Video Credit: XFL/ESPN


FSM Essential Recap: Vipers vs Defenders – XFL Week 4

Vegas Vipers (0-3) | D.C. Defenders (3-0)

Franchise Sports Media


The Vegas Vipers traveled to D.C. looking for their first win of the year. The Fang Gang saw the Vipers lose to the Defenders 32-18.

The Vipers vs Defenders played a Week 4 game in Washington, D.C. 

Vipers vs Defenders D.C. Defenders
Photo Credit: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Las Vegas traveled to Audi Field in Washington, D.C., searching for their first win of the year as they took on the Defenders. Two weeks ago, the Defenders came into a wet, sloppy Cashman Field and beat the Vipers 18-6. Brett Hundley got the start for the second straight week after having an impressive showing against the Seattle Sea Dragons, where he went 13/28, 224 yards, and 2 TDs. Would he be able to repeat that performance?

Could the Vipers find an answer for the Defenders‘ RPO offense, which gave them fits a couple of weeks ago? The defense hasn’t been the same since that loss and is looking to rebound after a sub-par perforce last week. They would need to step up to try to leave the nation’s capital with a win.

The Defenders came into the game undefeated (3-0) and have a two-head monster at quarterback with Jordan Ta’amu and D’Eriq King. Ta’amu completed 11 of 20 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown last week against the St. Louis Battlehawks. The Defenders‘ defense has been “bend, don’t break” all season. Last week they forced four turnovers, including a Michael Joseph 41-yard interception return. Those takeaways helped overcome three lost fumbles by the offense (two by Armstead).

The Vipers were without the following players for this week’s game:

DB – Mister Harriel (#1)

QB – Jalan McClendon (#3)

WR – Geronimo Allison (#19)

DB – Joshua Allen (#29)

OL – Rod Taylor (#73)

OL – Jovann Letuli (#75)

It was time for the Vipers vs Defenders to kick off.

First Half

In the first half, the Vipers and Defenders once again let their defense control the game. 

Vipers vs Defenders Martavious Bryant
Photo Credit: Sam Hodde/Getty Images

In the opening series, Vegas quarterback Brett Hundley couldn’t hang on to the low snap, and he fumbled it with D.C. recovering. The Defenders recovered and wasted no time in taking advantage of the turnover. D’Eriq King easily ran into the end zone for a Defenders touchdown. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, making the opening score 6-0, Defenders.

On their next possession, Brett Hundley put together a decent drive. However, Vegas had to settle for a Bailey Giffen field goal attempt which he missed wide right. On the next D.C. possession, Matt McCrane attempted a 47-yard field goal and missed, keeping the score 6-0 for D.C.

The Vipers made the switch at QB early in the first quarter, replacing Hundley with former starter Luis Perez. The new Vipers signal caller completed his first pass attempt to Jeff Badet for a 21-yard gain. On the next play, he handed the ball off to John Lovett for a 17-yard run. But Vegas’ drive stalled, and they settled for a Giffen 37-yard field goal attempt, which he made.

At the end of the first quarter, the score was 6-3 D.C. Defenders.

Jordan Ta’amu drove the ball from his own 28. After completing a 19-yard pass to Lucky Jackson which moved the chains, he then hit on an 11-yard pass to Ellis for another first down. Ta’amu picked up another first down with his legs, then completed a 17-yard pass to Chris Blair, putting the ball on the Vegas 3-yard line. D’Eriq King entered the game but was sacked for a 5-yard loss. Two plays later, King ran the ball into the end zone for a D.C. touchdown, his second touchdown of the day.

The two-point conversion pass to Chris Blair was good, making the score 14-3 for the Defenders.

Vegas continued with Perez as quarterback as he connected once again with Badet for a 14-yard gain. On 4th and 1, Perez handed to DeAndre Torrey for a 6-yard run and a Vipers first down. After a 12-yard pass to Mathew Sexton moved the chains again, Perez and the Vipers offense stalled. Vegas settled for another Giffen 33-yard field goal to make the score 14-6 for the Defenders.

D.C. took the ball on their own 29-yard line, and Ta’amu went three and out. Vegas returned the Defenders punt to their own 28. Vegas stayed with Perez, and he handed the ball to Lovett for a 7-yard rush. The Vipers handed off to Badet on a reverse, which he fumbled, and recovered for a 5-yard loss.

At the two-minute warning, Vegas was facing a 3rd and eight on their own 30-yard line.

VegasLovett caught an 11-yard pass and then ran for 3 yards to pick up the 1st down on the next play.  A 24-yard pass to Brandon Dillon put the Vipers on the D.C. 16-yard line. After a 16-yard pass to Martavis Bryant, Perez completed a short pass to Badet, but flags flew. The penalty was against D.C., and Perez had a first-and-goal situation. Not he next play, Perez rushed the ball 5 yards for the apparent touchdown, but the command center reviewed the play and ruled Perez was down on the half-yard line.

After the 10-second runoff was applied, and the Vipers had run out of time in the first half. Vipers head coach Rod Woodson was incensed as the teams ran off the field, and the Defenders had a 14-6 lead over the Vipers.

