Recapping the DC Defenders Unforgettable Win Over Seattle Sea Dragons

Recapping the DC Defenders Unforgettable Win Over Seattle

The finale of the XFL’s opening weekend featured the Seattle Sea Dragons visiting the DC Defenders at Audi Field, in what turned out to be a game that was flipped upside down because of, lemons?

More on that soon.

The DC fans certainly brought the energy in this one, but a winner would not be decided until the very end in the nation’s capital.

First Quarter

Former JMU and Dallas Cowboys QB Ben DiNucci started for the Sea Dragons offense and was using the quick passing game to his advantage early. The speed-out route was DiNucci’s bread and butter early on, especially with WR Jahcour Pearson in short yardage situations. The two showed a great rapport and connected on 6 passes for 67 yards in the first half.

On the game’s opening drive , DiNucci made an impressive play evading the DC rush, and scrambling to his left before flicking the ball to former NFL WR Josh Gordon for an impressive first TD.

DC’s opening drive was not as stellar as Seattle’s, beginning the drive with a dropped pass by TE Ethan Wolf, and a false start that aided the three and out.

Both teams leaned on the pass early in this game, and it showed on the stat sheet. The Defenders first overall pick in the 2023 XFL Draft, Abram Smith, finished the first quarter with just one carry for negative two yards. The end of the first quarter concluded with Seattle leading 9-0 in DC.

Second Quarter

After a brief appearance by Steven Montez in the second quarter that resulted in a punt, Ben DiNucci came back in for Seattle on the ensuing possession. We were not able to gather any additional information postgame as to why Haslett made the decision to put in Montez.

Around the second quarter, news began to trickle throughout the stadium that Audi Field security was removing any possible construction of a beer snake, the infamous trend that took over the Defenders and the XFL in 2020. The battle between fans and security continued throughout the game, eventually resulting in a certain citrus being hurled on the field by DC fans, but more on that in a bit.

DC was able to put points on the board before half on a Jordan Ta’amu speed option that resulted in a one yard touchdown. Igniting an even brighter flame under the DC fans.

With Seattle leading 9-8 at halftime, the DC crowd was letting Seattle hear it with vicious boos coming off the field.

Third Quarter

On the opening drive in the second half, Ta’amu overthrew Lucky Jackson on a seam route up the right sideline that could have resulted in six points if Ta’amu hit Jackson in stride.

Then came the lemons.

Around the middle of the third quarter, fans at Audi Field began throwing lemons on the field in protest to the beer snake being taken away by security. The DC crowd had been rowdy all day up to this point, but no one could have predicted this.

After the lemons caused a small pause in the action, Audi Field completely erupts when CB Michael Joseph intercepts Seattle QB Ben DiNucci on the “bread-and-butter” speed out that had been working consistently up to that point. The crowd continued launching lemons and beer in the air in celebration. “You can feel the momentum shifting throughout the stadium”, said a colleague in the press box.

Joseph spoke about the pick-six in the postgame press conference:

QB D’Eriq King replaced Jordan Ta’amu in the middle of the third quarter, which severely changed the game plan for DC. This switch opened up the run, especially the read-option which King mentioned postgame he had been running forever so it was “natural”.

End of third quarter Seattle leads 18-16

Fourth Quarter

On the opening play of the fourth quarter, Michael Joseph snagged another interception off of DiNucci, this time on a corner route that was a tad underthrown. Joseph with two momentum shifting interceptions for DC.

With King in the game, Abram Smith finally began getting fed carries in the fourth quarter. He ended the game with 11 carries for 28 yards. He was outplayed tonight by his teammate Ryquell Armstead, who finished with 8 carries for 30 yards.

With Ta’amu back in at QB, Seattle DB Bryce Thompson gets an interception on a pass behind the intended target Ethan Wolf.

Following the interception, the DC defense held the Sea Dragons offense to a punt.

DC was stopped on a 4th down attempt on the next drive, and Seattle was left with just over two minutes in the game to go down the field and win. It seemed like that is exactly what they were going to do too. Ben DiNucci and the Seattle offense marched down the field, eventually putting themselves in the red zone, due to an extended play by DiNucci that found Josh Gordon for 18 yards.

With just over 20 seconds to go in the game from the one yard line, this happened:

The Defenders defense was a brick wall and caused their third turnover on DiNucci, icing the game for DC and earning them their first win of the 2023 season.

Final Thoughts

The DC defense was tough all night, but especially in the second half. It was a chess match between Seattle OC Junes Jones and Defenders defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, but Williams clearly made the better adjustments at halftime. Standout CB Michael Joseph spoke about the adjustments postgame

Defenders CB DeJuan Neal also played an impressive, physical game tonight. After week one, he leads the league with eight tackles.

The DC crowd was rowdy all night and that is all you could ask for in the XFL. It will be interesting to see whether the Defenders locker room adapts a similar identity to their loyal fanbase.

Defenders head coach Reggie Barlow spoke about the fans postgame:

For now, DC is tied at 1-0 in the North Division with St. Louis, who plays at Seattle this week.

DC will take on the Vegas Vipers (0-1) in week two at Cashman Field. Expect a game preview sometime this week on the site.

Did you enjoy watching this weekend’s slate of games? Will the beer snake return to DC? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!