The Arlington Renegades lost their three-point lead in the second half as they fell to the Houston Roughnecks 23-14 in Houston Sunday.
It was a game that started off rough for Arlington after quarterback Drew Plitt threw an interception on the first play of the game. The Renegades found themselves down 11-0 in the second quarter before Roughnecks cornerback/punt returner Will Likely fumbled twice leading to two Plitt touchdown passes to take a 14-11 lead at the half.
Arlington could not do much of anything in the second half, only totaling eight yards of offense and zero points on the board. Plitt threw another interception and fumbled in the second half that put the Renegades’ defense in a bad position. The Renegades’ defense held strong only allowing 242 yards, but two second-half touchdowns for Houston doomed Arlington as they fell 23-14.
With their record now sitting at 1-1 on the season, the Renegades have a lot of work to do on their team. There are some good things the team was able to take away from the loss, especially on defense. Their biggest questions come from the offense that was held to 125 yards total for the game. It’ll be a lot of work for the coaching staff, but this team isn’t far off from being one of the top teams in the XFL.
Top Takeaways from Renegades Performance
Renegades’ Offense Looked Stale and Bland
There’s no sugarcoating the performance of the offense as they did not play well in their loss to the Houston Roughnecks. If there are any positives to the game, they would have to come from their receiver Lujuan Winningham who made more plays on special teams than offense. He did have a nice four-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter that was set up by his one of two forced fumbles on special teams.
Outside of that, there isn’t much positive to say about the offense. The offensive line got beat up pretty well by Houston as Plitt was sacked five times and hurried on most of the pass plays. Even with the struggles of the pass protection, the run blocking wasn’t much better either as the team ran for 43 yards on 19 carries averaging 2.2 yards per carry.
Not all the blame can be put on the offensive line though as Plitt hit a roadblock in his young season completing just 50 percent of his passes. He missed on a lot of throws and he ended the game with zero completions of passes thrown ten yards or more down the field. Both of his interceptions were passes ten yards or more. Not to mention he also took too long throwing the football as he has to throw the ball quicker especially with how good the Roughnecks’ defensive line is. With no protection, no rhythm, and no momentum throughout the game, Plitt struggled mightily and will need a bounce-back game in week three.
Arlington’s running game was basically non-existent throughout the game as they ran for 43 total yards. Plitt had the longest run of the game with 12 yards, but that was the only run over ten yards. The leading rusher for the game was De’Veon Smith with 16 yards on seven carries. It continues to be a problem as without an established, consistent running game, the offense will never be able to succeed.
This section concludes with the playcalling of co-offensive coordinator Jon Hayes and the lack of imagination behind it. When offenses struggle, coaches try to come up with gadget plays or change up the play calling to catch the defense off-balanced. Coach Hayes never really got out of his comfort zone with runs up the middle and short-yard passes. Granted, the skill players and quarterback play had a lot to do with it, but in a divisional game where every game counts, being more aggressive isn’t a bad route to take.
Defense Held Their Own
Houston went into week two as one of the best offenses in the league thanks in part to their passing attack that has worked so well for him. The secondary did their job well as Houston completed less than 50 percent of their passes, allowing 165 total passing yards, and forcing a fumble by Josh Hawkins. Safety Will Hill deserves a lot of credit as he was sent on the blitz multiple times stopping the ball carrier as well as pressuring Silvers.
Donald Payne was another standout with seven tackles in the game as he was able to help stop the run by Houston. The Renegades allowed 2.7 yards per carry in the game. The front seven did a good job stopping the run but did struggle when Cole McDonald was in the game at quarterback. McDonald was able to get an 18-yard run himself and created some confusion on who to go after for Arlington.
There we played throughout where the defense struggled but overall played well. They were put in bad positions in the second half and were left on the field for long periods of time. Under the circumstances, 23 points and under 300 yards allowed with three turnovers is a massive win for the defense.
Special Teams Kept Arlington in The Game
The special teams quickly had a great performance overall as a unit. Kicker Taylor Russolino missed a 55-yard field goal before the half, but that was a long field goal that can be forgiven as it is his first miss of the season. Besides that, not much negative to speak about with the special teams as the stars of the game came from the punt team.
Marquette King had a big bounce-back game after averaging under 40 yards a punt in week one. King got it turned around by averaging 46.3 yards per punt Sunday night putting up one of the best performances from a punter all season. He was kept busy with seven punts but boomed all of them down the field with 54 being his longest kick.
The punt coverage was exceptional throughout the night outside of a 41-yard punt return by Will Likely in the first quarter. Arlington bounced back with Winningham forcing two fumbles on punts which both led to touchdown drives for the Renegades. Without those two plays, this game would have been much uglier than the final score showed.
There are positives to take with this game as many in the league should consider the Renegades to be one of the best defenses in the XFL after their performance. The offense needs a lot of work, but it is early in the regular season so a lot can change over the next few weeks to improve. Coach Bob Stoops went through similar issues with the Renegades three years ago and was able to turn around the offense.
Arlington will be heading back home Sunday for a divisional matchup against the 0-2 Orlando Guardians. With the Guardians’ defense allowing over 30 points a game and the offense scoring just 24 points through two games, it’s the perfect game for the Renegades to fix their woes and get back on track. The Renegades are still a good enough team to still be considered contenders for a playoff spot.
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