 6 play, 56 yard drive.
The Defenders converted the 2pt conversion on a pass to TE Alex Ellis to take control 23-9 heading into the fourth quarter.
DC capitalized on an extended opening possession courtesy of multiple frustration flags by Seattle, with a touchdown by newly signed RB Cam’ron Harris from one yard out. His backfield mate, Abram Smith, converted the 1pt attempt to give DC a commanding 30-9 lead.
After a stalled out drive by both teams, Seattle regained the ball with time not on their side (7:37 left), and down three possessions. DiNucci quickly led Seattle’s offense down the field, finding WR Juwan Green on a 34 yard strike for six.
The Sea Dragons failed the 2pt conversion attempt, making it 30-15 with DC leading.
Up two possessions with six minutes left, DC put together an efficient, but effective four minute drive that newcomer Cam’Ron Harris capped off with his second debut touchdown of the game. He wasn’t done there though, Harris also converted the 1pt attempt, putting the game on ice and back up three possessions, 37-15.
With two minutes left, Seattle was able to salvage another scoring drive ending with DiNucci to Green It was all for not though as time expired and the Defenders defeated the Sea Dragons 37-21 to be crowned the North Division Champions, and punch their ticket to the XFL Championship against the Arlington Renegades.
The difference of play between the first and second half for the DC Defenders was crystal clear to anyone watching. Heading into halftime, it seemed that Seattle may have had momentum swinging their way, but DC was able to tighten up and correct previous mistakes to avoid catastrophe.
QB Jordan Ta’amu spoke postgame about what went on at halftime to get his team back into it:
“We all talked in the locker room, we knew we were gonna get the ball back, so a lot of our guys stepped up as leaders. Kind of spoke to our offensive side of the ball, and was like, ‘hey, we get the ball back, we’re gonna score’. We trusted the defense to get a stop, and we were gonna keep scoring. There was a lot of confidence going into the half. It was zero-zero. For us, we knew we had to go out and dominate and stay on top of it.”
For Seattle, penalties truly hurt them in all phases of the game this week. While many will point to the late game flags, the first half penalties were just as costly as the second half ones. For the whole game, Seattle totaled 13 penalties, a formula that is unwinnable for a playoff game against a team of DC’s caliber. With many unanswered questions heading into the offseason, one has to wonder about the future of QB Ben DiNucci and HC Jim Haslett due to their success.
What are your thoughts on this game between the DC Defenders and Seattle Sea Dragons? Which XFL players made the most impact? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!