XFL Week 4 – Players of the Week – “Fan’s Choice” by XFLBoard.com

Taylor Cornelius (Tampa Bay Vipers), Deatrick Nichols (Houston Roughnecks), Edmond Robinson (Houston Roughnecks), Matt McCrane (New York Guardians)

Welcome to our Week 4 XFL “Players of the Week” results. Voting began immediately at the completion of the final game on Sunday. We gathered over 2,900 votes before the closing of polls at Noon Eastern on Tuesday 3 March 2020. We thank all who voted!

Fans were asked to nominate any player they deemed worthy of the honor, in four categories: Offensive, defensive, lineman, and special teams.

Winners below are based on the number of votes received for each player.

 

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Offensive Player of the Week: Taylor Cornelius, QB, Tampa Bay Vipers

Tampa Bay quarterback Taylor Cornelius went 23 for 31 passes, for 211 yards and only one interception to rally his Vipers to their first win of the season.

Fan comments:

  • Cornelius sacrificed his body to get the job done. Player of the week! (Anonymous)
  • Corndog did what nobody else could do. He’s a keeper. (XFL Fan)
  • Gave his team the boost needed to get a whole team effort and the win. (PeterH)

Honorable Mentions

  • Jordon Ta’amu, QB, St. Louis BattleHawks
  • De’Veon Smith, RB, Tampa Bay Vipers
  • Jacques Patrick, RB, Tampa Bay Vipers

 

Defensive Player of the Week: Deatrick Nichols, CB, Houston Roughnecks

Houston Roughnecks cornerback Deatrick Nichols made two interceptions, inspiring his squad to march past the Renegades in a 27-20 win.

Fan comments:

  • Two picks made the day for the Roughnecks (rSpinks)
  • He read Landry Jones mind, picked him off with ease. (XFL is the best)
  • Nichols made picking off Landry Jones look easy. (Anonymous)

Honorable Mention

  • Jamar Summers, CB, New York Guardians
  • Cody Brown, S, Houston Roughnecks

 

Lineman of the Week: Edmond Robinson, LB, Houston Roughnecks

The bane of Landry Jones, Robinson gained the sack and then scooped up the fumbled football and rumbled into the end zone.

Fan comments:

  • Dual threat. Sack, scoop and score. (Anonymous)
  • Made Landry Jones wish he had never set foot on the field. (XFL Linebacker)
  • Robinson did it all. He sacked and he scored. (Anonymous)

Honorable Mention

  • Steven Johnson, LB, Seattle Dragons
  • Beniquez Brown, LB, Houston Roughnecks
  • Greer Martini, LB, Dallas Renegades

 

Kicker Matt McCrane with his magic boot. LA Wildcats At NY Guardians
Kicker Matt McCrane with his magic boot. LA Wildcats At NY Guardians 29 Feb 2020 – Credit Adam McCullough

Special Teams Player of the Week: Matt McCrane, K, New York Guardians

Kicker Matt McCrane went 3-3 with field goals from the 51, 23, and 47 yds in a blustery MetLife Stadium to give New York enough points to ensure a much needed victory.

Fan comments:

  • 3-3, with longest over 50 yards. Good enough for a win. (Anonymous)
  • Never missed. Gave th (Stephen Q.)
  • First kickoff return for a TD in XFL history deserves this honor. (Anonymous)

Honorable mention:

  • Taylor Russolino, St. Louis BattleHawks

Demons exorcised: Vipers dominate Defenders for first victory of the season

Vipers RB Jacques Patrick (29) pays tribute to his late father after scoring a touchdown. (Credit: XFL.com)

For the first three games of the Tampa Bay Vipers’ existence, it seemed like everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Injuries, untimely defensive breakdowns, red zone inefficiency, critical penalties. Many were self-inflicted, but others seemed like plain bad luck.

That all changed on Sunday. The Vipers finally put together a complete game in all three phases, with a little luck included, to net the franchise’s first win, 25-0 over the wilting D.C. Defenders. “Well, I am just happy for our players and coaches,” said Vipers head coach and general manager Marc Trestman after the game. “They are a resilient bunch…there’s nothing like a winning locker room.”

