Week 7 of the XFL pretty much went down exactly like everyone thought it would. The Seattle Sea Dragons took care of the struggling renegades. The BattleHawks downed an injury-ridden Houston Roughneck squad. Vegas looked to be the only real surprise as they beat the Brahmas by two touchdowns. Finally, The DC defenders did what everyone would expect against the only winless team in the league. Or so we thought.
When I saw the score in the 2nd quarter, at first I thought it was an April fool’s joke. As I continued to watch, I realized that we could win this. As a 63-yard field goal fell short, the Orlando Guardians got their first win,37-36, against the formerly undefeated defenders. How did we get here? How were we all so wrong about this game? We have a lot to talk about in this week’s version of the good the bad and the ugly.
Before I get any further into this, just know if this column had an amazing category, this performance would be in it. 3 starts into his XFL career, which almost didn’t get started, he appears to be in the conversation for the best quarterback in this league. Saturday, against an opportunistic defense, Dormady threw for 328 yards on 27 of 34 passing. He added another 30 on the ground. Neither of these though is what earned him player of the week.
He scored an XFL record 6 touchdowns in this game, 3 passing and 3 rushing. Among many highlights was his 31-yard pass to Charleston Rambo to convert 3rd and 19, and a 44-yard touchdown pass to Cody Latimer. New to the team players K.D. Cannon and Jordan Thomas had a touchdown each on 41 and 15-yard passes respectively. The impact on the team from making Dormady the starting quarterback cannot be understated.
I was running out of good adjectives to describe how good Cody Latimer has been this season. It’s time to add another one, the league leader. With his 7 catches for 93 yards, he passes Jahcor Pearson for most receiving yards in the league. Whether it was Paxton Lynch or Dormady, Latimer has been a quarterback’s best friend. His 44-yard touchdown on a crossing route was a thing of beauty. Week in and week out, Latimer is just a force to be reckoned with.
KD Cannon and Jordan Thomas
KD Cannon and Jordan Thomas, both newcomers signed this past week, had a tremendous impact on this game. Cannon’s only catch was a 41-yard touchdown reception, where he burnt Michael Joseph on a go route. Jordan Thomas’s touchdown was just as impressive. In the 3rd Quarter, Thomas jumps up and makes a beautiful catch over a defender down the sideline to take the lead. For both of these guys to come in on short notice and have that kind of impact on a game is nothing short of outstanding. I look forward to seeing what the rest of the season has in store for these two.
On the heels of Orlando running for 162 against Seattle, I was very excited to see what could be done on the ground against DC. Orlando was only able to run for 92 yards on 31 carries. DC’s defensive line proved very hard to block, blowing up many run plays in the backfield. Orlando’s leading rusher, Jah- Maine Martin, only managed 54 yards, half of which came on a 19-yard run. For Oralndo’s rushing attack to truly take advantage of our talented backfield, we have to win the battle upfront.
There is no other way to say it, the defense in this game was straight bad. It wasn’t completely unexpected against one of the league’s better offenses, but it left a lot to be desired. Orlando’s normally stingy rush defense allowed almost 200 rushing yards, and 500 yards total. There were times when Abram Smith looked completely unstoppable, rushing for 127 and a touchdown. Jordan Ta’amu seemed to have passing lanes wherever he needed them, throwing for 285 yards and three touchdowns.
Bad Tackling was also prevalent throughout, none more noticeable than Chris Blairs XFL long 86-yard touchdown reception. In the play, he beats his corner to the spot and breaks two tackles en route to the end zone. D’eriq King also got in on the scoring action with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Briley Mckinney. We knew that DC offense was going to test our defense, but you would have loved a couple more stops.
Miscues and mistakes
Orlando played their best game of the year. That said, there are still several issues that need to be cleaned up. Orlando only had 6 penalties this game, but two of them came with 6 minutes left and with Orlando nursing a lead. A pass to Dan Williams that should have resulted in a first down instead ended in a fumble giving DC second life. At this point with only 3 minutes left, Every Orlando fan was thinking here we go again. In the last two weeks, Orlando has been in both games but has been unable to finish.
A few plays later, when DC looked like they were going to take the lead, Stansley Maponga forces an Abram Smith fumble and Gerald Willis recovers. This allowed Orlando to bleed the clock before giving it back with 30 seconds left. While we were able to overcome the mistakes in this game, in part due to DC’s uncharacteristically sloppy play, coaching still needs to address this.
It feels weird to say this, but Orlando’s season may not be over in 3 weeks. Hear me out. Orlando has games against Arlington and San Antonio before traveling to St. Louis for the season finale. Arlington and San Antonio have both struggled greatly in the past few weeks, with games against DC and Houston left for both. If Orlando continues to play the way they have been, Arlington and San Antonio losing out could be very real. However, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, A game against division foe Arlington needs to be handled.