Another rough go of it for the Tampa Bay Vipers as they dropped their week five matchup with the Los Angeles Wildcats 41-34. It almost looked the Vipers were going to run away with things early, but they just couldn’t contain Wildcats QB Josh Johnson who went off with four passing touchdowns.
Early Momentum, No Cross Country Slow Start
The Vipers hopped out to an early lead on Sunday. It almost seemed like they had the game in hand at the start of the second quarter and scoring a touchdown a minute in. Everything was going Tampa’s way and they enjoyed a 17-point lead on the Wildcats for almost 20 minutes of Sunday’s shootout.
1st Half Offense
The offense was clicking on Sunday. In the first half, both the run and pass was working for offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo. Quarterback Taylor Cornelius looked nearly flawless in the first half, he was making good throws and not rushing the play. He was making the right calls at the line of scrimmage and identifying coverages. Both De’Veon Smith and Jacques Patrick were getting good yards when running between the tackles. All very positive signs for Tampa Bay.
Protecting the QB
The offensive line was once again the star of the show. The interior of the line has been one of the best units in the XFL. RG Andrew Tiller, C Jordan McCray and LG Jerald Foster have been the driving forces behind opening up the run game and keeping a clean pocket for Cornelius. If we were giving out midseason MVP awards for a 1-4 team, the offensive line group would be my front-runner.
Getting (and Staying) Healthy
Over the last couple of weeks the Vipers got back players like Tiller on the line, Obum Gwacham at defensive end and now tight end Nick Truesdell. All providing boosts in their own right to the team’s play. Despite what you may think, the Eastern division is wide open. There is a three way tie for 1st place at 3-2 only the Vipers are 1-4. With games against each team in their division left, there’s lots of room to move up.
Elizondo Took His Foot Off The Gas
I’m not sure who made the decision to go conservative with play calling, but it was the wrong decision. It was the reason why the Vipers lost on Sunday, and when you’re 1-3 there’s no point in ever taking your foot of the gas. It was one of the worst decisions Tampa Bay’s coaching staff has made all season. In reality, they had the chance to move to 2-3, just one game out of 1st place, but their change in mindset put it further out of reach. Bad, bad job.
Injury To Patrick
When running back Jacques Patrick came up limp with an injury during Sunday’s contest the run game took a hit. Patrick had already gotten in the end zone with a touchdown and took a PAT conversion into the end zone as well and was on pace to have another impressive game. It looked as if Patrick’s knee was rolled up on, an injury that doesn’t look like it was severe enough to land him on injured reserve, but maybe sit out the first half of practice this week and be somewhat limited in week six. But you never know, if this worse than it looked the Vipers could be out one of their best weapons on offense.
Burned By Josh Johnson
Once Wildcats’ QB Josh Johnson got rolling on Sunday he was unstoppable. He made all sorts of throws Sunday, and while some were just plain good, others were some shoddy defense. The Vipers’ secondary made Josh Johnson look like the best QB in the XFL Sunday.
In the fourth quarter when the Vipers had to try and make plays to stay in the game, Cornelius started giving away the ball left, right and center. Cornelius started the fourth quarter with an interception to a defensive lineman, which a few plays later turned into a TD pass from Johnson. Then later in the fourth, Cornelius was sacked and put the ball on the ground, which resulted in a scoop and score for LA. The two turnovers that lead to points put the game too far out of reach.
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