Much of Tampa’s success offensively came on their ability to sustain drives. Four of their five scoring drives consisted of nine plays or more. Running backs De’Veon Smith and Jacques Patrick both rushed for over 100 yards each, while quarterback Taylor Cornelius looked poised in his third start, completing 77% of his passes and keeping the chains moving. “It was nice to jump on them quick,” said Cornelius. “We’re week-to-week, and we’re 1-0 this week.”

Patrick’s performance was especially inspiring, as his father recently passed away. “Just coming out here and getting a touchdown for him – I know he’s smiling,” said Patrick. Trestman also praised Patrick’s game. “…(H)e is one guy everybody should get to know,” he said. “He’s played through some stuff over the last couple weeks and has stood by his team and I couldn’t be happier for him.”

Tampa’s defense pitched a shutout, forcing D.C. into four three-and-outs, and only one drive of more than five plays. Included in those three-and-outs was the first drive of the game for the Defenders, who couldn’t gain a yard before punting to the Vipers.

“That is not an easy offense to stop,” said Trestman. “We got a good pass rush, we ran, we chased to get to the ball as good as anybody in the league – I think we saw that tonight. We tackled well. There is still work to be done.”

Jacques Patrick scored from eight yards out and following a one-point conversion, the Vipers went up 7-0. Their second drive was just as successful, as Cornelius connected with tight end DeAndre Goolsby on a 13-yard score. The luck showed up on this drive when Patrick picked up a Cornelius fumble and rumbled for 15 yards inside the D.C. five yard-line.

Midway through the second quarter when it seemed as if the Defenders would take a bite into Tampa’s 13-0 lead, kicker Ty Rausa had a 42-yard field goal blocked by Obum Gwachum, Tampa’s first-round pick in the defensive front seven phase of October’s draft, playing his first game since coming off injured reserve. Tampa tacked on its own field goal prior to the half to take a 16-0 lead into the locker room.

Within the crowd of 12,249 at Raymond James Stadium, there was likely a feeling that the other shoe would drop in the second half. That feeling was confirmed when Andrew Franks shanked a 31-yard field goal to end the team’s first offensive drive of the third quarter. Taylor Cornelius then threw an interception on the next drive to keep the Defenders alive.

Instead of folding, however, Tarvarus McFadden picked off Cardale Jones just three plays later. The nimble Cornelius cashed in with a 17-yard touchdown run to capitalize on the turnover. Later in the game, the Vipers found a little more luck when Dan Williams tipped a pass that ended up in the arms of Colin Thompson for a first down. A Franks field goal put the game out of reach at that point.

Tampa Bay looks to build on their first win when they travel cross-country to face the L.A. Wildcats next Sunday night at 9pm EST on ESPN.

Game Notes: Tampa declared QB Chase Litton inactive, along with CB Jalen Collins, G Daronte Bouldin, TE Nick Truesdell, DT Kellen Soulek, and DT Shane Bowman. The Vipers were given a roster exemption for QB Quinton Flowers, who left the team earlier in the week. He rejoined them on Monday…Bouldin was inactive after starting the first three games at right guard. Andrew Tiller started against D.C. after being activated from injured reserve. Bouldin likely was declared inactive because other linemen with more positional flexibility were active…Though he did not start, Gwachum had a sack and two QB hurries on defense, as well as two tackles on special teams in his first game back from injury…Active as the backup quarterback, Aaron Murray did not play.

1st Win Bonus as Vipers Beat Defenders 25-0

Tampa Bay VIpers quarterback Taylor Cornelius (Credit: XFL.com)

DC Defenders @ Tampa Bay Vipers
7:00pm 03/01/2020
Raymond James Stadium
12249 attendance

1st Win Bonus as Vipers Beat Defenders 25-0

DC came to Tampa 2-1 and seemed to look past a Tampa team intent on righting the ship. The Vipers set the game tempo early with a healthy dose of running backs De’Veon Smith and Jacques Patrick, who both rushed for over 100 yards.

Patrick had 108 yards and 1 touchdown, which he was emotional to score as his father just passed away. He dedicated his first pro touchdown to his father’s memory.

De’Veon Smith ran for 122 yards on 24 attempts and is becoming the lynch pin of the Vipers offense. De’Veon now leads the league in rushing with 296 yards as of week 4.

The Vipers stuck with one quarterback and its payed huge dividends. Taylor Cornelius had a great game and looked ready to keep the starting spot as he went 24 of 31 for 211 yards. He threw one TD and one interception.

