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FSM Essential Recap: Vipers vs Sea Dragons – XFL Week 3

Vegas Vipers (0-3) | Seattle Sea Dragons (1-2)

Franchise Sports Media

 

The XFL was back in the Snake Pit at Cashman Field for Week 3, where the Seattle Sea Dragons come from behind and defeat the Vegas Vipers 30-26.

The Vipers vs Sea Dragons played a Week 3 game at Cashman Field. 

Vipers vs Sea Dragons Brett Hundley
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

Game 1 of Week 3 in the XFL season saw the Seattle Sea Dragons come from behind and defeat the Vegas Vipers 30 to 26. This game was the highest-scoring game of the 2023 XFL season. After scoring just 18 combined points in the first two quarters, Seattle and Vegas dropped a combined 38 in the final two quarters, scoring 56 points. The Dragons won their first game of the season and are 1 and 2 under Jim Haslett, while the Vipers drop to 0 and 3 on the season under Rod Woodson.

Ben DiNucci threw for 377 yards on 37 attempts and finished with four touchdowns. Morgan Ellison led the team in rushing with 103 yards on 17 carries but got hurt late in the game. Jahcour Pearson led the team in catches with 7 for 99 yards. But it was Josh Gordon’s two touchdowns, one in the game’s final minutes, that sealed the victory. Gordon finished with six catches for 118 yards.

For the Vipers, Brett Hundley came to play. He threw for 224 yards on 28 attempts with two touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Rod Smith rushed for 41 yards on ten carries. Jeff Badet was his favorite, with four catches for 93 yards and a touchdown on eight targets. John Lovett also scored a touchdown on a 50-yard play. Martavis Bryant had another subpar game, with only one catch for 6 yards on two targets.

The Vipers did seem to have found their quarterback. Former UCLA and Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Hundley was more than solid in his first XFL start. He claimed the starting quarterback position. Hundley, who threw for 224 yards and two touchdowns, also added 66 yards and a touchdown on the ground, established himself early on, and played like QB1. However, the Vegas defense did not help him when they needed it the most and fell to Seattle.

It was time for the Vipers vs Sea Dragons to kick off.

First Half

In the first half, the Vipers and Brett Hundley looked like they controlled the game. 

Vipers vs Sea Dragons Brett Hundley
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

Vegas capitalized immediately on the game’s first possession. After forcing a fumble on third down, the Vipers took over at the Sea Dragon 25. On third and nine, Hundley scrambled out of the pocket and fired a dart to WR Jeff Badet in the back of the endzone. A few minutes into the game, the Vipers led 6-0 after the missed 2-point conversion.

Seattle struggled quite a bit on their opening possessions. The Sea Dragons went three and out, unable to get into a groove. The Vipers also had to punt, as punter Michael Carrisoza buried Seattle inside the 10-yard line, despite the gusty winds at Cashman Field.

This time, the Sea Dragons figured things out. DiNucci seamlessly marched the team down the field over 90 yards, putting the team on his back. He then found Blake Jackson across the middle, firing it into the end zone for the score. The game was tied at six apiece after the failed conversion.

Vegas was unable to find that spark they had on their first drive, having to punt it back to Seattle again. On third down, it seemed like DiNucci would pick up the first with his legs, but an excellent open-field tackle by Nijel Hill kept him short of the sticks.

Daniel Joseph sacked Hundley, which appeared to end the drive. However, on 3rd and 13, Hundley connected with Mathew Sexton, who made a spectacular catch to keep things moving. Bailey Giffen ended up knocking through a field goal, even with the wind, and finally kicked a successful FG on the XFL season.

Through the second quarter, neither offense could find much of a rhythm. Granted, the wind was indeed playing a factor. Seattle and Vegas both traded punts, stalling out on multiple occasions. Morgan Ellison ripped off a 35-yard run, which set up the Sea Dragons nicely. DiNucci just missed Pearson on an out route, and they settled for an FG attempt. Dominik Eberle capitalized, tying the game up at 9.

Unfortunately, Eberle’s ensuing kickoff did not reach the 20-yard line, which put Vegas on Seattle’s 45. After the excellent field position, the Vipers tried a field goal. It was blocked, though, and the score remained the same. Heading into halftime, it was a 9-9 ball game.

