The Vipers dropped another one on the road to start the year 0-2. The 17-9 loss to the Seattle Dragons appears more competitive than week one, but the Vipers did what they could in a game in which they were without their QB1.
Not the ideal start for Head Coach Marc Trestman and company, but there were plenty of takeaways both positive and negative for Tampa Bay in week two.
4 Ups, 4 Downs is a weekly nonpartisan column that highlights positive and negative takeaways no matter the final score. In losing efforts, it’ll point out players who weren’t on their game, or areas of the game where the team wasn’t up to snuff. During wins, it’ll prop up individual performances that played a factor in the final score, and highlight focal points of the team’s success.
1: Net Yards
For the second consecutive week, the Tampa Bay Vipers out-gained their opponents on offense. Credit that to whichever side of the ball you’d like, but that shows that while the offense isn’t finishing drives, they’re getting close.
As the offense continues to work together and builds chemistry the touchdowns will come around. Hopefully, it doesn’t arrive too late as their 0-2 record shows it will be an uphill battle if the team has postseason aspirations.
2: Play Selection
Through two weeks, the Vipers have been as close to a 50/50 run or pass offense as it gets. Yesterday against the Dragons they ran it on 32 plays and threw it on 34 of them.
Those types of numbers show that the offense is working. It’s keeping opposing defenses off balance and second guessing themselves. And while the split of yards isn’t usually close to 50/50, it was on Saturday. The team gained 141 yards on the ground and 148 through the air.
The run game has been an extremely viable option for the Vipers through two weeks, which is more than what most teams in the league can say through two weeks. It’s a positive sign that the Vipers two big backs in De’Veon Smith and Jacques Patrick are only going to get better as the season progresses.
3: Spreading The Ball Around
It was probably expected that the XFL would showcase teams with a decent quarterback and ONE really good receiving option. That WR would be able to win his matchups and put up crooked numbers all season long no matter the final score. That hasn’t been the case for Tampa Bay.
On Saturday, NINE Vipers caught passes. Only nine were targeted, that’s perhaps a bigger positive in itself. The outlier check down play to an RB2 isn’t ending in a drop, which will not only make game planning for the Vipers offense more difficult down the road, but be a strength for the offense once they get better quarterback play.
4: Secondary Play
Last week we highlighted Anthoula Kelly’s game, this week, the entire secondary gets the helmet sticker. Kelly, Micah Hannemann, Corey Moore and Tarvarus McFadden all swatted passes yesterday. Both Hannemann and McFadden had multiple. But the play of the day on defense resulted in the organization’s first ever touchdown. McFadden found himself in position to catch a ball, and it turned into a 78-yard pick-six. Expect a breakdown of this exact play in Film Room this week.
1: Offensive Line Play
For the second consecutive week the Vipers offensive line has dropped the ball on providing quarterbacks with ample time to make plays. Last week, the line allowed five sacks and eight QB hits. This week, four sacks and three QB hits.
While it’s trending in the right direction, and Aaron Murray’s week one performance did not aide the line’s stats, I’d still consider the lines play a negative. Even on successful passing downs on Saturday Taylor Cornelius was finding himself under pressure. And if the Vipers didn’t have a QB like Quinton Flowers who can always find a way to extend the play, those statistics could’ve been much worse.
When you're an offensive lineman, you never want to find yourself completely free then turn around and see your quarterback get hit the way Daronte Bouldin (76) does here.— XFLNewsHub (@XFLNewsHub) February 15, 2020
It doesn't always go over well in the film room.#XFLfootball (@XFLonFOX)pic.twitter.com/7DeQUeULPs
2: Red Zone Efficiency
Long story short, the Vipers have yet to convert on a red zone chance this season. They went 0 for 3 on Saturday, and 0 for 4 last weekend. This is perhaps the team’s biggest issue.
The inability to finish drives has been the main reason why the Vipers are 0-2. Like our “first up” today, the Vipers have outgained both teams they’ve played to start the year. It comes down to the red zone, and as long as the Vipers can’t score an offensive touchdown, their woes will continue.
3: Being On The Wrong Side Of Lucky Plays
Ten-times out of ten this ball is batted down at the line of scrimmage. In the Vipers case on Saturday, it was pulled down for an interception as the defensive end fell across the goal line for a touchdown.
One of the shortest, most unlucky pick-sixes you will ever see. It was the only interception thrown by Flowers yesterday, but was one of three on the day for the Vipers offense.
4: The Quarterback Situation
Cornelius did not have a good showing Saturday. On back-to-back weeks the Vipers starting quarterback has turned in underwhelming performances and left fans calling for Flowers.
Cornelius’ stat line reads 16 of 27 (59%) for 154 yards and 2 interceptions. Keep in mind that on the game’s final drive Cornelius added 59 yards to his numbers. More than a third of Cornelius’ passing yards came in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, a drive that resulted in a game-sealing interception for Seattle.
The Biggest Takeaway
The biggest takeaway for the Vipers in week two is something that the fans aren’t going to want to hear. Cornelius’ performance had more of an impact on the team’s quarterback situation than anything Flowers could’ve done yesterday. Trestman has and will continue to lean heavily on Flowers in this offense to run a read option married with a passing scheme stemming from play action.
The biggest takeaway is that the injured Murray gained the most from Saturday’s loss. He is the undisputed QB1 of the Vipers heading into their home opener in week three. Expect the announcement to be early from the team as well. There is no fretting of team’s about Cornelius after his showing Saturday. This team will ride with Murray through highs and lows for the rest of the season, that’s something definite.
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