In the post-game presser Cornelius gave all the credit to his offensive line for a great game. Also, after the game coach Trestman would not go into who would be his starting QB in the next game as he wanted to allow the team time to celebrate before making any decisions.

The Washington offense could get nothing going as the Vipers defense came ready to play. They held DC to 107 total yards of offense and DC had 50 penalty yards. DC quarterback Cardale Jones went just 9 for 22 for 72 yards with one interception.

The Vipers looked like a team renewed and ready to move forward after a big first win.

Next week, the Vipers travel to LA to play a Wildcat team who is also 1-3 and in a similar position in the western conference.

XFL Week 4 Power Rankings

We are now 3 weeks in, and man oh man, is football crazy. One week you think you know exactly how the season is going to turn out, and the very next week, something happens that throws everything out of whack. That is what Week 3 in the XFL was, and let’s not waste any time. Let’s get to it.

8. New York Guardians (1-2) Last Week (7)
The New York Guardians are an absolute dumpster fire. Matt McGloin is becoming more and more Jay Cutler-esque as the weeks go by. Marquise Williams certainly hasn’t been any better. Luis Perez might be the answer, but even then, not great. G.A. Magnus has been atrocious. Kevin Gilbride can’t seem to control his team. It’s an absolute mess. The only bright spot has still been their defense, which by the numbers, has been pretty good. But it won’t matter if their offense can’t stay on the field and score points. This season is quickly spiraling out of control, and I don’t see it turning around. The Guardians will probably guard the no. 8 spot til season’s end.

7. Tampa Bay Vipers (0-3) Last Week (8)
BREAKING NEWS! The Vipers can actually play competitive football! Man, they gave the Roughnecks all they could handle, and had a legitimate shot at winning that game in the closing minutes of the 4th quarter. Now, this week, Marc Trestman addressed the media and noted that quarterback Quinton Flowers, who was starting to excel a little bit in this offense, would be taking an extended leave of absence. That definitely hurts some of the momentum that they built this weekend. But, I think this team still has a slight chance to make a Playoff run. They definitely have the talent, and the fight is still there. It’s just going to come down to quarterback play and coaching. I’m not sure how much I trust Marc Trestman, but if this weekend is any indication, he might be able to rally the troops and make a push. They play DC at home this weekend, and we will get to them later, but that is a winnable game. So we shall see if they can continue to keep that momentum they had. For now though, they sit at no. 7.

6. Seattle Dragons (1-2) Last Week (6)
The Dragons are who we thought they were. Solid defense. Offense has its moments. Good coaching. But they just aren’t quite good enough to compete in the loaded West. Keenan Reynolds and Austin Proehl are very productive. Kenneth Farrow is dynamic. Their defense makes stops, and causes turnovers. The problem is, they can’t always capitalize on those turnovers, because Brandon Silvers just isn’t that dude. He’s a good quarterback. He makes some good throws. He makes some timely throws. But when the moment is calling him, he just can’t seem to deliver. They had a shot, late in the game against Dallas, to get back in it, and Silvers just could not come through. I don’t know if BJ Daniels is the answer, but I don’t think it would hurt to try. For now, Seattle sits at no. 6.

5. Los Angeles Wildcats (1-2) Last Week (5)
Wow! The Wildcats showed up Sunday night. They were unstoppable! They looked like the best team in the league. I want everybody to take caution a little bit. First, I called this. I said, once Josh Johnson gets acclimated to this offense, they will be right there in the hunt for the top of the West. Well, I told you so. Josh Johnson was incredible. Martez Carter was sensational. But it was the coming out party of Tre McBride that really put this team in the hunt. We already knew about Nelson Spruce, who is reportedly injured, but hopefully not anything too serious. But it was the emergence of a second deep threat that now makes this team scary. And let’s not forget about the most impressive part of LA that night, their defense. Which caused the Defenders to turn the ball over 4 times in the game. They really dominated in all phases. BUT, the reason I said be cautious, is because this game was somewhat, I think, of an anomaly. They had a lot of short fields, and the DC Defenders just looked completely out of sorts. I want to see a more consistent performance from these guys before I totally buy in. So until then, I will still sit them at no. 5. But I do think this team has the capability to potentially win the West this season, because they can be that good.

