St. Louis Battlehawks Clinch UFL Playoff Spot with Win over DC Defenders

St. Louis Battlehawks Clinch UFL Playoff Spot with Win over DC Defenders

Week eight of UFL action continued on Sunday afternoon with a pivotal XFL conference matchup, as the DC Defenders visited the St. Louis Battlehawks in a must watch matchup with major playoff implications on the line. 

First Quarter

With McCarron out this week for St. Louis, backup quarterback Manny Wilkins took over the reins for a high-powered Battlehawks offense. This is the first start for Wilkins in six years.

Following the Defenders fourth down stop, the offense opened the game in excellent starting field position but were unable to go far. Setting up a 48 yard field goal for Matthew McCrane to open the scoring, 3-0 DC.

Just as the first quarter was winding down with an impressive Defenders drive, the St. Louis Battlehawks stood tall with a turnover courtesy of DB Kameron Kelly.

Second Quarter

Manny Wilkins continued to be a threat with his legs throughout the game, but truly showed off his rushing abilities after the turnover. He finished the first half with six rushes for 47 yards.  Wilkins led the Battlehawks offense into the red zone, but was unable to cash in for six as the team settled for a 26 yard field goal from Andre Szmyt. Tying the game 3-3.

The Defenders special teams unit attempted to catch St. Louis off guard on the ensuing drive with a fake punt, but the Battlehawks stuffed the attempt and gave them the ball back.

Following the unsuccessful fake punt, St. Louis’ offense drove the ball inside the Defenders five yard line, finishing with a one yard touchdown by running back Jacob Saylors.

With just over a minute until halftime, Jordan Ta’amu and Ty Scott connected on a pair of long passes to place DC in field goal range for Matthew McCrane. 

McCrane converted the 49 yard attempt to put DC behind 9-6 heading into halftime.

Halftime Thoughts

Third Quarter

The tight end production from DC has been fleeting since the injury to Briley Moore. This week, there appeared to be an emphasis on involving the tight ends for DC. Ta’amu found TE Alex Ellis wide open for six points after stepping up in the pocket and extending the play.

QB Manny Wilkins ground attack did not end in the first half, as the St. Louis Battlehawks opening offensive was catapulted by the feet of Wilkins. Wilkins continued to be confident with his feet throughout this matchup, setting up RB Wayne Gallman for a seven yard rushing touchdown.

Just before the third quarter came to a close, the opportunistic Battlehawks defense snagged their second interception off of Ta’amu, this time from standout DB Qwynnterrio Cole.

Fourth Quarter

The Battlehawks finished off the ensuing drive with a second field goal by Andre Szmyt from 37 yards away. Putting St. Louis up 20-14. 

The Defenders answered with a near seven minute drive that felt like ten minutes. The lengthy drive was capped off by new WR1 Ty Scott who was reliable all day for Ta’amu. Scott finished with six receptions for 69 yards, and this touchdown for DC:

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Defenders absolutely knew it was do or die. The DC defense seemed to lose a step from the first half to the second though, as St. Louis’ offense took the next possession down the field with ease, punching it in with Wayne Gallman from one yard out to recapture the lead over DC, 26-21 with two minutes remaining on the game clock.

Down five points, it was practically touchdown or bust for the Defenders offense. Unfortunately, they were unable to produce any magic, especially after Ta’amu exited the game following a brutal sack. Following the sack, St. Louis stuffed backup QB Jalan McClendon and the Defenders offense on fourth down for a turnover on downs, ultimately clinching the St. Louis Battlehawks 2024 UFL playoffs ticket.

While the Defenders are still not mathematically eliminated (awaiting Brahmas result), this loss sure feels like a stake in the heart of their playoff chances.

Per sources, Ta’amu left with a stinger and could have returned to the game if the drive was extended.

Final Thoughts

The St. Louis Battlehawks officially clinch a playoff berth with home field advantage now in their sights. They finish the season visiting Arlington in week nine, then finishing the season at home against San Antonio.

The Defenders sit in an unfamiliar position compared to last year, as they’re on the outside looking into the UFL playoff picture. The Defenders finish the season visiting Memphis next week, then finishing at home against Arlington.

What are your thoughts on what happened today between the DC Defenders and St. Louis Battlehawks? Which UFL players impressed you the most? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!