Week four of the 2023 XFL season is inching toward its final chapter. The Houston Roughnecks held off the Orlando Guardians, the Sea Dragons stifled the San Antonio Brahmas and the Renegades met the Battlehawks in St. Louis. On Sunday evening, the Las Vegas Vipers and the DC Defenders meet at the toughest place to play in the XFL, Audi Field.
On paper, the DC Defenders look like the clear favorite. With an unbeaten record and the league’s top rushing attack, Reggie Barlow’s squad takes the field as a six-point favorite. However, games are not played on paper.
In week two, the DC Defenders traveled out to the West Coast to play the Las Vegas Vipers at Cashman Field. Through two quarters of play, Rod Woodson’s squad held Jordan Ta’amu and the Defenders scoreless. Heading into the locker room down six, it appeared that the Defenders could be heading toward a 1-1 record. However, Barlow and the coaching staff made the decision to put D’Eriq King under center and lead the offense down the field. Scoring 18 unanswered points, the Defenders walked away with a hard-fought victory that set the tone for their showdown with the St. Louis Battlehawks.
Two weeks removed from the first showdown, the Las Vegas Vipers will see if they can duplicate their first-half performance through all four quarters at Audi Field. Kickoff is nearing, it’s time for Sunday night football in the XFL!
First Quarter: DC Defenders – 6 | Las Vegas Vipers – 3
It didn’t take long for the DC Defenders to begin making big plays. On the opening drive, Brett Hundley and the Vipers put the ball on the ground, making way for the DC Defenders to recover it in the red zone. From there, D’Eriq King and Jordan Ta’amu only needed a handful of plays to punch it in for the first score of the game.
Sheeesh that D’Eriq King package is automatic ? @Deriqking__
Would love to see the numbers on this DC redzone offense. Been so good
— Matty Fresh (@MattyFreshTV) March 12, 2023
Following the DC Defenders’ turnover-assisted touchdown, the Las Vegas Vipers took over from their side of the field. Powered by a 15-yard run from Rod Smith and a 23-yard reception from Martavis Bryant, the Vipers found themselves in the Defenders’ red zone. However, the Vipers were unable to punch it in for six after Hundley was sacked on a pivotal third down from the 12-yard line. From there, Vipers Kicker Bailey Giffen missed a 33-yard field goal and walked away with a doughnut on the scoreboard.
The second time is the charm for Bailey Giffen. After the Defenders missed a field goal of their own, the Las Vegas Vipers took over at their own 37-yard line and kicked off the drive with a 21-yard pass to Martavis Bryant. John Lovett followed up the deep pass with a 17-yard run of his own. From there, a seven-yard pass to Jeff Badet put the Vipers in field goal position and left Giffen with an opportunity to redeem himself. Heading into the second quarter, only nine points have been scored, but it is clear that both offenses will be a bit more active through the air than they were in week two.
With that FG, we cut the lead in half.
— Vegas Vipers (@XFLVipers) March 12, 2023
Second Quarter: DC Defenders – 14 | Las Vegas Vipers – 6
Well, that didn’t take long. Looking to rebound from a missed field goal on the previous drive, the Defenders opened up the second quarter with an 11-play, 72-yard drive and a two-point conversion. Differing from their previous matchup with the Vipers, the Defenders are finding a lot of success through the air. So far, Jordan Ta’amu has completed 87.5% of his passes for 100 yards. In comparison, Ta’amu only threw for 109 yards total in his last matchup with the Vipers.
Refs ruled that Vipers QB Luis Perez ran for a 5-yard TD but reversed the call. Vipers had no timeouts left so the clock ran out.
Defenders lead the Vipers 14-6 at the half.
— Jake Russell (@_JakeRussell) March 13, 2023
Just before the half, the Vipers attempted to get themselves back into the ball game with a 71-yard drive. However, Rod Woodson’s squad came up just short when Luis Perez was stopped at the one-yard line as time expired.
Third Quarter: DC Defenders – 20 | Las Vegas Vipers – 6
Somehow, the DC Defenders find a way to turn trouble into triumph. On the opening kickoff, the DC Defenders muffed the return and opened the way for the Vipers to start the first drive of the second half within the opposing 40-yard line. Still, the Las Vegas Vipers were unable to turn the opportunity into points when they were stopped on fourth down.
— Between The Goalposts (@NoahBeauso) March 13, 2023
Taking over the ball at the 33-yard line, Jordan Ta’amu broke things open with a 49-yard run. Ta’amu followed up his long run with a 13-yard pass to Chris Blair. From there, the Defenders’ run game was able to work toward the two-yard line before the extra point squad was called on to put three more points on the board.
Fourth Quarter: DC Defenders – 32 | Las Vegas Vipers – 18
The Las Vegas Vipers are not done just yet. Less than a minute into the fourth quarter, the Vipers have cut DC’s lead down to single digits. Luis Perez hit Cinque Sweeting on back-to-back plays of 14 yards and 12 yards, respectively. Perez and the Vipers were unable to punch the ball in on their extra point attempt, but the lead is down to a single score with more than 14 minutes left to go in the fourth quarter. Suddenly, the Vipers have life.
SWEETING FINDS THE END ZONE
— Vegas Vipers (@XFLVipers) March 13, 2023
The DC Defenders have restored a bit of separation between themselves and the Las Vegas Vipers once again. Following up the Vipers’ last touchdown drive, DC Defenders put together a 14-play, 76-yard drive that extended their lead to 11 points. More importantly, it took nearly seven minutes off of the clock and puts Las Vegas back on the hot seat. Without a quick score, the Vipers are seemingly out of the game.
Moments after extending their lead to 11 points, the DC Defenders seemingly put an exclamation point at the end of their performance on Sunday night. Luis Perez dropped back and looked deep down the field for what could have been a 20+ yard reception. However, an unfortunately timed slip from his intended target led to an interception with less than six minutes left in the fourth quarter. To top it all off, D’Eriq King hit Jequez Ezzard for a 32-yard touchdown pass to expand the lead to more than two scores as the game clock winds down.