4. DC Defenders (2-1) Last Week (2)
Sunday night is one to forget about if you’re the DC Defenders. They looked AWFUL against the Wildcats this weekend. Cardale Jones was just bad, no other way to slice it. Pep Hamilton didn’t have any answers for Winston Moss’ defense. The running game continues to struggle. And their defense was exposed. Now, I do think this game was somewhat of an anomaly. I don’t believe Cardale Jones is going to be this bad every single week. I think Pep Hamilton is a great coach who will make adjustments. But, I do have to say, I think the Defenders clear weaknesses were really masked the first two weeks getting to play Seattle and New York at home. Look, the Defenders are still a Top 4 team I believe. But, they are not as elite as we thought they were. And I think there is a strong possibility, that if they make it to the Playoffs, which I still believe they will, it will be on the road against a St. Louis team that might be better than them. DC sits at no. 4 for now.

3. Dallas Renegades (2-1) Last Week (4)
Man does this team take a while to get going. But once they do, they dominate and demoralize you. And they use their running game to do it. Cameron Artis-Payne might be…..scratch that, IS the best running back in the XFL. Matt Jones is a close second, but what Artis-Payne is doing is phenomenal. He is wearing down defenses, and they just haven’t been able to slow him down. Landry Jones is getting more and more comfortable each week, and this offense has a nice balance to it. But we have to talk about the star that is emerging in Dallas in tight end, Donald Parham. This dude is massive, but he can run downfield with the best of them. This tight end was burning defensive backs down the field Saturday night, and he is a locomotive that is getting better each week. He is quickly becoming Landry Jones’ favorite target and for good reason. This team is just hitting its stride, and they will have a big test this week with Houston coming to their house. Landry Jones has got to cut down on the turnovers, but the Dallas Renegades are for real. They sit at no. 3.

2. St. Louis BattleHawks (2-1) Last Week (3)
I absolutely love this team. Their energy. Their heart. Their passion. It’s infectious! Jonathan Hayes has this team playing great football, and it all starts with breakout star Jordan Ta’amu. Nobody expected Ta’amu to be this good, but this dude is straight up ballin’. He’s doing it with his arm. He’s doing it with his legs. His football IQ has been excellent. He really is doing it all. Pair that with a very strong running game, in fact the best overall rushing team in the XFL, and you have a recipe for success. Matt Jones and Christine Michael are dominating on the ground, and Ta’amu forces defenses to stay on their toes. But it’s this defense that takes this team to the next level. They are, without a doubt, the BEST defense in the XFL. They make stops and force turnovers, which leads to their running game keeping the opposing defense on the field for longer than they would like to be. Could you imagine, a East Conference Championship game in the Dome…. I’m starting to think that is becoming more and more of a reality as the weeks go by. The BattleHawks are the second best team in the XFL.

1. Houston Roughnecks (3-0) Last Week (1)
But they still aren’t no. 1, because that still belongs to the only undefeated team left in the XFL, the Houston Roughnecks. PJ Walker. Cam Phillips. Those names should strike fear in every team they play this season. I’m to the point, that I feel the only chance you have at beating the Roughnecks, is you are going to have to outscore them. Because you are NOT stopping the Walker and Phillips connection, the most lethal duo in the XFL. James Butler, Nick Holley, Sam Mobley, Khalil Lewis, and Sammie Coates hasn’t even got going yet. This team is LOADED! They are without a doubt, the BEST OFFENSE IN THE LEAGUE. Hands down! And it all starts with June Jones. His play calling has been nothing short of extraordinary. This Roughnecks team makes it look so easy to get into the end zone. PJ Walker is the MVP three weeks in, and Cam Phillips should be second on that list. Now, their defense is a little concerning. But as long as they can do just enough, and be opportunistic in the turnover battle, this team has got to be the favorite for the XFL Championship. The Houston Roughnecks are the best team in the XFL.

Tampa Bay Vipers positional grades vs. Houston Roughnecks (week three)

Tampa Bay Vipers quarterback Taylor Cornelius

QB: C+: Taylor Cornelius looked a bit more comfortable running the offense than the previous week filling in again for Aaron Murray. There were still too many miscommunications with receivers, including his interception late in the fourth, that stalled drives. After starting the game and playing the first two drives, Quinton Flowers came in for the rest of the half, save for the last drive of the first half. Cornelius marched the team down the field for a score at that point, then played the rest of the second half. He showed good rapport with Reece Horn throughout the game. Cornelius found some rhythm in the 2nd half but again the Vipers came up empty on the goal line at the end of the game. The decision to not go with Flowers at that point is questionable at best. It was announced today that Flowers has taken personal leave from the team and Cornelius will get the start again this weekend.

