DC Defenders Rally Late to Defeat Vegas Vipers

DC Defenders Rally Late to Defeat Vegas Vipers

The DC Defenders (1-0) traveled to Nevada to take on the Vegas Vipers (0-1) at Cashman Field in the lone XFL game on Saturday night. The week two clash was forecasted to be a sloppy one all week and it did not disappoint. Even though heavy rain did not start until halftime, the wind was the main factor in this game as 10+ mph gusts carried on throughout the night in downtown Vegas.

First Quarter

On the Defenders opening offensive drive, QB Jordan Ta’amu was blasted by Vipers DL Pita Taumoepenu, causing a fumble inside their own five yard line.

Vegas scored on the following play from a DeAndre Torrey two-yard rush. Vipers go up 6-0 early.

Former NFL veteran QB Brett Hundley stepped in for Luis Perez after two drives. Hundley was signed just a week before the season began, and was expected by most around the league to be the week one starter for Vegas. Nonetheless, Perez would return after a few drives by Hundley.

A crucial holding penalty by DC on a fourth down attempt resulted in a punt, ending a solid drive by the Defenders at the end of the first.

Second Quarter

Heading into the second quarter, there was still no sighting of QB D’Eriq King on the field for DC, which was slightly surprising especially after his week one performance.

DC notably threw the ball early and often, even into the second quarter with the rain and wind starting to pick up. Weather had a severe effect on passes over 20 yards down the field throughout the game.

After a late hit penalty by Vegas put the Defenders near the red zone, DC had an impressive drive ended when RB Abram Smith fumbles the handoff inside the five, resulting in a Vegas recovery:

After the Defenders defense was able to stop the Vipers offense on the ensuing drive, DC was granted the ball back with just over thirty seconds left in the first half.

Unfortunately for DC, Jordan Ta’amu fumbled the ball just before half after taking yet another brutal hit in the pocket.

Luckily for DC, Vegas missed the FG on the following play, making it a 6-0 Vegas lead at halftime.

Third Quarter

Heading into the third quarter, the rain in Vegas really started to come down. With the field conditions already not being ideal at Cashman, this meant more ugly, hardnose football on the way for both teams.

Ta’amu showed a nice burst on a fourth down zone read play that led to a first down for DC. Matthew McCrane nailed a 47-yard field goal at the end of this drive, cutting the lead to 6-3 for the Vipers.

McCrane’s luck would quickly run out though after slipping on the ensuing kickoff, resulting in his second kickoff infraction penalty of the game.

Brett Hundley came back in on the following drive for Vegas, leading the team down the field for a chip shot field goal attempt. With the unfortunate field conditions, Vipers kicker Bailey Giffen slipped running up for the kick and shanked it right.

Defenders QB D’Eriq King finally made his first appearance of the game at the tail end of the third quarter, continuing where he left off against Seattle with multiple zone read variations. It is widely apparent how much effect King has on the run game for DC. His presence alone makes the defense second guess almost every decision, resulting in more opportunity for the ball carrier.

Fourth Quarter

D’Eriq King opened up the fourth quarter with a bang, using the read option and scoring the Defenders’ first touchdown of the game.

King went on to convert the one point conversion on a similar zone read. King later talked about his size during an in-game interview on the telecast, mentioning how he uses it to his advantage when navigating the holes.

DC earned a takeaway on the following drive after DE Davin Bellamy got pressure on Vipers QB Brett Hundley and stripped him, resulting in a recovery by DC. Bellamy continues his stellar start to the season.

King came back on the field for DC on the following drive and did not skip a beat. He was able to orchestrate another methodical drive on the ground, this time resulting in an Abram Smith nine-yard touchdown.

After the tough two point conversion snag by TE Ethan Wolf, DC took a commanding 18-6 lead in Vegas.

It is difficult to turn a blind eye to the effect that King has on Smith when they are both in the game. Likewise, Ta’amu seems to have a similar, but not as exponential effect on RB Ryquell Armstead.

With the help of the defense, DC was able to ice the game in the final five minutes with runs by Smith and Armstead to seal a win capped off by 18 unanswered points in the second half.

King’s Spark

It is hard to ignore the spark that King brings to the game for DC, especially on the ground. We have not seen DC lean on King in the passing game yet, which has me reluctant to say he has done enough to be named the starter next week against St. Louis. But the impact that the former University of Miami QB brings to the table cannot be ignored moving forward.

Final Thoughts

Both teams exit the game with serious questions at the QB position. Vegas was back and forth tonight between Perez and Hundley, while DC made it a tale of two halves with Ta’amu in the first, and King in the second half. Both Ta’amu and King were impressive on the ground tonight, as Ta’amu finished with 68 yards on 12 carries, while King finished with 32 yards on 4 carries.

Fortunately for DC, they are in a much better place as they now sit 2-0 at the top of the North division. While Vegas has many questions to answer, mainly regarding the offensive side of the ball.

Vegas will host the Seattle Sea Dragons (0-2) next week as both teams search for their first win.

While DC will host the St. Louis Battlehawks (2-0) at Audi Field for a 1pm EST kickoff on Sunday, March 5th. The winner of this game will take sole possession of the North division.

What are your thoughts on the QB situations in DC and Vegas? Do you expect the DC Defenders to stay hot next week against the St. Louis Battlehawks? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!