In a cross-division XFL showdown, the San Antonio Brahmas (3-6) hosted the DC Defenders (8-1) at the Alamodome for the two teams only matchup in the final week of the XFL regular season. Both teams entered the game in completely different positions in terms of the playoffs.
Last week, DC clinched the North division title with an OT win vs. Arlington, also securing home field advantage vs. STL or SEA. For San Antonio, they entered this week knowing they must win vs. DC, and Arlington must lose vs. Houston as well for them to clinch the playoffs.
DC’s star-studded inactive list included CBs Michael Joseph and DeJuan Neal, S Kentrell Brice, and LB Jamal Brooks.
Some storylines to watch for @XFLDefenders entering today’s game:
-With DC already clinched for home field adv., monitor how much time starters play..
-WR Lucky Jackson is only 1 TD behind the lead in Rec. TDs, will he lead after this week?
DC opened the game with the ball, and wasted no time finding the end zone after a few option plays set up a 52 yard catch and run by Lucky Jackson that put the Defenders inside the SA five yard line. Jordan Ta’amu found TE Alex Ellis in the end zone on the following play for six points, which was then followed up by a Josh Hammond 2pt conversion catch for an early 8-0 lead.
San Antonio took possession for the first time and drove down the field impressively until they were stopped in the red zone. John Parker Romo’s 26 yard FG made it 8-3 with SA still trailing.
Pooka Williams Jr. returned the ensuing kickoff for 79 yards inside the SA ten yard line, but DC was only able to convert a Matthew McCrane FG on the drive making it 11-3 at the end of the first quarter.
DC gained possession after holding SA to a punt, and swiftly made their way back to the red zone when Ta’amu connected with Chris Blair on a 70 yard reception to get DC inside the five yard line. The Defenders offense followed it up with another Ta’amu to Ellis pitch and catch for their second touchdown connection of the day. WR Brandon Smith got in on the action with a 2pt conversion catch to put DC in firm control, leading 19-3.
Defenders TE Alex Ellis stats this season:
7 Receptions 4 Touchdowns
Ellis has been a red zone machine for DC’s offense. #XFL2023
San Antonio took advantage of the turnover, with RB Jacques Patrick finding the end zone to give SA their first touchdown of the game. WR TJ Vasher converted the 2pt attempt to make it a one score game with DC leading 19-11 at halftime.
The San Antonio Brahmas received the ball in the second half, and capped off a lengthy seven minute drive with a FG to make it 19-14 DC.
On the ensuing possession, DC started with a couple chunk plays to put themselves in good field position, but the drive stalled out and DC was held to another McCrane FG to make it 22-14.
San Antonio carved the DC defense up on the next possession, with Coan finding a variety of targets to put them at the goal line where RB Jon Hilliman punched it in for six. After the failed 2pt attempt, the score was 22-20 with DC trying to hold off SA heading into the fourth quarter…
San Antonio continued to build onto their momentum in the second half, this time with a forced fumble on Defenders WR Lucky Jackson that the Brahmas recovered and returned to midfield.
Heck of an interception by Luq Barcoo, to give the ball right back to the @XFLBrahmas.
San Antonio put together yet another methodical seven minute drive, ending with a touchdown by Jacques Patrick (2nd TD of the day). The 2pt conversion by Hilliman gave San Antonio their first lead of the game, 28-22.
This is a position that has been all too familiar for DC in recent weeks. Since the one point loss to Orlando in week seven, each of DC’s games have been decided by two or less points.
The Defenders offense took back possession with just under six minutes remaining in the game. After a 20 yard reception by Brandon Smith put DC at midfield, Ta’amu found the lengthy target of WR Jazz Ferguson for a 27 yard gain up the sideline. Ferguson continues to take advantage of limited opportunities.
The timely connection set up the DC offense inside the five, which Ta’amu wasted no time with as he scampered into the end zone to tie the game at 28. Ta’amu ran an identical play on the 1pt conversion to put DC up 29-28 with 2:30 left in the game.
San Antonio quickly drove down to the DC 35 yard line, but the drive stalled there, and the Brahmas were forced to attempt a 53 yard field goal with John Parker Romo. In a similar chain of events as last week, Barlow decided to use his time out just before Romo kicked it. But unlike last week’s game, the kicker made the negated FG this time…
Romo stepped up to kick again, this time missing the 53 yard attempt. Thus, ending the Brahmas season in heartbreak fashion.
With the loss, the San Antonio Brahmas have been eliminated from playoff contention. Which means the Arlington Renegades have clinched, and will play next Saturday against the Houston Roughnecks to determine who goes to the XFL Championship at the Alamodome.
For the DC Defenders, the difference between the first and second half of the season is quite staggering. Point differential in the first five games was +44 points, versus in the final five games the point differential was just +14. Heading into a historic playoff matchup next week vs. STL or SEA, the entire DC organization must try to find a way to get back to their dominating play. Or could it be a case of the rest of the XFL figuring out the DC formula at the right time?
DC Defenders RB Abram Smith was held in check with limited carries tonight, finishing with 10 carries for 44 yards. Coach Barlow may have decided to keep Smith’s carry count low with the playoffs coming up. Nonetheless, Smith finishes the regular season as the XFL’s top rusher with 778 yards on 156 carries, averaging an XFL RB high of 5.0 yards per carry. He also finished tied for the lead in rushing touchdowns with 7.
All DC Defenders fans should be glued to their television screens tonight at 7PM EST as the Seattle Sea Dragons host the Vegas Vipers for a chance to clinch a playoff berth with a win.
What are your thoughts on this game between the DC Defenders and San Antonio Brahmas? Which XFL players impressed you the most? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!