With another fun-filled weekend of XFL football, the game of the week had to be the Vipers versus Wildcats game on Prime Time! The game saw the highest point total, with the Vipers and Wildcats combining for 44 points (only 2.5 points below the O/U for the game). Let’s dive in to how this game went!
Another Week, another self-defeating loss for Tampa Bay
In what has become an all too familiar scene for Vipers fans, They once again lose a football game where they outgain and run more plays than their opponent. Tampa Bay outgained LA 434-345, ran 16 more plays, had five more first downs, and converted every extra point opportunity they had. So, what happened?
Well, Taylor Cornelius had three turnovers. Two interceptions that led to points and a fumble that became a scoop and score. What’s even more frustrating is that as bad as it sounds now, they were up 24-6 in the second quarter.
This team has been incredibly frustrating to watch all season long, because in almost every loss this year, Tampa Bay has managed to beat themselves with turnovers, poor red zone play, and almost every other inefficiency you can think of.
Failure to adapt seriously cost Tampa Bay in the end.
At one point in this game, LA looked as if they could not get out of their own way. They turned the ball over four times, couldn’t stop the run, and it looked as if they were going to get run over, and this game would be over at halftime.
The key to this game is the Wildcats adjusted, whereas the Vipers did not. The Vipers are very run game dependent, maybe because they are trying to bring along Taylor Cornelius slowly. However, in this game, the worst rushing defense in the XFL was able to hold their ground. While on paper, the Vipers ran for 145 yards, it was on an average of 2.5 yards per carry. De’Veon Smith had 69 yards on 24 carries. Jacques Patrick was only averaging 2.5 before he left the game with an injury.
Not just that, but I can count on one hand the number of first downs where Tampa Bay tried to pass the ball. It is incredibly difficult to sustain drives when every possession is going to 2nd and long. So, seeing that this was not working, how did the game plan change? It didn’t. There were no adjustments made here even though it was obvious there needed to be, and this can be a serious problem if not fixed very soon.
Josh Johnson looked amazing, Tampa Bay’s defense did not.
In the weeks since coming back from his injury, Josh Johnson has looked like one of the best quarterbacks in the XFL, with numbers to back it up. It’s not being talked about like Jordan Ta’amu, or P.J. Walker, probably because his team is 2-3, but he is the driving force behind the Wildcats. That said, against the number one defense in the XFL, he did not disappoint.
He went for 288 and 4 touchdowns, looking unstoppable in the second half. Johnson does deserve much of the credit for the comeback, but many of the same issues we’ve seen all season long came to light again. Tampa Bay’s secondary looked overmatched in the second half, and busted coverages have been an issue all season long.
In the DC game, we were very fortunate that Cardale Jones badly overthrew two wide-open receivers en route to the shutout, but here Johnson was able to take advantage of it. Part of the problem is the scheme. Tampa Bay is Blitz dominant, which is a problem when you are not getting to the QB. Johnson can extend a play, which he did many times, forcing our secondary to be in one on one coverages for much longer than they should.
All in all, this game gave Vipers fans exactly what we have come to expect. While exciting and we get glimpses of how talented this team can be, the only consistency among them is the ability to be inconsistent. Which begs the question, at what point do we take a deep look at the entire organization and figure out where changes may need to be made?