Week three’s XFL conclusion ended in the same spot as the week prior with TDECU Stadium hosting a game between two Texas squads on a Sunday night. The Houston Roughnecks hosted the San Antonio Brahmas to cap off the week.
For the Houston Roughnecks, the venue has been treating them nicely during their 3-game homestand with crucial early XFL South wins over Orlando and Arlington. A win over San Antonio would cap off 3 divisional wins in their cap for playoff implications.
The Brahmas came into the evening off a get-right meeting with the Guardians in central Florida that seemed to wipe away memories of a home opener wasted the week prior. Crashing the party in Houston this week would force a 3-way tie at the top of the XFL South.
Crucial early-season matchups like this can have long-lasting implications. Here’s how it went down in H-town.
The Brahmas received the opening kickoff, and started their evening with a bang! Travis Jonsen’s opening return of 59 yards put quarterback Jack Coan and company in prime position to jump up early on the scoreboard. Five plays later, Coan would find TJ Vasher on the 9-yard slant for six.
The Roughnecks would proceed to start with excellent field position as the following Brahmas kickoff from John Parker Romo sailed out of bounds and gave the Roughnecks their first drive at the Brahmas 45-yard line. Houston paced their drive with receiver Jontre Kirklin, nabbing three receptions with the third putting the Roughnecks on the board from seven yards out. Another connection between Silvers and Kirklin resulted in the go-ahead 2-point conversion moments later.
Drives stalled throughout the rest of the quarter with the Brahmas having two straight three-and-outs while Houston’s second drive which looked promising would stall out thanks to a Mike Tverdov 6-yard sack of quarterback Brandon Silvers that moved the Roughnecks out of field goal range.
Things started heating up once again for AJ Smith’s offense as the quarter opened with an 8-play, 84-yard drive highlighted by a 27-yard Jontre Kirklin grab over Brahmas defensive back Kameron Kelly that would surely have ended up on the “You Got Mossed” segment of ESPN’s “Monday Night Countdown”
Kirklin would encapsulate the drive with his second TD reception of the night on a 3-yard strike from Brandon Silvers.
A penalty riddled three-and-out from the San Antonio Brahmas Brahmas on the following drive highlighted the rest of the 2nd quarter for Coach Hines Ward and crew as mental errors and miscues in the form of drops lead to a slew of quick 3-and-outs for the Roughnecks to capitalize on. Houston would do just that, hitting pay dirt once again as Silvers connected with receiver Deontay Burnett on an 18-yard strike to cap off a 7-play, 72-yard drive.
The Roughnecks would leave points on the field heading into halftime after kicker Hunter Duplessis would push a 53-yard field goal attempt wide right of the posts with 1:30 on the clock.
As has been the pattern for the Roughnecks to start the 2023 season, a tale of two halves would once again begin to form midway through the 3rd quarter in the form of an ill-advised throw from Silvers that was intended for receiver Ben Putman but picked off by Kameron Kelly at the Houston 45. The timely turnover sparked an 8-play 45 yard drive riddled with Roughnecks penalties and miscues capped off with a rushing touchdown from Jacques Patrick that bounced out to the right side for a 2-yard score.
Just like that, the San Antonio Brahmas were right back in it.
There is no better example of the grit that is the Roughnecks’ defense than their 4th quarter efforts to seal the deal on a 3-0 start. AJ Smith’s offense continued getting in its own way failing to convert on downs deep in Brahmas territory only then to go 3-and-out after an eye-popping interception from defensive back Ajene Harris.
The Brahmas appeared poised for a comeback late in the 4th quarter as a back-breaking pass interference from Ajene Harris set up the Brahmas on the Roughnecks’ doorstep. Offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo proceeded to call for the ground game on 4 straight attempts only to be turned away by a stubborn Roughnecks goal line front led by Glen Logan and C.J. Brewer jamming up the A gaps. Brewer would provide the crucial penetration on 4th and Goal that would end up being the deciding factor in the contest.
Houston would proceed to run out the majority of the clock on the pursuing 9-play 56-yard drive that helped pin the Brahmas deep in their own territory at their 11-yard line with a mere 18 seconds to spare. Chauncey Rivers and John Daka would seal the deal 2 plays later by getting home for the lone sack on Coan on the evening.
What certainly felt like a blowout, and very much could have trended that way with better execution on the Roughnecks’ part, turned into a tense affair down to the bitter end. For Head Coach Wade Phillips, he has Houston in the driver’s seat at the top of the XFL South as they wrap up a three-game homestand undefeated against their division opponents. That should have massive implications for the playoff race as a whole with many road trips still in the cards.
For the Brahmas, lack of execution has become the norm offensively as production continues to fall off through three weeks of action, and it couldn’t be at a worse time with a road trip to Seattle on the docket for next week. Head Coach Hines Ward and Offensive Coordinator Jaime Elizondo are gonna have to go back to the drawing board fast to get Jack Coan and company operating on and executing on a timely schedule as 162 yards simply won’t win you any games with a league that is seeing those yard marks trend upward rapidly.
What are your thoughts on this XFL matchup between the Houston Roughnecks 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!