RB: C: De’Veon Smith’s best play may have been a downfield catch in which he held onto the ball despite taking a big hit. He made two catches but had a 3rd down drop as well. In the run game, Smith averaged just 3.3 yards per carry; he has a way of falling forward and twisting for extra yardage after contact. After out-touching Smith last week, Jacques Patrick had just 10 carries for 18 yards and two catches for 11 yards. They are currently the only two backs on the roster with the release of Mack Brown earlier in the week. Colin Thompson only played one snap at fullback this week.

WR/TE: C: The receivers had at least four drops on the afternoon; that has to be remedied if Tampa is going to be able to perform consistently on offense. Jalen Tolliver was targeted 13 times and had eight catches for 104 yards, but dropped two balls as well. He converted a 3rd-and-6 from Flowers and then a 4th-and-4 in the third quarter. Dan Williams used his physicality to break tackles and score the first receiving touchdown in team history. Getting more playing time in place of the injured Nick Truesdell, DeAndre Goolsby had a catch over the middle for 24 yards just before the half. He also had a drop and a holding penalty on a run that gained a first down.

OL: B-: The starting five performed better than the previous week, allowing just two sacks and four tackles for loss. It’s especially impressive when you consider the Roughnecks were sending at least five rushers on nearly every play. The weak link seemed to be right tackle Isaiah Williams. Williams gave up a sack and a pressure that led to a 3rd down incompletion on the first drive. He also committed a holding penalty on the second drive. The run game was not as effective as previous weeks, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. Sixty-two of the 129 yards gained on the ground were via quarterback scrambles.

DL: C+: Despite Houston missing two starting offensive linemen, the Vipers once again struggled to get regular pressure on the quarterback. With P.J. Walker’s ability outside the pocket, it may have been part of the game plan this week, however, to keep him in the pocket, limiting the rush from the line. DT Josh Banks and DT Nikita Whitlock both registered pressures from the interior. DE Deiontrez Mount knocked down a pass intended for the middle of the field. Banks missed a tackle at the line of scrimmage that led to a 30-yard second quarter scamper by James Butler. He later sniffed out a screen for a tackle for loss. DE Jason Neill was injured late; he’ll cede his starting end spot to the returning Obum Gwacham this week. The group missed DT Ricky Walker, who was out with an injury.

LB: B: Terrance Plummer led the group with four tackles; he was tasked with spying Walker at times during the game. It worked, as Walker had just 34 yards rushing with 28 coming on one play. Plummer also had the only sack, two hurries and a tackle for loss. Backup Reggie Northrup played well. Lucas Wacha had three tackles and two hurries; the linebackers applied more pressure than the line. Houston called just 12 run plays, so the linebackers were either in pass coverage or mostly off the field when Tampa went to their dime defense against Houston’s five-wide attack.

DB: C: Playing against perhaps the best QB-WR tandem in the league, it was only natural that this group would struggle at times. The Vipers were attacked all over the field, and when Houston head coach June Jones sensed a player getting tired, he’d go after them even more. There were still more than a handful of quality plays made. Tarvarus McFadden played a screen well for no gain. Cam Phillips toasted Anthoula Kelly on an 84-yard TD; Kelly was then victimized on a long pass interference call on third down. Micah Hannemann led the team with seven tackles, but missed one that led to a third quarter TD. He did have a 3rd down pass break-up and almost picked a ball on the next play. The DBs also had to do a lot of tackling in the run game. DB blitzes were dialed up on Walker before the half.

ST: A-: A much better effort than last week. Rannell Hall had a good opening kickoff return, but only averaged 19.5 yards on four returns. He was hurt and subsequently placed on injured reserve. The Vipers do have others with experience returning kicks and punts who can fill in. Donteea Dye replaced him on kickoff returns after the injury. Dye also returned punts. Andrew Franks kicked two field goals, including one from 48. Jake Schum had a 67-yard punt and landed three of four kicks inside the 20, including one at the four yard-line. If Tampa can get consistency in their kicking game, it will be a huge plus. Kick coverage is still an issue. Lucas Wacha led the team with three special teams stops.

