San Antonio Brahmas Shock DC Defenders In Dominant Opening Win

San Antonio Brahmas Shock DC In Dominant Opening Win

UFL action continued on Easter Sunday in San Antonio, Texas, for a week one tilt between the DC Defenders and San Antonio Brahmas.

Last time the DC Defenders were at the Alamodome, they were playing for an XFL Championship against the Arlington Renegades, where they ultimately lost 35-26. This time around they face the Brahmas, now led by HC Wade Phillips. Phillips coached the Houston Roughnecks last season alongside offensive coordinator AJ Smith, who joins Phillips in San Antonio.

The winner of this game would take sole control of the XFL conference after the Renegades and Battlehawks both lost their games earlier in the weekend.

First Quarter

The Brahmas wasted no time displaying their new-look offense. OC AJ Smith dialed up a WR pass with Jontre Kirklin on the first drive, which fell incomplete. Still, San Antonio drove down the field to start the game and capped it off with an Anthony McFarland 28-yard touchdown reception to give the Brahmas their first lead and score of 2024.

The Defenders offense struggled in their first possession, ending with a three and out punting the ball back to San Antonio. The DC defense stood tall on the following possession with relentless pressure on Chase Garbers.

DC’s offense began to find their groove in the next drive, putting points on the board with a 50-yard field goal by Matthew McCrane for DC’s first points of the season. San Antonio led 7-3 after the first quarter of play.

Second Quarter

Chase Garbers and San Antonio’s offense continued their impressive start to begin the second quarter. After spreading the ball to Jontre Kirklin and Marquez Stevenson, Garbers found Kirklin on the sweep to extend the lead to 14-3 following the 1pt conversion. Kirklin continuously found open space today, finishing with eight receptions for 51 yards, and a touchdown.

With the run game significantly lacking, Defenders OC Fred Kaiss continued leaning on the pass with Ta’amu, who was 10/11 passing halfway through the second quarter. This massive play from WR Ty Scott helped set up another McCrane field goal to cut the Brahmas lead to 6-14.

The Defenders defense made their first major play of the game on the following drive, forcing a turnover from a big hit courtesy of CB Isaiah Johnson on WR Jontre Kirklin.

DC was again held to a Matthew McCrane FG on the ensuing drive, making it a 14-9 Brahmas lead.

As the clock began winding down to halftime, the Brahmas set up for a 58-yard attempt with Donald De La Haye. Just before kicking, SA audibled into an offensive formation with punter Brad Wing at QB, and Wing somehow managed to find OL Alex Mollette for this jaw-dropping Brahmas touchdown before half.

The missed conversion attempt following the score for San Antonio made the Brahmas lead 20-9 over DC heading into halftime.

Third Quarter

The second half started with DC claiming possession, but once again the offense was forced to punt after the drive stalled with early penalties. RT Jean Delance led the team with four total penalties today.

The kicking operation led by Matthew McCrane held true on the next drive for DC, converting a 28-yard attempt for his fourth field goal of the day. McCrane finished the day 4/4.

Malik Fisher was the most impressive member of DC’s front seven today, contributing constant pressure on Garbers, evident with this third quarter sack that helped force a punt.

Fourth Quarter

Heading into the fourth quarter, DC was trailing San Antonio 20-12 at the Alamodome. With possession, the Defenders conducted their most impressive drive of the game that brought them inside the Brahmas red zone. Shortly after entering the red zone, Jordan Ta’amu found the end zone on a connection with Keke Coutee, but the play would ultimately not stand due to a wild sequence of events:

Immediately following the Coutee touchdown, Defenders RT Jean Delance was ejected due to allegedly “spitting” on Brahmas DL Delontae Scott during the play.

Then, San Antonio challenged the no-call of a false start on Delance on the scoring play, winning the challenge and erasing the Defenders touchdown.

As if things could get much worse for DC, Jordan Ta’amu was hurt on the play following the reversed touchdown. Ta’amu returned to action a few plays later, but was intercepted by Darius Phillips in his first throw back.

Chase Garbers and the Brahmas offense took full advantage of the excellent field position, punching it in for six points on a QB scramble. San Antonio deployed John Lovett on the one-point attempt once again, and Lovett was successful with the extra effort. A dagger to the heart of DC to make it 27-12, the final in San Antonio.

Standout Playmakers

San Antonio Brahmas

QB Chase Garbers: Garbers was steady throughout today’s game and did not waver in the slightest. Garbers found comfort early with WRs Marquez Stevenson and Jontre Kirklin, who both led San Antonio in receiving today. Chase finished the day 19/25 for 158 passing yards, and three total touchdowns. A great start to his spring football career in San Antonio.

WR Marquez Stevenson: While Stevenson was not the leading receiver for San Antonio today, he did make a glaring impact on today’s matchup on offense and special teams as a returner. Stevenson set the Brahmas up in good field position on multiple occasions as a kick/punt returner, and also contributed five receptions for 40 yards on offense.

OLB Wyatt Ray: San Antonio rotated their pass rush throughout the game, but Wyatt Ray seemed to make an impact every time he touched the field. Ray finished with 1.5 sacks and a TFL.

DC Defenders

WR Ty Scott: Scott came up big in a few important situations on offense today for DC, frankly keeping them in the game. In limited action, Scott finished with four receptions for 87 yards (22 YAC).

CB Isaiah Johnson: Johnson was responsible for the lone turnover against San Antonio, forcing a fumble on a crushing hit to Kirklin. Johnson was given the week one nod over others and it appears to be paying off early.

K Matthew McCrane: This would not be much of a list without the only player to score points today for DC. As mentioned, McCrane finished a perfect 4/4 on FGs today.

Final Thoughts

The narrative throughout the week continued to be, is San Antonio being overlooked? Heck, I had an entire section in this week’s preview highlighting that exact question. The Brahmas dominant win over DC today should answer that question for everyone league-wide.

Yes, the San Antonio Brahmas are being overlooked.

For the Defenders, last season’s offensive playmakers were obviously missed today, in a big way. Without Abram Smith, the run game was never able to get hot with Harris leading the way. Through the air, Ta’amu clearly missed his top two targets from 2023, as he missed numerous throws wide in the second half. On the defensive side, pass-rusher Trent Harris was a non-factor in today’s game. The new addition was listed as a backup behind Andre Mintze on the week one depth chart, and finished today with just two tackles in limited time. Gregg Williams tends to rotate his front seven (especially today), but only one sack with this group of rushers is unacceptable.

These two teams will meet again Sunday, May 5th at Audi Field in Washington, DC.

The Defenders will look to bounce back next week, as they make their return to Audi Field for the home opener against the Houston Roughnecks.

For San Antonio, they take the trip up to Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium next week to take on the Memphis Showboats. The Brahmas first matchup against USFL competition.

Did you watch this matchup between the DC Defenders and San Antonio Brahmas? Who was your favorite player today? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!