Seattle is accustomed to seeing defense played at the highest level, and it looks like their newest professional football team is trying to capitalize on that side of the ball as well.
The Seattle Dragons overcame a slow start to down the Tampa Bay Vipers 17-9 in front of 29,172 fans who piled into CenturyLink Field. Timely turnovers aided the Dragons in their quest to find their first victory of the season.
Seattle's defense got to work early, picking off a Viper QB Taylor Cornelius' pass down the middle. That was the start for a long day for the Vipers lining up under center in Northwest Washington Saturday afternoon.
The sluggish start that slogged the Vipers trickled over to the Dragon sideline, as big plays were hard to come by early in the first half, and a missed field goal sucked the energy out of the faithful that filled the stadium. Tampa Bay started to pick up steam, executing a time- consuming drive at the end of the second quarter that rewarded them with three points. The Vipers took the lead into halftime with that same score, 3-0.
After a 63-yard kickoff return by John Santiago to put Seattle in Tampa Bay territory, the momentum finally appeared to be shifting to the blue and orange. Brandon Silvers led them down near the red zone and had the Dragon offense set up to push the lead in their favor.
Tarvarus McFadden had other plans. Undercutting and profiting off a tipped pass, McFadden scooped up the ball and took it all the end to the endzone to put the Vipers up 9-0. The electrifying play gave life to a dwindling game.
Brandon Silvers shot back immediately. Silvers dropped back and found Keenan Reynolds streaking down the middle for a 68-yard score and brought the Dragon bench back to life. Minutes later, with the Vipers backed up at their own endzone, Seattle defensive lineman Marcell Frazier intercepted a Viper pass and landed straight into the endzone for a quirky pick-six that left everyone wondering what they had just seen. Interviewed on the sideline directly after the play, Frazier said that, "I seen it and he was just dropping right into me. He threw it low and I just jumped up."
Leading 14-9 heading into the fourth, the Vipers knew that plays had to be made. They started the fourth quarter hot and marched all the way to the one-yard line of the Dragons. Knocking on the door and being shut out on three straight attempts, the Vipers lined up for a 20-yard attempt that saw the holder bobble the snap and be taken to the ground without a whimper.
Taking over at their own one-yard line after the Dragons mounted a drive that completely flipped the field, the Vipers showed they still had life. Driving all the way to midfield, they found themselves in a 4th & 8. Dropping back, no receivers got open and the pocket collapsed on Cornelius and nearly ended all hope for a Viper comeback. Seattle chipped in a 27-yard field goal to push the score to 17-9.
Because of new XFL rules that allow for clock stoppage, the Vipers had enough time to attempt to mount a comeback, and Tampa Bay found themselves at the Seattle 17 with 8 seconds left. Cornelius fired a pass to Dan Williams, who caught the ball with four seconds remaining on the clock. Yellow flags flied, and the referees determined that Williams had pushed off to get open, and the Vipers failed to convert on the next play, ending the game for Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay needs some life. The Vipers have scored 12 points over two games so far this XFL Season. Marc Trestman, the offensive wizard hired to transform the Chicago Bears back in 2013, has not found any of that same success which earned him that moniker in the CFL. Granted, Aaron Murray has been sidelined for the Vipers and Taylor Cornelius and Quinton Flowers have proven that they are not fit for the job. The blame does fall on Trestman, the roster builder for Tampa Bay, and his inability to find a groove so far. Trestman said after the game that “Offensively, we just haven’t found ourselves. We haven’t had the play at quarterback that we need, and we’re still working through that. And we need to find a way to score.”
29,172 is nothing to scoff at. The XFL again turned in a record-setting performance, this time in Seattle. The nearly 30,000 that packed into CenturyLink Field provided a great visual for fans and plenty of shots to choose from. Seattle Dragons Head Coach Jim Zorn said, “I couldn’t be more excited for our players because most of all players have never experienced the support like that stadium can give them. They saw how the fans create the atmosphere and in that creation, they felt at home as well.” One problem that does emerge: Because they do not sell out big venues just yet, there are notable gaps in stadiums, like the Hawk’s Nest or upper decks in some stadiums. This will always be a problem, but something that can be corrected.
Zorn and the Dragons aren’t cellar-dwellers. At the hands of defeat against D.C. last week, I wasn’t so sure how the Dragons were going to match up against the rest of the league. The first half nearly validated my first impression, but they came to life and have a significant home-field advantage in Seattle. If Seattle supports this budding franchise like they do the rest of the professional sports that call the Pacific Northwest home, the Dragons will tough matchup at home.
Seattle (2-0) will stay at home, hosting the Dallas Renegades (1-1). Tampa Bay (0-2) will finally host a game at Raymond James Stadium, hoping to change their fortunes against the incredibly hot Houston Roughnecks.
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