Last week during Film Room we highlighted the issues during the Vipers 17-9 loss to the Seattle Dragons. A game in which Tampa Bay committed too many mistakes to win, and still had to opportunity to win tie the game late. This week, despite dropping their third in a row with a 34-27 loss to the Houston Roughnecks, the Vipers showed legitimate signs of life on offense.
The signs of life came by way of three offensive touchdowns. The only downside to the three offensive touchdown was allowing four touchdowns on defense. And while the Roughnecks have the most potent offensive attack in the league, there were specific situations where receivers had far too much space to be open and make big plays.
On Saturday, there were a couple of big plays that stand out, both positive and negative. Those plays certainly had an impact on the final score.
Here are the plays:
The Worst Blown Coverage…Ever
The camera angle isn’t the best to see exactly what happens in the secondary on this play. Phillips is the recipient of this pass, he’s lined up in the slot closest to the bottom of the screen. He runs a normal route about eight yards out, then stutters and makes a double move. In that time, he completely shakes the defender and gets about 20-yards of space and has one of the easiest touchdowns of his life.
It was the only horribly blown coverage of the day for Tampa, but it came early. The team showed a lot of fight to get back into the game and make it competitive.
This play is vintage Quinton Flowers. Back to the University of South Florida days. Insane athleticism, the play is never over, and the unique ability to improvise under immense pressure.
The offensive line doesn’t do a terrible job at blocking, however it appears an interior lineman is hurt on the play, so his man is freed. Flowers starts the play in the shotgun, five yards behind the line of scrimmage, and by the time Flowers releases the ball, he’s 15-yards behind the line. At that point, the play had disaster all over it, but Flowers works his magic and points De’Veon Smith downfield. He lofts a ball downfield that nine times out of ten gets picked off, but it ends up in Smith’s hands. A beautiful catch, and an even better job holding on to the catch through the vicious hit that tacked on more yards.
This play is also extremely controversial depending on which side you root for. When it starts, it looks as if the Vipers have a chance to bring down PJ Walker in the end zone for a safety, then Walker gets slippery and breaks out through the line. At that point, Walker has 10-15 yards of space ahead of him to run, easily gaining the first down and more.
Once Walker is met by several Vipers defenders around the 30-yard line, he cuts back to the middle of the field and begins to lose his balance. He goes to the ground and isn’t touched.
If you know the XFL rules, this is where your ears perk up. If a runner goes to the ground untouched, he can get up and continue the play. Exactly.
Walker shoots back up and spins the ball on the ground in celebration of his massive gain on 3rd & 6 where he looked doomed in his own end zone. But he wasn’t touched, and he put the ball on the field. By XFL rule, he fumbled the ball in that moment and it was picked up and ran back into the end zone by the Tampa.
In the moment it looked the Vipers had a legitimate argument at that being ruled a fumble and a defensive touchdown. But upon review, the officials determined Walker gave himself up as he lost his balance and fell to the ground.
That played carried a lot of momentum for both sides, it was half way through the third quarter and the Vipers were trailing by eight. A stop on 3rd & 6 would’ve brought incredible field position. A defensive touchdown would’ve made it at minimum a two-point game. The official ruling had a huge impact on the game, but wasn’t the deciding factor.
All-in-all, the Vipers showed signs of potential on offense, and showed certain weaknesses on defense that can be dealt with over time. They face another tough task Sunday when they host the DC Defenders who are coming off an embarrassing defeat in Los Angeles and will certainly be fired up to score some points.
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