XFL Week 4 Recap: Seattle's Defense Pulls Through, St. Louis Shines

The Rundown on Week 4 of XFL Action

Written and Edited by Zach Kangieser 

11:04 AM, March 13, 2023

We are now four weeks into the XFL season, and the games still seem to be as chaotic as ever. Most of the league has managed to organize themselves into more competent units after being thrown straight into the year without a preseason, but since every player on every team has something to prove, each game has continued to provide its fair share of highlights on both sides of the ball. This week, we had convincing wins for Houston, St. Louis and DC, and a defensive showdown in Seattle. Without further ado, it’s time to look back on Week 4 of XFL action and highlight some big plays and big players amongst the final scores. 

Houston Roughnecks 44, Orlando Guardians 16 

Deontay Burnett scores at Camping World Stadium after snagging a pass from fellow wide receiver Jontre Kirklin. Credit for the image to Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. 

The Roughnecks rolled into Orlando looking for an easy W, while Orlando wanted to pull off a wild upset for their first win. Sadly for the Guardians, the game was a beatdown, and Roughnecks coach Wade Phillips found himself high fiving Orlando’s fans on the way out of Camping World Stadium. Houston QB Brandon Silvers had himself a fine day, going 24-for-30 for 239 yards and 3 touchdowns, setting the pace in the XFL for passing scores.

Houston raced off to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter, capped off by a beautiful trick play that saw the Roughnecks utilizing the XFL’s double forward pass rule to their advantage. Just shy of midfield, Silvers threw a short side pass to his WR1 in Jontre Kirklin, who remained behind the line of scrimmage. Then, Kirklin aired it out deep to his complement, Deontay Burnett, who snagged the deep ball around the 15 and walked into the end zone for six.

Orlando did manage to get within ten points in the third, as Guardians QB Paxton Lynch connected on an 81-yard pass to Charleston Rambo, making it 26-16. But the Roughnecks were able to bully their way to three more scores, two of which were short TD runs from Dejoun Lee (Houston’s RB1, Max Borghi, was inactive, recovering from Week 3 injury). The desperate Guardians couldn’t respond to anything, and the Roughnecks cruised to 4-0 on the season.

Next Thursday, Houston will face their toughest test, going into Seattle to face the Sea Dragons. Orlando will look to avoid dropping to 0-5 on the road against the Vegas Vipers.

Seattle Sea Dragons 15, San Antonio Brahmas 6 

Morgan Ellison finds the end zone in Seattle for the final score of the game. Credit for the photo to the XFL’s official website. 

Ben DiNucci became the first QB in the XFL to throw for 1,000 yards, but this game was much more of a defensive showing, as the Sea Dragons defense stepped up to stop not one, but two Brahmas drives in the closing minutes of the game to seal the Sea Dragons victory. The Brahmas offense, led by QB Jack Coan, couldn’t find the endzone all game, and Seattle’s pass rush weighed heavily on Coan throughout the contest.

San Antonio’s only points came off the boot of kicker Parker Romo, one of which was an impressive 57 yard kick that sent both teams into their locker rooms tied 6 at the half. The majority of the second half consisted of defensive stops; both teams came close to scoring multiple times, but the only points either team scored for the first 26 minutes of the second half came off a Domink Eberle kick that put Seattle up 9-6.

Ultimately, it was the Brahmas defense that blinked first, despite the best efforts of defensive back Luq Barcoo, who had a strong performance in man coverage against Seattle’s top two receivers. Ben DiNucci led Seattle down the field, eventually throwing to Josh Gordon at the 1-yard line to set up an easy Morgan Ellison TD run with four minutes to play. San Antonio’s next drive stalled out just shy of midfield, and when Barcoo picked off an errant DiNucci pass, Seattle’s defense forced one final stop to send the fans home happy.

Seattle has arguably the most exciting offense in the XFL, but they’ll face their toughest test yet playing against the Houston Roughnecks next week. Meanwhile, the Brahmas will look to get back on track at home against the Renegades.

St. Louis Battlehawks 24, Arlington Renegades 11 

Battlehawks QB A.J. McCarron holds the release on a pass of his. Credit for the photo to the XFL’s official website. 

More than the game itself, it was the atmosphere in The Dome at America’s Center that wowed viewers. 38,310 fans packed into The Dome for the home opener of the St. Louis Battlehawks, the most for a spring football league since the USFL of the 1980’s. The home team responded by delivering a convincing win, never trailing en route to the final score of 24-11.

