With the new XFL point-after-touchdown rules, almost every game from opening weekend was in hand until late in the fourth quarter. And while we haven’t seen a 3-point attempt after a touchdown through the first week of the season, the chance for a 9-point touchdown can completely swing the momentum of a game.
Entering the fourth quarter Sunday, the Vipers were only down 17-3, a two-score game for any league, but the deficit felt much bigger given the team’s inability to convert when it was most needed. Full game recap can be found here.
An early fourth-quarter fumble by Vipers tight end Nick Truesdell resulted in a Guardians scoop-in-score touchdown, Tampa Bay could easily have swung the game’s momentum in little to no time.
Sometimes, all you need is two or three plays to win a football game. That was the case Sunday for the New York Guardians.
Take out the second interception thrown by Murray, which was a poor decision throwing into double coverage. The tipped-pass coupled with a good adjustment by the safety resulted in a back-breaking pick that staggered the Vipers momentum as they marched down the field with less than a minute to play before halftime.
Those are 50/50 plays in a football game. There will be weeks Tampa Bay is on the receiving end of those lucky breaks.
Here are the plays:
Murray makes the wrong read and throws INT
The play seems broken from the start. Truesdell misses his assignment to chip on the edge rusher before going off on his route. A sign that the tight end knew the play was drawn up for him and had his mind on a touchdown catch. speed up
The missed chip resulted in a free rush on the quarterback, meaning Murray had to speed up his decision making. Let it be noted that the right tackle did not block anyone during the play until the ball was already thrown, Murray had less than three full seconds to make a read and throw the ball. defender where he was
The two routes by receivers were well covered, and De’Veon Smith only threw an elbow at the charging defender before going off on his route where he was blanketed by a linebacker.
This left Truesdell in the back of the end zone, with a linebacker on him in coverage. In most situations, this is a matchup Murray should take advantage of, but the QB didn’t throw the right type of ball for the play.
Immediately, when Murray recognizes the missed assignment and the free rush, the easy choice would be to throw the ball at your running back’s feet or out of bounds in the back of the end zone.
It was only first & goal, they had downs to play with, but Murray opted to try and make something happen with his tight end. The throw was floated up, allowing the linebacker time to adjust and get a hand on the ball, which also allowed surrounding defensive backs time to crash on the tight end. Once the ball was tipped up, the Guardians defense was in a great position to intercept, and that’s exactly what transpired.
Mekale McKay beats Shelton Lewis off the line and burns him for a 45-yard gain.
From watching the play back, McKay’s release created the space needed to get around Lewis initially, a brief hiccup in the cornerback’s turn resulted in the extra space you see McKay gain before finishing the play and laying out for the grab. The big gainer completely flipped field position. It was the memorable play of a drive that resulted in six points for New York, pushing their lead to 14-0 not even half way through the second quarter.
Colby Pearson benefits from another Lewis blunder
This was the final play of the drive headlined by the McKay 45-yard reception. Yet again Lewis finds himself taking some criticism.
To start, the Vipers corners opt to press on the line of scrimmage, making them immediately vulnerable to a good double-move. That’s exactly what Pearson delivered, tying up with Lewis before powering to the outside and finishing his route to the end zone.
Lewis immediately leans on Pearson, taking away most of his balance. So when the Guardians receiver cuts back to the outside, Lewis falls to the ground. And Matt McGloin made him pay for it by delivering one of the prettier throws of the weekend.
It’s noted that Pearson was McGloin’s first read, the QB took a quick three-step drop out of the shotgun and floated a perfect ball up that Pearson was all-alone under in the end zone.
For Tampa, perhaps a few more yards of space between corner and receiver would’ve changed the outcome of the play. Had Lewis not looked to make contact with Pearson at the line of scrimmage in an attempt to stifle his route, he wouldn’t have been as out of position to counter the double-move.
Closer than you think:
The fault on Sunday’s loss is more on the Vipers inadequate offense than on the defense. In fact, the defense impressed on third down, holding McGloin and the Guardians to 1 for 10 on third down conversions.
But some untimely penalties lead to the game’s opening score, and a big play by way of a blown coverage lead to a two-score deficit and the Vipers could not overcome it. It will be an interesting week for coach Trestman as he dives into the film from Sunday and finds out his team was very much in the ballgame despite the lopsided score. Look out for the adjustments before the team travels across-country to Seattle to take on the Dragons next week.
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