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XFL’s Playoff Race Heats Up with Overtime Thrillers and Unexpected Heroes, XFL Week 8 Takeaways

As the regular season winds down for the XFL, opportunities still remain for a number of players looking to make an impression. Trades, late signings, injuries and promotions even in a shortened season make all the difference in a tight playoff race and for teams attempting to play spoiler. In the midst of this, history continues to be made including overtime play and the first defensive conversion attempt return ever. A combined margin of nine points separated all of the match-ups in some of the most exhilarating competition of the season.

Everyone is Working Overtime

Sam Schwartzstein was the architect XFL 2020’s playbook and rules.. Not every innovation was seen in real game action in the shortened season, one of which being the overtime rules. While they were adopted by the USFL in 2022, they had yet to be seen in an XFL match. That all changed when not one, but two games went past regulation time. In a best of three scenario teams had to attempt 2 point conversions from the five yard line. The Battlehawks converted their first two attempts while stonewalling the Vegas Vipers to secure a crucial victory.

Battlehawks or Zombies?

Even when they are missing their spiritual leader, this squad refuses to go down easily. Quarterback AJ McCarron was a late scratch on Saturday morning, leaving backup Nick Tiano to help St. Louis survive in the North division race. The performance, as per usual with the Battlehawks, was less pretty as it was gritty and determined. Tiano showcased guts as he took hits from the Vegas defense, including a John Elway-esque helicopter spin.

A fake punt on fourth down late led to a critical touchdown, arguably the call of the XFL season thus far. Despite being down for almost entire game, St. Louis tied it with a field goal from Donnie Hageman before securing a huge OT win. With Seattle’s loss, the un-dead Battlehawks move to sole possession of second play in the North division. Week 9 looms large as St. Louis can secure the final divisional playoff spot with a sweep of the Sea Dragons this Sunday.

Houston Averts Disaster

Reeling from a three game skid, the Roughnecks could not afford to drop back to .500 and in a tie with the Arlington Renegades. It took a heart-stopping overtime victory to secure a 17-15 win over the San Antonio Brahmas. In doing so the 5-3 Roughnecks have a clinched a playoff spot in the South division. Brandon Silvers had an up and down performance in his return from injury as the offense still has not found its groove post-Jontre Kirklin’s absence. While the offense failed to crack 200 total yards, the defense hunted Brahmas’ QB Jack Coan. 

The Spring King Plays Savior Again

Luis Perez has been there and done that as far as Spring football veterans go. Not only has he played for multiple Spring leagues, he has suited up for multiple teams in the same season. In 2020 he was traded from the Los Angeles Wildcats to the New York Guardians as he led the latter team to a mini-turnaround before the season was shut down.

This time around, Perez was under center for a floundering Renegades offense. In typical Perez fashion he was able to supply measured play in a tight 18-16 victory over the Orlando Guardians. Steady, consistent, and calming embody Perez as he brought desperately sought-after balance for Arlington. At 4-4 the team appears in prime position to make the playoffs, thanks in part to Perez’s stability.

Ta’amu Has Arrived

QB Jordan Ta’amu has been an absolute terror for defenses the past three weeks. Nine touchdown passes in that time culminated in arguably his best performance as a pro ever against Seattle. Despite getting banged around by the Sea Dragon front and clearly ailing from certain blows, Ta’amu gutted out 247 yards and four touchdowns through the air in a thrilling 34-33 game.

A sluggish start to the season has been obscured by the Spring football veteran’s renaissance these past few weeks. With an added aerial element now present the Defenders’ offense becomes the most lethal in the league. 

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