D.C. Defenders sweep season series against Vegas Vipers with week four victory

The D.C. Defenders defeated the Vegas Vipers 32-18 on a cold & rainy night in the District.  (XFL Twitter)

The D.C. Defenders defeated the Vegas Vipers 32-18 on a cold & rainy night in the District. 

D.C. Defense

The Defenders shutdown defense made its presence felt from the get-go, forcing & recovering a fumble from Vipers quarterback Brett Hundley on the first play from scrimmage. Four plays later, D’Eriq King put D.C. on the board first with a scrambling touchdown. The former Miami (FL) quarterback accounted for all three of their touchdowns – two rushing (including one aforementioned) & one passing.

Strong safety Santos Ramirez came down with the only other Defenders takeaway during the fourth quarter, which prompted them to extend their lead to 29-12 on a 32-yard receiving touchdown from Jequez Ezzard. 

Throughout the game, defensive end Fadol Brown wreaked havoc on the Vipers offense, finishing with two tackles for loss and one sack. The hard-hitting Reggie Northrup continued his strong 2023 campaign with three tackles on the night, including two for loss.

The D.C. defense conceded a season-high 404 yards to the Vipers. Having said that, they only put up 18 points largely in part to good-looking Vegas drives stalling out on multiple occasions once reaching the red zone. All in all, three Vipers red zone appearances resulted in field goals, while one ended with a turnover on downs.

Late in the first half, quarterback Luis Perez led his team on a drive that ended just inches short of the goal line. Originally, a four-yard scramble from Perez was ruled a touchdown, but its reversal had Vipers head coach Rod Woodson fuming as a 10-second runoff automatically ended the half. Had that rush been a touchdown, the score would have been 14-12, excluding the extra point(s).

No doubt red zone efficiency will be an issue the Vipers will need to sort out before their next matchup.


Though King was responsible for all the touchdowns, his counterpart Jordan Ta’amu took the majority of snaps under center for the Defenders & had 266 total yards. About halfway through the season, It’s evident that the Defenders have figured out their two-quarterback system, but the question remains: which one’s better – theirs or the Houston Roughnecks? I guess that answer will be revealed when the two undefeated teams square off in week six. 

Conversely, the Vipers quarterback controversy continued with the benching of Hundley for Perez after just two drives. Though his team didn’t get the result it wanted, Perez impressed throwing for 283 yards and two touchdowns. 

Before his benching, Hundley was four for five passing with 50 yards and a fumble. Entering the game, he had been questionable with a hip injury.

It’ll certainly be interesting to see who the Vipers go with next weekend against the Guardians assuming Hundley’s injury doesn’t rule him out.

Offensive attacks

Receivers Chris Blair & Lucky Jackson continued as top aerial threats for the Defenders, finishing with 84 & 65 yards, respectively, on four receptions each. Tight end Alex Ellis made his debut with D.C. after being traded from the Arlington Renegades last week. He had one reception for 11 yards. 

On the ground, Jordan Ta’amu ran for 89 yards, including a huge 49-yard scamper in the third quarter. Feature back Abram Smith took 22 carries for 58 yards, while Ryquell Armstead rushed hard for 18 yards on four attempts before an injury in the second half. Overall, the Defenders ground game put up 173 yards.

As for the Vipers, Jeff Badet totaled 80 yards on seven receptions. His teammate Cinque Sweeting had three catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns. These are numbers we’re used to seeing from these guys. Ten different receivers were targeted for Vegas throughout the game.

Meanwhile, the rushing attack for the Vipers produced at a minimal rate netting only 71 yards. 

Special teams

Defenders kicker Matthew McCrane drilled four straight field goals after missing his first attempt from 47 yards out. 

Ezzard caught his first touchdown of the XFL season but also fumbled a kick return during the third quarter at D.C.’s own 24-yard line. Luckily for him, the Vipers got nothing out of it due to turnover on downs. 

What’s next?

For the Defenders, the win signifies their season sweep over the Vipers and keeps their undefeated campaign alive. On the contrary, the Vipers remain winless and will continue their soul-searching process in preparation for their week six opponent – the Orlando Guardians – also winless.

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