The game started slow and stayed that way until the closing moments of the first half, when A.J. McCarron tossed a 27 yard pass to Darrius Shepherd to take the lead and followed up with the two points after to put St. Louis up 11-3 at the half. Battlehawks running back Brian Hill also had an excellent day, running for 89 yards on the day and scoring once in the 3rd quarter; he also tacked on 26 yards through the air. Additionally, The Battlehawks defense showed out as well, with the secondary picking off Arlington QB Kyle Sloter three times. 

Arlington did score early in the 4th to cut the lead to six, driving down to the one yard line before De’Veon Smith punched it in for them. But less than three minutes later, McCarron hit Hakeem Butler for a 25-yard score on what would be the final points of the day. Arlington couldn’t get it going again in the fourth quarter, and Kyle Sloter’s third pick of the day sealed the deal for the Battlehawks, who moved to 3-1.

St. Louis will look to get their fourth win of the year next week in a rematch against the DC Defenders, who were responsible for their lone loss. As for the Renegades, they’ll duke it out with the San Antonio Brahmas for the right to be second in the XFL South.

DC Defenders 32, Vegas Vipers 18 

Luis Perez of the Vipers attempts to throw while pressured by the Defenders’ Reggie Northrup. Credit for the photo to Scott Taetsch/Getty Images. 

A cold and rainy day at Audi Field didn’t stop the DC fans from showing out, nor did it stop their beer snake from looming large over one endzone. As it turns out, the Vegas Vipers couldn’t quite make it out of the beer snake’s shadow, and the Vipers defense was unable to contain the explosiveness of DC’s offense, particularly D’Eriq King, who scored two touchdowns on the ground and another through the air.

King, despite being listed as a quarterback, does a little bit of everything for the Defenders. He scored on a five yard rush early in the first to put DC up 6-0, and then on a two-yarder in the second to make it 12-3. Then late in the fourth quarter, King threw a thirty-two yard bomb to Jequez Ezzard to put the game out of reach at 29-12, showing off his arm as well. However, the bulk of DC’s yardage came from starting QB, Jordan Ta’amu, who had 177 yards through the air and 89 on the ground. 

As for Vegas, Vipers QB Brett Hundley (who was battling through an injury he sustained last week) fumbled the first snap of the game to set up King’s first TD run, and the Defenders never let the lead go. Luis Perez eventually took over for Hundley and threw for nearly three hundred yards, but he struggled to throw it deep and mostly had to rely on his receivers getting big chunks of yardage after the catch. The final play of the game reflected this perfectly; Perez hit Rod Smith on a short pass, and Smith couldn’t get a first down to stop the clock, per XFL rules.

DC jumps to 4-0, tying the Roughnecks for the league’s best record, and will be paying a visit to the Battlehawks next week. Vegas will host Orlando and try to pick up their first win on Saturday, March 18th.

So, Where Do We Stand? 

In terms of player talent, three quarterbacks lead the way. Ben DiNucci, Brandon Silvers and A.J. McCarron all have arguable cases for QB1. At the skill positions, Josh Gordon, Jahcour Pearson and Morgan Ellison make up an impressive trio in Seattle, while Jontre Kirklin has emerged as a star at wideout in Houston, Hakeem Butler and Brian Hill stand out in St. Louis, and Jeff Badet has flashed his talent on a lackluster Vegas team.

Defensively, Luq Barcoo of the Brahmas showed out today, joining a short list of defensive players that have set themselves up with star making performances, notching a pick to go along with sixteen tackles and a sack through four games. In Houston, linebacker Trent Harris hasn’t looked back after the four sack performance he recorded in Week One, having notched two more to lead the XFL in sacks, with six. Linebacker Donald Payne of Arlington leads the league in tackles, having recorded thirty-one in total. And in terms of picks, DC’s Michael Joseph is tied with Houston’s Ajene Harris with three apiece, but Joseph has been by far the better tackler of the two.

As for the teams themselves, it’s taken us four weeks, but we finally have clear cut rankings in each of the XFL’s two divisions.

The DC Defenders and the Houston Roughnecks lead the North and South, respectively, with records of 4-0, and the Vegas Vipers and Orlando Guardians sit at the bottom of those divisions at 0-4. In the North, the St. Louis Battlehawks currently hold the 2nd playoff spot at 3-1, but the Seattle Sea Dragons are a threat to that spot after winning two straight to get back to .500. As for the South, the Arlington Renegades sit at 2-2, but they’ll play the 1-3 San Antonio Brahmas on Sunday in a battle for second in the division.

Only time will tell how the players and teams continue to sort themselves out, who will step up to assert their talent and who will succumb to the pressures of pro football. But then again, that’s what the next six games are for, and fans should await them with excitement.