Pre-Game: The Vipers matchup against the Defenders

As the Vipers welcome in the DC Defenders in week four at Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium; the Defenders look to pick up win number three after they lost in the previous week against the now 1-2 LA Wildcats. 

The Defenders look for quarterback Cardale Jones to have a better game this week as he suffered his first loss of the season against LA  where he threw four interceptions and had a completion rate of fifty percent. Jones, a former Ohio State Buckeyes and 4th round draft pick in the 2016 NFL Draft is not shy to success and looks to brush off last week’s 9-39 loss. 

The Defenders have used rushing the ball to their advantage, giving 10 different players the opportunity to execute the run play for a total of 91 rushing attempts and 376 total rushing yards this season. The Vipers will need to have a strong defense of line this week if they want to stop the run.

Going into week four of the XFL, the DC Defenders defense has been strong for the first two games as CB Elijah Campbell blocked a punt and was then recovered by LB Jonathan Celestin for DC’s first-ever touchdown. The Defenders defense also intercepted two of QB Brandon Silvers passes, giving DC the win over the Seattle Dragons 31-19 in week one. In the following week against the New York Guardians, the defense had two interceptions, one touchdown and had a forced recovered fumble in week two while not allowing New York to score. Things fell apart as the undefeated DC defense traveled to the 0-2 LA Wildcat’s Dignity Health Sports Park. The Defenders couldn’t figure things out defensively as they couldn’t stop the Wildcats QB, Josh Johnson. DC allowed 39 points in week three, coming up short in their first loss. The Defenders look to bounce back on top as they look to give the Vipers their fourth straight loss.

The Tampa Bay Vipers will need to figure out there QB situation going into week four as Aaron Murray looks to possibly play this week after being sidelined with a foot injury. The past three weeks the Vipers have failed to get there first win this season and a lot has to do with a quarterback controversy that head coach Marc Trestman seems to struggle with.

The Vipers have a strong running game with fan-favorite backup QB Quinton Flowers who is quick on his feet when he gets the opportunity to play and with running back duo Deveon Smith and Jaques Patrick, who are both top 5 in the league in total yards rushing. 

Tampa Bay is going to need to look towards their defense in order to come up on top in this week four matchup against DC. The Vipers as a team have allowed a total of 74 points against them this season. The Vipers man to man coverage has looked weak, especially after last week’s loss against the Houston Roughnecks. The Vipers failed to stop QB PJ Walker and his sidekick two time XFL Star of the Week WR Cam Phillips. The Vipers defense allowed Phillips to catch three-TD passes and have a total of 194 yards receiving.

Both teams look to bounce back after a disappointing week three loss. 

Tampa Bay gets a taste of fan favorite Quinton Flowers

XFL Tampa Bay QB Quinton Flowers #9 (Credit: XFL.com)

As #9 jogs onto the field with 3:30 left in the 1st quarter of week three’s XFL match-up of the Houston Roughnecks vs Tampa Bay Vipers, the Raymond James Stadium crowd erupted into applause. There’s no question that the Vipers fans want the ex-Miami Jackson Senior High graduate and ex-USF graduate to be taking the snaps as starting quarterback. Quinton Flowers, a 5th round pick by the Tampa Bay Vipers in the XFL Draft, has no doubt become a fan favorite. 

Quinton Flowers, a dynamic running quarterback went 4 for 6 with 51 yards passing and 29 yards rushing with 1 TD. Flowers left nothing behind as he ran a QB keeper into the Vipers endzone and slams his helmet on the ground in celebration for the first-ever rushing and offensive touchdown for the Vipers organization.

It’s hard to say if Flowers has earned the starting spot over Taylor Cornelius while Aaron Murray is sidelined with a foot injury. But has Flowers had enough snaps to prove himself yet? Tampa Bay’s fan base has let head coach Marc Trestman know how they feel, as the Florida native is sidelined for most of the second half of the game. Its no question that Tampa wants Flowers in at QB and Trestman out as a head coach.

The Vipers managed to consistently score more with the quarterback rotation but Trestman stuck with Cornelius and the Vipers managed to come up short 34-27 in the home opener in front of 18,117 fans against the Houston Roughnecks.

We look to see what the Vipers head coach Marc Trestman does next week as they invite the DC Defenders to Raymond James Stadium next week on March 1.

