In the finale of week six in the XFL, the Houston Roughnecks visited the DC Defenders at Audi Field for a Monday Night Football showdown between the two division leaders in the XFL. The hype around this game was building throughout the weekend and certainly delivered in a big way.
Roughnecks QB Brandon Silvers was getting the ball out early in the first quarter, which was no different than Houston’s strategy all season. Short pass, short pass, short pass, then they hit you with the deep shot. While the short game was working, Houston was unable to connect on the deep ball in the first half.
The Roughnecks struck first with a four-yard Max Borghi rushing touchdown. Borghi continues to be effective in the red zone for Houston. Silvers found Cedric Byrd on the 2-pt conversion pass to make it 8-0.
Defenders WR Lucky Jackson was a vital part of the Defenders opening scoring drive. He had a 36 yard reception, and also drew a PI call in the red zone that helped set up a 34 yard field goal by Matthew McCrane.
Houston led 8-3 at the end of the first quarter. Unfamiliar territory for the home team…
OC Fred Kaiss and the Defenders offense continued their trend of going with the no huddle, especially in the first half. Kaiss has previously talked about Ta’amu and King both being comfortable with that style of play, and it seems to translate positively to the games.
Defenders RB Ryquell Armstead, who returned this week from a one game absence, took control of the DC backfield mid-quarter. That is, until DC finally was able to get in the end zone on a one yard Abram Smith TD. With Armstead active this week, many wondered whether Abram Smith could repeat his performance from last week at St. Louis. Smith was quiet today, but once again effective. He finished with 95 yards on 19 carries, and a touchdown.
With less than two minutes left in the second quarter, DC finally got that much needed play on defense when Santos Ramirez caught the ball off the tip and took it back to the end zone for a pick six, followed up by a Josh Hammond 2pt conversion..
The @XFLDefenders continue to make big-time defensive plays. Santos Ramirez with the pick six, and just like that it's a 17-8 ball game!
On the opening drive of the second half, DC dialed up a methodical 72 yard drive that ended with a one yard TD pass from Ta’amu to TE Alex Ellis, which was only his second catch of the season. Armstead continued to be a key contributor on that drive.
Former University of Hawaii QB Cole McDonald replaced Silvers late in the third quarter, and immediately made their biggest play of the day with an 85 yard touchdown pass to Deontay Burnett. McDonald impressively finished the game with 194 yards and a touchdown.
At the start of the fourth, Jordan Ta’amu found Lucky Jackson streaming up the seam for a 30 yard TD, to make it a 34-14 DC lead. Jackson continues to improve every week and is turning into a true WR1 in the XFL. He finished the game with a season-high 136 yards.
The Houston Roughnecks were able to score a couple late touchdowns with the help of McDonald, but it was all for naught as the DC Defenders won 37-26 and moved to 6-0 on the season.
LB Reggie Northrup II was a surprise inactive for today’s game, but fortunately for DC, Francis Bernard was returning from his two-game suspension and played a major factor in this game. He finished with a team-high nine total tackles.
Coach Barlow spoke about Bernard’s return when asked after the game:
A big question for the Houston Roughnecks heading into this game was how they could fill the hole that Jontre Kirklin’s season ending chest injury left. While Deontay Burnett did go over 100 yards this week, most of it was gained on the 85 yard touchdown that you can partially blame on a DC coverage collapse. Kirklin was definitely missed tonight and AJ Smith will have to find a way to replicate his production.
Houston has now lost two straight and will host the St. Louis Battlehawks next week in what should be the game of the week.
Nothing much left to say about DC. They were in unusual territory going down in the first quarter, but Barlow and his team did not fade once and were able to find a way to take control of this game. They continue to handle their business in front of their rowdy home crowd at Audi Field, where they will have one more regular season game against Arlington in week nine. Next week they travel to winless Orlando with a prime opportunity to clinch an XFL playoff spot.
What are your thoughts on this game between the Houston Roughnecks and DC Defenders? Which XFL players impressed you the most? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!