Moore: Seattle Dragons lose opener, but XFL wins over football fans in Week 1
Count me in as an XFL fan. I turned on the Seattle Dragons’ game against the DC Defenders on Saturday, expecting to take glimpses while I changed the channel to CBS to watch the PGA tournament at Pebble Beach.
But that didn’t happen. I stuck with the Dragons ’til the end of the game, which they lost 31-19, but the XFL won anyway. I found it highly entertaining. My kids loved it too and said they want to go to a game. The first home game at CenturyLink Field will be next Saturday at 2 p.m. against the hated Tampa Bay Vipers. Truthfully, I don’t know if the Vipers are hated or not, but might as well manufacture a rivalry to really spice things up.
Then again, it’s not as if you need to add more bells and whistles to the XFL because the league has done that already. All of a sudden the NFL seemed stodgy and old. I honestly thought some of the XFL stuff would be Mickey Mouse, but it wasn’t – I got a kick out of all of it.
What caught me eye initially was the DC Defenders’ stadium, Audi Field, which hosts D.C. United’s Major League Soccer games. It was beautiful, intimate, perfect for the XFL. It looked packed because it was – 17,163 fans in a 20,000-seat stadium.
“It was awesome,” said Dragons quarterback Brandon Silvers. “It’s a soccer stadium, but it looked damn good as a football stadium.”
I liked Silvers. I know he made some bad throws, but he’s got a strong arm. Theo Lawson, who covers the Cougars for the Spokesman-Review, tweeted that Gardner Minshew transferred from Troy because he knew he wouldn’t beat out Silvers back in their college days. So that’s at least a good sign for Silvers – in my book, anyway, maybe not yours.
Brandon Silvers was starting at #Troy when Gardner Minshew walked on and ultimately transferred, knowing there wouldn’t be a chance to unseat Silvers.
Silvers is know starting for the XFL‘s Dragons. Minshew won six games for the NFL’s Jaguars as a rookie.
— Theo Lawson (@TheoLawson_SR) February 8, 2020
The kickoffs were the strangest part of the game. The kickoff team lines up at the opponent’s 35-yard line while the receiving team lines up at their own 30-yard line. None of the players can move until the kickoff receiver catches the ball, and honestly, I don’t know what that’s all about and I guess it’s for safety reasons. I don’t care, I just thought it was interesting. And then it got even more interesting when Seattle’s kicker didn’t boot the ball inside the Defenders’ 20-yard line. That triggered a little-known XFL penalty – if you don’t kick it inside the 20, the receiving team gets the ball first down at the opponents’ 45-yard line.
I also liked the in-game interviews of players. We heard from the Defenders’ kicker right after he made a 55-yard field goal to end the first half. We also heard from Dillon Day after he recovered a fumble by the Dragons. Day uttered a swear word for all to hear, which I’m guessing was regrettable but might be part of what you sign up for when you’re talking to players in the heat of the battle.
You could also hear Dragons head coach Jim Zorn calling plays into his quarterback, and they sound complicated as heck and give you a better appreciation for everything players have to remember to execute everything as it’s drawn up.
When there were challenges, you could hear the replay official explaining everything to himself and all of us at the same time.
Even with a 25-second play clock as opposed to the 40-second NFL clock, the game went three hours. I thought it would be shorter than an NFL game, but it wasn’t, yet it still seemed faster paced.
The only thing I didn’t like? The cowardly coaching decisions to go for a one-point conversion after touchdowns. Zorn and Defenders coach Pep Hamilton opted to go for a one-point conversion from the 2-yard line on all but one occasion when DC went for two from the 5-yard line. C’mon guys, you can get three points from the 10-yard line! But no one tried a three.
The possibility of a three-point conversion did add an intriguing element to the game, however. Anytime you trail by 9, you’re only one score behind in the XFL. In the fourth quarter, the Dragons chose to kick a field goal instead of going for it on fourth down, trailing by 12. The Dragons kicker made the kick, but Zorn chose to take the points off the board when DC was flagged for running into the kicker, resulting in a first down. Alas, the Dragons’ drive was stopped inside the 5-yard line when Silvers and his running back flubbed an exchange.
So now I’ve gone from not having much interest in the XFL to anxiously awaiting their first home game on Saturday, feeling like the new league has a better chance to sizzle than fizzle.
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