Houston Roughnecks Survive in Tampa Bay

Houston QB PJ Walker led the Roughnecks to a win over the Vipers. (Credit XFL.com)

In a close game, the Houston Roughnecks escaped Tampa Bay with a 34-27 win over the Vipers in what was not only a competitive game, but an exciting one that came down to the wire. The Roughnecks came in with a perfect record of 2-0, and they left with a perfect record of 3-0, but it was not easy. They played a desperate Tampa Bay team that was looking for its first win of the season, and the Vipers showed a fight and heart that their hometown fans desperately wanted from them all season.

Once again this week, it was the PJ Walker/Cam Phillips show. The duo connected on three touchdowns for the second week in a row, and they further cemented the fact that they are without a doubt, the most unstoppable force in the XFL. PJ Walker was outstanding with 306 yards through the air, 34 yards on the ground, 3 touchdowns through the air, and one crazy touchdown run that came on a fumbled snap. His pocket presence remains excellent and he still does an excellent job of keeping his eyes down field. That was displayed beautifully on Walker and Phillips’ 84-yard touchdown connection, in which Walker escaped the pocket, got crushed by two defenders, and threw a perfect pass to Phillips, who then turned on the gas and did the rest. Their chemistry is what has separated the Roughnecks offense from the rest of the league, and I don’t see any defense in the XFL that can slow them down.

But it wasn’t just the passing game this week. Oh no. The Roughnecks ran the ball very effectively. James Butler was excellent, with 72 yards on just 7 attempts, and he pulled off some big time runs, especially late in the game. PJ Walker also added to the running game with some timely runs, for a very balanced offense this week. Look, we all know, the Roughnecks bread and butter is the “Run and Shoot” high flying passing game. But, if June Jones can find success with the running game as well, this offense will be impossible to stop.

But, we have to talk about the most worrying part of the team. The defense. As I have said every week, this defense is good enough to win a Championship, because the offense is going to score a lot of points. However, good enough does not mean great. Because a great defense, they are not. They are opportunistic, which once again helped with Gates sealing the win with a interception in the closing minute. But just like the Wildcats and Battlehawks before them, the Vipers were able to move the ball regularly against this defense, and it might become a problem as the season progresses. Again, because this offense is so great, it’s not that big of a problem, but once you get into the playoffs, and play the elite of the elite, it might be the thing that breaks this Roughnecks team. They can get to the quarterback, that’s for sure, but if they don’t, they can be exposed. Hopefully, they can clean that up as they continue the season, because it’s the only thing that is potentially holding them back.

All in all, the Roughnecks are likely the best team in the XFL, and until somebody shows that they can slow down PJ Walker and Cam Phillips, fans should take the Roughnecks against anybody. Houston, you are still undefeated.

Offense finds endzone but defense falters in Vipers loss to Roughnecks

Quinton Flowers was one of two quarterbacks the Vipers used in their bid to beat the Roughnecks. (Credit: XFL.com)

It took the Tampa Bay Vipers 140 minutes and 49 seconds of the new XFL season to finally score their first offensive touchdown. It took just nine minutes and 11 seconds for them to score their second. Yet, it wasn’t enough to stave off the red-hot Houston Roughnecks in Tampa’s home opener.

The Vipers were downed 34-27 in front of 18,117 at Raymond James Stadium, a number that bested many analysts’ expectations. It was Quinton Flowers who scored that first offensive TD, on a seven-yard keeper. Combined with Jalen Tolliver’s one-point conversion, it put the Vipers on top 10-9 in the second quarter.

Just prior to halftime, the home offense found the end zone a second time, this time on another QB run, this time with Taylor Cornelius at the helm. Cornelius started again over the injured Aaron Murray, who is expected to return next week. Cornelius was 16-31 passing for 193 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. “I felt really good today,” said Cornelius, when asked about the added reps he took at practice this week. “Moving forward, we’re in a better spot offensively and we feel good about the game plan.”

In preparation for this game, head coach Marc Trestman ceded play calling duties to offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo. “I thought if I could get out of the weeds a little bit and step back with the team, I thought that could help the team in a number of different ways,” said Trestman about the change. Through the first two games, the Vipers had largely been able to move the ball down the field, but had struggled in the red zone. The offense was more successful there on Saturday (2 for 3), but stalled on the one yard-line in the fourth quarter with a chance to come within a one-point conversion of tying the game.

