Another week is in the books, and Orlando now has the unique distinction of standing alone as the only winless team in the XFL. Their game had it all. Their 35-32 loss is the highest-scoring game this season, smashing the pregame over/under. There were moments where you looked at each team and thought, why is this team winless? There were also more than a few moments that reminded us why they were. This game featured the return of an almost forgotten guardian, touchdowns galore, and a two-minute ending that won’t soon be forgotten. We have a lot to break down, so let’s talk about it: the good, the bad, and the ugly from week 5.
That’s right, the quarterback released for allegedly sharing plays was reinstated. Surprisingly, he saw the field Saturday night in the second quarter. Paxton Lynch was looking ineffective after the first drive, and Vegas had built a 17-7 lead when out trotted number 12. It’s hard to describe what happened next, but the rest of the team very clearly responded to his presence on the field.
His first drive saw him go 5 of 6 ending in a 25-yard touchdown pass to Charleston Rambo. Late in the 4th quarter, down by 9, Dormady hit Cody Latimer for a 45-yard touchdown. He ended the game 22 of 25 for 256 and a pair of touchdowns. With Dormady in the game, this offense looked rejuvenated. Able to connect on timing and deep routes, Vegas had to fear the passing attack.
Charleston Rambo and Cody Latimer
The receiving duo earns their second straight nod this week on the good list. Latimer went for 124 yards and a touchdown. This performance was good enough for offensive player of the week consideration. He is proven week in and week out to be one of the best tight ends in this league. In this new-look passing attack, he looked almost unstoppable.
Charleston Rambo is starting to make good on the promise many of us thought he had at the start of the season. Rambo had 5 receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown, a 25-yard beauty of a contested catch in the second quarter. The duo of Rambo and Latimer also made good on all of their 13 targets. These two continue to develop chemistry with Dormady could make things very interesting in the second half of the season.
Offensive line play
I feel like a broken record saying this, but our offensive line continues to underwhelm. Despite an improved running game because Vegas had to legitimately respect Dormady’s ability, we still only averaged 3.5 yards a carry. Darrington and Martin can only do so much without holes to run through. On the pass protection side, they were just as bad, surrendering 4 sacks.
The last two proved exceptionally costly. One foiled an onside attempt, and the other as it turns out sealed Orlando’s fate. In my preview article, I referred to Orlando’s o-line as an undisciplined penalty magnet, and miserably this was true once again. They were the cause of 5 penalties, the last two running 20 seconds off and essentially ending the last drive before it could get started.
The Orlando defense has played better than their league-worst 29 points per game average but not in this game. The secondary was exposed in this game, with Perez going 20 of 28 for 270 and 3 touchdowns. The running defense, which ranked 3rd against the run, was also underwhelming. With Vegas running an option read similar to Wake Forest, they ran for 129 yards and two touchdowns.
Busted coverages in the bump-and-run-man defense resulted in a couple of touchdowns, and it never felt like they challenged Perez. Discipline continues to be an issue, Stansley Maponga’s questionable roughing the passer call on a third down gave Vegas a second chance that they took full advantage of. This defense has had several good moments this year, just not any in this game.
The final two minutes
The number of coaching miscues in the final two minutes of this game was truly astonishing. Cody Latimer scores on a 45-yard reception with one minute 12 left. Orlando has to go for three and fails on the attempt. Orlando elects for the onside conversion, where Vegas gets the ball on a Dormady sack. This is mistake number one.
Vegas gets the ball with a first down and a chance to run almost all the time off and kick a field goal to seal the game. On second and 10, with Orlando only having one timeout, Vegas throws an incomplete pass. This is mistake number 2. Running the ball here would have forced Orlando to use their second timeout, essentially ending the game.
But wait, there’s more
Orlando forces a 4th and 6, where Vegas opts for the field goal. An offside penalty allows for a 4th and one and mistake number three. Rod Woodson opts to take 3 points off the board, which would have forced Orlando to score a touchdown. He decides to go for it on 4th and one and throws an incomplete pass for mistake number 4. In a game where Vegas was averaging 4 yards a carry, not running the ball here is absolutely astonishing.
Orlando now has the ball back with 44 seconds left, only needing a field goal to send it into overtime. A sack on the first down exposes mistake number 5. Not having multiple plays called in a two-minute situation, it takes Orlando almost 20 seconds to run another play. In the confusion, with 19 seconds left, an offensive lineman false starts, forcing a ten-second run-off. Now with 6 seconds left, the clock running, and needing 99 yards, Orlando false starts again and the game is over. The final two minutes were a stark reminder of why both of these teams have only managed one win on the season.
There was a lot to like about this game. The offense has come leaps and bounds with Dormady at the helm. The wide receiver group is starting to show the potential we were so excited about at the end of the season. While Orlando could not pull off the win, this is the type of game they can build on, and hopefully make some noise before the season is out. However, it doesn’t get any easier from here. Saturday, they host the Seattle Sea Dragons, arguably the second-best team in the league(1 pm, ABC and ESPN+).