I don’t know how many people are familiar with it, but have you ever seen the movie Groundhog day? For those who haven’t, it’s a movie starring Bill Murray. He is a local reporter who goes to cover the groundhog day event. Where the film takes a turn is where Bill Murray is forced to relive the same day over and over. What happens next is mounting frustration over being forced to relive the same experiences. This breakdown of Houston and Orlando will feel much like Groundhog day.
Orlando made far too many mistakes on their way to a 44-16 beating. However, halfway through the third quarter, the score was 26-16. Orlando had the ball with a chance to cut into the lead and make it a one-score game. There’s a lot we can talk about from this game, much of this journey is going to feel like Bill Murray in groundhog day. With that warning attached, The good, the bad, and the ugly week 4 edition is here.
I know what you are thinking, two weeks in a row Paxton Lynch is on the good? The passing offense must be getting better, and Orlando has found their quarterback. Not so fast. This again should come with an asterisk. While he did on a paper throw for more yards than Brandon Silvers, there were several underthrows, overthrows, and missed reads. However, Paxton finally started to take the top off the defense.
In the second quarter, he found Jalen Smith on a wheel route for a 31-yard touchdown. In the third quarter, he connects with Charleston Rambo for an XFL-long 81-yard touchdown to make it a two-possession game. To say Paxton was great in this game is a gross overstatement, but he does continue to make the good list because we are heading in the right direction.
Charleston Rambo and Cody Latimer
This game requires a special shout-out to two different receiving targets. I almost didn’t include Rambo in this discussion because of a costly fumble by Rambo that led to a Houston touchdown. However, he had his best game of the season with two receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown. He makes this list because his 81-yard touchdown is the longest of the XFL season so far. It also serves as a stark reminder of what this team is capable of when firing on all cylinders. Cody Latimer continues to shine as a security blanket, with 4 receptions for 60 yards, and is looking every bit like the best tight end in the XFL.
For those of you that keep up with the breakdown, we are usually singing the defenses praises. Today however is not one of those times. Houston jumped out to a 26-3 lead early in the second quarter. If you look at the box score, one of those plays was a fumble on a screenplay that wound up being a scoop and score. The other was a fumble by Charleston Rambo giving Houston a short field to work with. In the middle part of this game, it looked like Orlando’s defense tightened up.
In reality, Brandon Silvers flat-out missed two wide-open receivers for what likely would have been touchdowns. The usually stout until they break completely defense never really seemed like they had any footing in this game. The usually very stout running defense also gave up 100 yards rushing, most of it in the second half. While some would be right to point out that the offensive failures finally broke the defense, their performance as whole merits inclusion on the bad list.
The Offensive Line
The offensive line in this game was horrendous. Not taking anything away from Houston’s defense, which boasts the most sacks in the XFL, but their performance mirrored many other games this season. While Paxton Lynch was only sacked 4 times (as opposed to 7 in the first meeting), he was constantly under pressure. This forced Paxton to miss many throws that should have been completed. Orlando’s line also struggled in the run game as Orlando was only able to average 3.8 yards a carry. Combine their lackluster performance with undisciplined mistakes that contributed to many of the thirteen penalties suffered in this game, and it leaves a lot to be desired.
Unforced errors continue to cause this team to implode. On the first offensive series of the game, Paxton lynch hits a wide-open receiver on its first down near midfield. Two plays later, he throws a lateral that is dropped and returned for a touchdown. The Guardian’s truly impressive 13 penalties killed multiple drives before they ever had much of a chance.
At one point, in need of a first down, Paxton Lynch misses a wide-open receiver on a 5-yard drag route. On defense, miscommunications in the secondary led to Brandon Silvers being able to find someone wide-open on any given play. A failure to recognize a drag route being run behind the line of scrimmage could be a double pass led to the XFL’s first double pass for a touchdown.
The Coaching situation
It’s no secret that Terrell Buckley’s foray into coaching has not gone particularly well. In four weeks we have had numerous outings where decisions just don’t add up. In week one, it was the fact that Dormady was not the starter going into week 2 after a far better showing than Paxton Lynch. Week 3 featured his halftime antics of saying he needs an entirely new team to the media. This was in a one-score game at halftime.
All of this is completely ignoring the fact that situational football, particularly two-minute offense, has been questionable at best. Rumor has been going around after this game that Terrell Buckley is going to take over the play-calling responsibility from offensive coordinator Robert Ford. The coaching staff is still trying desperately to find itself, and what we see on the field seems to be a reflection of leadership.
As we officially put week 4 to an end, at least the addition of Quinton Flowers seems to offer some hope to salvage the second half of the season. This upcoming week Orlando has what could potentially be their first shot at a win against the also winless and struggling Vegas Vipers(Saturday 10 pm Eastern. FX and Espn+).