Could the Vipers come back and catch the Defenders in the second half?

Second Half

Who would win the second half in the Vipers vs Defenders game?

Vipers vs Defenders Rod Woodson
Photo Credit: Sam Hodde/Getty Images

The Defenders took the kickoff in the second half, but the ball was fumbled on the return, and Vegas took over on the D.C. 17-yard line. Unfortunately, Vegas could not move the ball and turned the ball over on 4th down. Ta’amu responded with a 49-yard quarterback keeper to the Vegas 33-yard line on the first play.

On 4th and 1, Abram Smith rushed 5 yards to move the chains. On first and goal from the Vegas 6-yard line, King rushed for a 1-yard gain, followed by  Ryquell Armstead picking up 3 yards. But on 3rd down, King was stuffed for no gain, and the Defenders settled for a Matt McCrane 20-yard field goal to make the score 17-6 for D.C.

Vegas took the ball on their own 15-yard line and could not move the ball. They did get screwed, a confirmed defensive pass interference (by Dean Blandino on TV) that was not called or challenged. The Vipers punted, and D.C.’s Ezzard returned the ball to the D.C. 40.

Ta’amu then connected with Chris Blair for a 38-yard pass. On 4th and 5, D.C. settled for a 35-yard McCrane field goal. The Vipers took the kickoff to their own 26-yard line. A 15-yard pass to Badet was followed by a 6-yard pass to Mathew Sexton. After another pass to Badet, the Vipers took the ball to the D.C. 40.

Luis Perez then connected with Cinque Sweeting for a 26-yard touchdown. The 2-point conversion was no good, but Vegas had closed D.C.’s lead to 20-12.

Ta’amu and the Defenders’ offense took over on their 21-yard line. A holding penalty sent them backward; then, Ta’amu was stripped of the ball, but Vegas could not recover it (but it wouldn’t have mattered since there was a penalty on the Vipers). Ta’amu got out of trouble by completing a 16-yard pass to Chris Blair for a first down, and on 3rd and short, Ta’amu rushed 7 yards to move the chains again.

A Vegas unnecessary roughness penalty took the ball to the Vegas 34-yard line. On the next play, Armstead rushed for a 12-yard gain to the Vegas 9-yard line. On 3rd and 10, Smith was stopped short, and D.C. settled for another McCrane 26-yard field goal to increase their lead to 23-12.

Sweeting returned the ensuing kickoff to the Vegas 30. A couple of plays later, the pass down the field intended for Sweeting was intercepted by Ramirez after Sweeting slipped on the field.

With about 5 minutes remaining, D.C. tried to kill the clock by running the ball. Smith ran for one first down but was unsuccessful on 3rd down attempt. On 4th and two on the Vegas 32, King passed 32 yards to Jequez Ezzard for the TD. The 2-point conversion attempt was incomplete, making the score 29-12 for D.C.

Vegas had another chance to score. Before the 2-minute warning, Perez passed to Sweeting in the end zone, but the ball was tipped. Sweeting caught it anyway, but his toes were out of bounds. After the two-minute warning, Perez went back to Sweeting for a 25-yard touchdown. On the 3-point conversion attempt, the Defenders were called for an offsides penalty. However, the next attempt failed. The score was now 29-18 for D.C.

With 1:55 on the clock, the Vipers opted for a 4th and 15 attempt instead of an onside kick. Perez was sacked, giving D.C. the ball. Vegas still had two time-outs as D.C. again attempted to run out the clock. Penalties slowed down the drive. With 47 seconds remaining, D.C. increased their score after a McCrane 23-yard field goal.

The final score was D.C. Defenders 32, Vegas Vipers 18.

Perez finished with 283 yards on 23 attempts with two touchdowns and one interception. It was unclear if the thigh injury Hundley suffered last week affected his play, but he looked tentative during the limited times he had the ball in his hands. As a team, the Vipers rushed for 70 yards. John Lovett had seven carries for 39 yards. Jeff Badet led receivers with seven catches for 80 yards on nine targets. Cinque Sweeting had three catches for 65 yards on six targets and two touchdowns.

The Vipers fell to the Defenders 32-18 in their Week 4 regular season match-up.


Some issues are starting to show their faces for the Vipers.

The Vipers are obviously frustrated with their start to the season. That frustration spilled over in the game with countless penalties that cost them this game. Even Vipers head coach Rod Woodson lost his cool when Perez looked to have scored with 5 seconds left in the first half, only to have the command center overturn it and send the game to halftime.

The Vipers have to learn to put teams away. They have been outscored 77-35 in the second halves of games by their opponents. This isn’t all on the defense. The offense has also let them down, but for a team whose identity is supposed to be built on a tough, physical defense, Vegas needs to learn to live by their mantra


What we learned in the Vipers vs Defenders game was the Vipers’ defense could only do so much, and the Vipers needed to settle in on a quarterback.

The Vegas Vipers will be back in action next Saturday when they take on the Orlando Guardians at Cashman Field. Kick-off is at 7 p.m. and can be seen on FX. For tickets, tap here.



-Joe Arrigo – Franchise Sports Media

Follow Joe on Twitter & Instagram at @JoeArrigoFSM

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