A major storyline, for the second week in a row, was the QB rotation. Cornelius started and played on the first two drives. Flowers took over for drives three, four, and five. It was Cornelius who took the final drive before half, as Trestman noted on the broadcast that he liked the way Cornelius performed during the 2:00 drill before the end of the game last week.

In the second half, it was all Cornelius, despite the protestations of the home crowd. They wanted the hometown hero, Flowers, who played his college home games at Raymond James Stadium. Trestman’s decision to go with Cornelius the entirety of the final half will be debated, notably when the Vipers had it 1st-and-goal inside the five and were unable to cash in late in the game. Flowers’ versatility could’ve put the Roughnecks on their heels. “I think it’s a valid question,” said Trestman when asked about not going to Flowers in that situation. “We decided to stick with the plan and keep Taylor in there.”

Houston put the game away for good with 10:24 left in the fourth quarter. Tampa Bay had two drives after that in the fourth, the one that stalled at the one yard-line, and another, their last, resulting in a Cornelius interception in Houston territory.

The game was a seesaw affair and was one of the best games in the XFL this season. The lead changed hands or the score was tied six times. Houston’s P.J. Walker, an early MVP candidate, appeared as advertised. He was 24-36 passing for 306 yards and three touchdowns. Last week’s XFL Star of the Week, WR Cam Phillips, torched Tampa’s secondary to the tune of eight receptions for 194 yards and three touchdowns.

“…(W)e’ve got a sick locker room in there, a lot of guys worked their tails off today,” said Trestman. “I know we got better this week, but it wasn’t good enough.”

The Vipers host the 2-0 (pending Sunday’s result) D.C. Defenders next Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Kickoff will be at 7pm EST and will air on ESPN2.

Game Notes: Tampa’s inactive list this week was filled with injured players. QB Aaron Murray, CB Jalen Collins, DT Ricky Walker, and TE Nick Truesdell all appeared on the injury report leading up to Saturday’s game. The only two healthy inactives were LB Anthony Stubbs and WR S.J. Green, a recent acquisition from the Seattle Dragons…Tampa Bay has exceeded the 100-yard rushing mark as a team in all three games this season…A couple more firsts in team history were achieved, including first rushing touchdown (Flowers) and first passing/receiving touchdown (Cornelius to WR Dan Williams).

Tampa Bay Vipers go 0-3 as they lose to Houston Roughnecks at Home

No win bonus money for Viper players as of yet, and the Vipers may have cause for concern. Today, they lost at home 34-27 in front of 18,117 at Ray Jay.

The Vipers finally got the offense on the board as they scored the first offensive touchdown in team history as QB Quinton Flowers scored a 7-yard keeper with 9:17 left in the second quarter. QB Taylor Cornelius recorded the first Vipers passing TD in team history when he threw a 20-yard pass to WR Dan Williams with 2:13 left in the third.

Vipers Head Coach Marc Trestman continued with his 2 QB rotation, and this week he stepped back from play calling duties allowing offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo to call the plays. No one has really spoken of why Coach Trestman gave up the play calling to Jaime except to say they both worked on the call sheet and they both put the plan together.

You would think the team has been in Tampa for years. Fans do not seem to like the two QB system and they made it known during the game. The Tampa crowd chanted for their hometown QB Quinton Flowers anytime he was not in the game. It seemed like he would be in and get some momentum going but was then swapped out for Taylor Cornelius who started the game. It would seem like the two QBs dislike the rotation as well. In the post-game presser both said the rotation is not ideal, but they will be ready when their number is called. It seems to slow any momentum the team starts to gain.

Penalties again cost the Vipers as they had 6 for 99 yards. Penalties seem to be a problem as the team is averaging 79 penalty yards a game.

The Vipers again led in total offense with 365 total yards but they were 50% on 3rd down going just 9 of 18. Starting QB Taylor Cornelius went 16 of 31 for 193 total yards with one interception and one touchdown. Jalen Tolliver was the leading receiver with 8 receptions for 104 yards and De’Veon Smith was the leading rusher going for 49 yards on 15 attempts.

Vipers fans were out in force,. There were tons of stuffed snakes and team gear throughout the crowd with many fans saying they loved the experience of coming to the game.

Next week the Vipers look to get in the win column when the DC Defenders come to town. The Defenders currently sit atop the Eastern Division at 2-0.

Vipers versus Roughnecks Photo Gallery

Photos by Mark Zelakowski