Tampa Bay gets snakebit as this was not the start the Vipers expected to begin the 2020 XFL season. The Vipers fall 23-3 in the opening matchup.
If you didn’t get a chance a tune into any of the XFL games on opening weekend, you really missed out. The level of play around the league exceeded expectations. The access that the broadcast gave to us was incredible. The instant on-field interviews, the players and coaches being mic’d up and the best part – the live look in the replay booth – really took the watching experience to the next level. Unfortunately for the Vipers, that excitement level didn’t carry over to their on-field performance, as they proved to be snakebit for the entire afternoon.
A less than ideal first half
The New York Guardians drove right down the field on the first drive of the game. The drive ended with a Matt McGloin rushing touchdown and a successful one point conversion. I never get too upset or too excited when a team scores a first drive touchdown as the drive has been scripted and practiced a week in advance. In fact, I just expect every team to score on their first possession.
The Tampa Bay Vipers offense answered right back as Aaron Murray drove them right down the field. Murray got everyone involved early as each of his starting receivers and tight end caught a pass on their opening drive. However, it was the Vipers first play inside the ten yard line that led to their first turnover. Murray slightly under threw a jump ball to Nick Truesdell that got tipped and intercepted in the endzone.
END ZONE TIP DRILL
— XFL (@xfl2020) February 9, 2020
In an instant sideline interview after the play, Murray admitted he shouldn’t have made that throw and that he should have just thrown the ball away.
The game plan for the Guardians in the first half seemed pretty clear: chuck the ball downfield and attack the Vipers defensive backs. McGloin took numerous shots downfield, including a 45 yard pass to Mekale McKay. On the very next play, McGloin threw a 12 yard touchdown pass to Colby Pearson.
The Vipers’ shaky start on defense
The Vipers defensive backs missed way too many tackles as most of the missed tackles were due to not wrapping up. The defense didn’t seem to bring much pressure, as most plays were just a four man rush. That shows in the box score as the Vipers only had two QB Hits/Hurry (QBH). Admittedly, the box score on XFL dot com doesn’t have a legend. When I rewatch the game tonight I’ll know if their QBH is a hit or a hurry. Either way, the Vipers didn’t get any pressure on McGloin. Vipers defensive tackle, Ricky Walker, was ejected in the second quarter after he threw a punch during a little scuffle.
The Guardians went into the half with a 17-0 lead.
Second half adjustments
After playing one snap in the first half, Quinton Flowers got much more involved in the second half. The Vipers’ offense started to get going a little bit. They never really had any issues moving the ball down the field, they just could not do anything inside the ten yard line.
Flowers and Murray split time at quarterback in the second half, although neither quarterback could generate a touchdown drive. The run game finally got going after only a few first half attempts. De’Veon Smith ended the day with 79 yards on 16 rushes. Jacques Patrick wasn’t a factor at all in the first half, but his day ended 32 yards on eight carries. Of the four possession in the redzone, Smith was on the field for three of the possessions.
The Vipers kicked a field goal down 17-0 – which is only a two possession game in the XFL – on yet another drive that stalled in the redzone. While the three points were technically meaningless, I do understand wanting to get some points for the offense to try and build off of. Again, the offense was moving the ball. In another sideline interview, coach Marc Trestman said that he expected his team to have three or four more chances, hence kicking the field goal.
On the Vipers first possession in the fourth quarter, Murray hit Truesdell for a short completion. Truesdell fumbled, however. Guardians defensive back, Jamar Summers, recovered the fumble and scored the only touchdown of the second half.
The Vipers defensive greatly improved in the second half. The didn’t allow any big plays and most importantly, no points.
Quarterback controversy already?
Murray’s day ended on the sideline, as Flowers was in for the final drive. His finished the day 16/34 for 231 yards and two picks.
It seemed like most of Flowers snaps, he just handed the ball. He did throw the ball twice, connecting on a 37 yard pass to Daniel Williams. That completion got them to the two yard line, where the Vipers couldn’t convert. Again.
Quinton 🌸s is in and providing a spark for the @XFLVipers
— XFL (@xfl2020) February 9, 2020
Some quick notes that caught my eye
As previously stated, of the four redzone possessions, I noted Smith was in the game in three of them.
It seemed Murray had happy feet the entire game. He kept moving out of the pocket when he necessarily didn’t need to.
The defense needs to bring pressure more often.
Williams seems like he’s already the number one target followed by Truesdell as the number two. Jalen Tolliver, however did have eight targets, two more than Truesdell.
The Vipers ended the game with 394 total yards, the most yards for any team up to that point in any game.
DB Rannell Hall and WR Ryan Davis were surprise inactives. Hopefully we’ll have more information on that shortly.
The Vipers (0-1) will travel to Seattle to face the Dragons (0-1). They are the one of two teams in the XFL to start the season with back-to-back road games. The game is on Saturday February 15th at 5PM ET on FOX.
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