20 Mar

D.C. Defenders beat Houston Roughnecks to reach 6-0 in Monday night showdown

The second half of the XFL’s regular season featured the biggest game so far, a Monday night matchup in March between the two division leaders. In the end, the D.C. Defenders showed why they’re the league’s only unbeaten team, putting up 37 points against a Houston Roughnecks group that had allowed the fewest points in the league going in.

It was the XFL’s first Monday night game and 12,492 fans showing up at D.C.’s Audi Field to watch the Defenders go to 6-0. The Roughnecks, arguably the second-best team through the first half of the season, fell to 4-2 but stayed a game up in the South Division.

Below, we’ll break down Roughnecks-Defenders and all the games from Week 6, including Saturday’s matchups that saw the Seattle Sea Dragons and St. Louis BattleHawks each improve to 4-2 behind two of the league’s better quarterbacks, as the BattleHawks’ A.J. McCarron and Sea Dragons’ Ben DiNucci threw five touchdown passes between them. On Sunday, Hines Ward’s San Antonio Brahmas got their second win thanks to a strong defense.

Here’s a look at all the Week 6 scores (you can also check out the schedule and league standings).

Seattle Sea Dragons 26, Orlando Guardians 19
St. Louis BattleHawks 29, Vegas Vipers 6

San Antonio Brahmas 15, Arlington Renegades 9

D.C. Defenders 37, Houston Roughnecks 26

Monday night’s game
In primetime, D.C. shows why it’s the team to beat
If there was any doubt who the XFL’s best team is before Monday night’s showdown, the D.C. Defenders made it perfectly clear with a 37-26 victory over the other division leader in the Houston Roughnecks. D.C. quarterback Jordan Ta’amu threw for 245 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Abram Smith continued his tear out of the backfield, rushing for 95 yards with a score. Defenders receiver Lucky Jackson also had a big night, with five catches for 136 yards and a TD.

The game actually began as a defensive struggle until late in the first half when, with the Defenders up 9-8, Roughnecks quarterback Brandon Silvers was picked off by D.C.’s Santos Ramirez, who ran it back for a pick-six.

.@sramirez_9 PICK. SIX. 🔥@XFLDefenders lead 17-8 at the half! pic.twitter.com/eKU4uXszl7

— XFL (@XFL2023) March 28, 2023
The Defenders took a 17-8 lead into halftime, and the Roughnecks could never make much of a run in the second half, as 12 Houston penalties in the game proved costly. Silvers (10 for 17, 111 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT) and Cole McDonald (8 for 11, 194 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT) split time at quarterback for Houston, with McDonald adding a rushing TD. McDonald led the Roughnecks in rushing with 37 yards, but Max Borghi did have two rushing TDs and 25 yards on the ground.

The question now becomes, can anyone beat D.C. this season? They’ll face the 0-6 Orlando Guardians next week, but the following weekend they get a Seattle team on a roll (more on that below). It doesn’t get easier for the Roughnecks next week, as they’ll take on the 4-2 BattleHawks.

Sunday’s game
Brahmas snap three-game losing streak
Despite failing to score 20 points for a fifth time in six games, Hines Ward’s Brahmas posted a 15-9 win over Arlington on the strength of their defense. San Antonio linebacker Jordan Williams’ 15-yard fumble return for a touchdown served as the only score of the first half as the Brahmas took a 9-0 lead at intermission.

Delontae Scott with the forced fumble and Jordan Williams with the scoop and score!

10-0 2 minutes left in the first half #XFL2023 | #HornsForward pic.twitter.com/tvlgPjfKJb

— San Antonio Brahmas (@XFLBrahmas) March 26, 2023
Bob Stoops’ team rallied to tie the score (on the strength of their own interception) before the Brahmas responded with a pair of field goals in the fourth quarter. San Antonio’s defense then sealed the win when defensive back Tenny Adewusi picked off Drew Plitt on the game’s final play.

With the win, San Antonio — which lost a 12-10 decision to Arlington last week — is now within a game of Arlington in the XFL South division standings. The top two teams in each division will face off in the playoffs on the weekend of April 29-30, with the winners colliding in the XFL championship on May 13.

Saturday’s games
Sea Dragons roll off fourth straight victory
After losing their first two games by a combined six points, the Seattle Sea Dragons have won four in a row. Fresh off an upset of the previously unbeaten Houston a week ago, the Sea Dragons bounced back from a halftime deficit on Saturday to beat the Orlando Guardians, 26-19.

Seattle entered the game with the XFL’s top passing attack, and quarterback Ben DINucci threw two more TD passes in Week 6. That was despite Josh Gordon not having a catch. The former NFL receiving leader got off to a fast start in the XFL, but Gordon now has only two catches for 15 yards in the past two games combined. Blake Jackson led Seattle in receiving with six catches for 79 yards, including this 20-yard touchdown in the second half.

Don’t Panic… #JustChill #XFL2023 | #BreatheFire pic.twitter.com/neTMQ1qwWA

— Seattle Sea Dragons (@XFLSeaDragons) March 25, 2023
DiNucci went 18 for 35 for 177 yards, and he was also Seattle’s rushing leader (43 yards). The Sea Dragons’ running backs managed just 35 yards combined.

Orlando remains the XFL’s only winless team despite a strong first half on Saturday. The Guardians went with Quinten Dormady at quarterback after using multiple QBs in previous games this season, including Paxton Lynch, who didn’t play in this one. Dormady went 22 of 44 for 243 yards without a touchdown or interception.

The Sea Dragons will try to make it five wins in a row on Friday night when they visit the Renegades in Arllington.

McCarron nearly flawless for BattleHawks
A.J. McCarron threw three touchdown passes — two of them to Darrius Shepherd — as St. Louis cruised past the Vipers, 29-6, on Saturday night.

The BattleHawks improved to 4-2, with both of those losses coming against the D.C. Defenders, the XFL’s only unbeaten team. McCarron went 23 of 29 for 236 yards and no interceptions along with the three TDs.

The St. Louis defense picked off Vipers quarterback Luis Perez twice. Perez (99 yards passing) and Brett Hundley (120 yards, 1 TD) split QB duties for Vegas, which fell to 1-5.

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