Week 6 of the Orlando Guardians season is in the books, and this may be the most frustrating. Orlando did so many things right in this game. They outgained Seattle by over 150 yards. The Defense held League-leading passer Ben DiNucci to 177 yards passing. Orlando outrushed Seattle 162 to 78. The defense got their first turnover since week one when Najeem Hosein intercepted a Dinucci pass in the end-zone. Yet, the final score still reads Seattle 26 Orlando 19. So what happened? What went wrong? We are about to get into: The good, the bad, and the ugly from week 6.
There is something about this guy that just screams natural leader. Whenever interviewed about his role in the offense, his answer is always, “we have talented playmakers out there, I just have to get it to them.” The team has more than responded to his lead. In his first start, the offense was as coherent as it has looked all season long. While it wasn’t as good as his performance against Vegas, he went 24 of 44 for 243 yards. He added another 43 on the ground, nearly including a touchdown that got called back because of a penalty. His ability to take the top off the defense has really opened up the offense for the running game too(more on that later).
For the first time this season, the running game has looked like a force to be reckoned with. There could be quite a few reasons for this, but the passing game demanding respect likely plays no small part in it. Devin Darrington had his best game as a Guardian. He managed to turn only 7 carries into 82 yards and two touchdowns. He showed many why the Guardians made the decision to release Kelvin Taylor.
Darrington and Martin seem to be an effective one-two punch when used effectively. Darrington the more elusive running back, and Martin with the bruising beast mode style to finish off plays. This rushing performance against one of the better teams in the XFL is one of many reasons for optimism going forward.
The defense performed quite admirably in this game. Seattle did not have many successful sustaining drives. In the first half, Seattle was held without a touchdown for the first half all season long. Two of the three field goals in the first half were the result of short fields (more coming in the ugly section). The final touchdown given up was the direct result of a blocked punt. Seattle was also held to just 78 yards on 20 attempts.
However, this defensive performance had the potential to wind up in great territory. Ben DiNucci had at least 3 passes that should have been game-breaking interceptions. One early in the game, was more than likely dropped because Marcus Murphy Jr. Saw nothing but green grass in front of them. Any one of these could have resulted in Orlando’s first win.
If you’ve read one of my game breakdowns, you’ve probably heard me mention penalties before. This game is not an exception. Orlando committed 12 penalties in this game resulting in 95 yards. One such penalty on the first drive negated a potential second and goal from the one, forcing a field goal attempt. In the third, a defensive pass interference on Shaq Wiggins led to Seattle’s first touchdown in the game.
A blocked punt, Orlando’s second of the year, led to the touchdown that wound up putting this game on ice. Darrington’s fumble late in the fourth quarter killed a potential game-tying drive before it ever had a chance to get going. Looking through this game there were far too many opportunities that Orlando let fall through the cracks
The Special teams in this game were absolutely horrendous. Kelvin Mcknight had over 200 return yards(both kick and punt returns) in this game. It seemed like every time Orlando had to give the ball back Seattle was starting on the Orlando side of the ball. In the first half, two of their three field goals were the result of a return past midfield.
One was a 51-yard punt return, the other on a 45-yard kick-off. The final field goal was the result of a punt that only netted ten yards(touchback). Add in the aforementioned punt block, and the result is a 16-point impact on this game. Why Orlando didn’t just decide to start kicking it out of the back of the end zone and just give them the ball at the 35 is beyond me.
Anyone who watched this game knew we were gonna talk about this. Late in the second half, Orlando has the ball in Seattle’s territory. They are on the verge of field goal range and it is fourth and four. Shane Matthews is on the mic calling a hard count telling his wide receivers not to move. Orlando lines up and Dormady goes through his cadence and fakes the snap call. What happened next, appeared to the entire world as an offside penalty.
The call on the field however was a false start. This call left many, including the commentators perplexed. Dean Blandino comes on and explains that the arm of the left tackle moved first, and that was the reason for the call. As it cuts back to TV, you can hear Blandino on a hot mic say, “actually we screwed that one up.” For a league that prides itself on transparency, this is a bad look.
While it is true that coaches can challenge a call, Blandino should be able to intervene in this situation. What resulted was Orlando having to punt on what should have been first down. Seattle scores a field goal on the next possession before the half. This 6-point swing in a 7-point game is the difference between a field goal for the win, and a touchdown for the tie, on the final drive.
I don’t often include the opponents in my post-game breakdowns, but this absolutely required mentioning. Morgan Ellison, listed as out with a knee injury, did not make the trip to Orlando. Without the third leading rusher in the XFL, the Seattle rushing attack struggled mightily to gain any traction. In his post-game interview, Haslett said something that left many of us scratching our heads.
When asked about Ellison, He said “Ellison had nothing to do with this game, or any game really.” He next goes on to talk about him as a bad pass blocker, belittling his impact on the team. Talking this way about one of the better backs in the XFL would lead me to believe there is more to that story than meets the eye.
Many of the things covered in the breakdown have been mentioned in the past. Orlando gets in their own way too many times to win football games. This next week isn’t going to be any easier as they play the DC Defenders(6 pm ESPN, ESPN+). If Orlando is unable to eliminate the self-inflicted wounds this game could be over quickly. DC plays good defense, runs the ball exceptionally well, and does not make mistakes.