Could the Vipers hold off the Sea Dragons in the second half?

Second Half

Who would win the second half in the Vipers vs Sea Dragons game?

Vipers vs Sea Dragons Deontay Anderson
Photo Credit: Alon Sowell/Franchise Sports Media

Vegas looked excellent to start the second half. Brett Hundley made a fantastic throw under pressure to Jeff Badet, who took off for 56 yards to put the Vipers inside the red zone. Hundley continued to show why he is an NFL-caliber quarterback. Hundley then called his own number, running to the outside and walking into the end zone for six. A successful two-point conversion to Martavis Bryant put Vegas up 17-9.

Seattle didn’t get off on the same foot in the third quarter. DiNucci was picked off by Adam Sparks, which gave Vegas the ball right back. The Vipers could finally run the ball more efficiently, something they hadn’t been able to do all season long. This put them in a position to score, and they did. Bailey Giffen hit a 47-yard field goal, and the Vipers went up 20-9.

On their next possession, Seattle put it together. Jordan Veasy was unstoppable, making a few big-time catches on passes from DiNucci. Then he tossed a dime to Josh Gordon in the back of the end zone, and it was a 20-15 ball game just like that.

Hundley suffered a hamstring injury in the late third quarter, which was evident on the next drive. Hundley’s mobility was gone, which hurt Rod Woodson’s offense. As a result, Vegas had to punt, giving Seattle more life.

Morgan Ellison had a phenomenal game for Seattle, running downhill with a passion. His growth in June Jones’ system proved vital to their success against the Vipers last night. After a grand march down the field, Seattle stalled out, settling for a field goal. With several minutes left to play, they trailed 20-18.

Vegas had an answer, though. A solid return from Cinque Sweeting set the team up at midfield. Then, Hundley found a wide-open John Lovett on a wheel route, who took it to the house for 6, putting the Vipers on top 26-18. It was now Seattle’s turn, as DiNucci again pushed the ball down the field. He threw a strike to Juwan Green, who got his feet down in bounds in the endzone. Seattle elected to go for three to take the lead. The attempt failed, and Seattle was now down by two.

It was now time for the wild ending.

On 3rd and 11, Hundley came up clutch for Vegas. He found Jeff Badet across the middle, who broke free for the first down as the clock wound down to two minutes. Now, Seattle’s defense did come up with a big stop. A batted ball at the line by Tre Walker ended Vegas’ drive, giving the Sea Dragons one more chance.

The ending to this game was absolutely chaotic. On 4th and two, DiNucci threw a hail mary to Gordon, who secured the catch, then broke multiple defenders’ ankles as he strolled into the endzone, untouched. While Vegas had another opportunity with the ball, they couldn’t capitalize. Hundley and the Vipers stalled out, ultimately ending the game. The Sea Dragons came away with a wild win on the road, beating the Vipers 30-26.

The Vipers fell to the Sea Dragons 30-26.

Takeaways

The Vipers need to learn to finish games.

Vipers vs Sea Dragons Brett Hundley
Photo Credit: Alon Sowell/Franchise Sports Media

Brett Hundley is that guy for the Vipers. He showed poise, elusiveness, accuracy, arm strength, and leadership in his first start. The offense looked like it had rhythm and tempo. They also seemed to find their identity; something coach Woodson wanted them to do.

On the night, Hundley threw for 224 yards and two TDs for the Vipers. He also rushed for 66 yards and another score. If his hamstring is alright heading into next week’s game, he is clearly QB-1 for Vegas.

The Vipers must figure out how to close out games as they fall to 0-3. Vegas has played solid football in all three contests but can’t seem to get the job done down the stretch. In the first game, it was the quarterback play, and in game 2, it was the defense not being able to stop the RPO. This week the defense failed to get a stop when the team needed it most. The Vipers need to play a complete game and close teams out.

The Vipers found their signal caller in Brett Hundley. Now they have to put a complete game together so they can win.

The Vegas Vipers will be back in action next Sunday when they travel to take on the DC Defenders. Kick-off is at 4 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2. For Vipers tickets, tap in here.

         

-Joe Arrigo – Franchise Sports Media

Follow Joe on Twitter & Instagram at @JoeArrigoFSM

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