Nearly 30,000 fans cheered on the Seattle Dragons to their first XFL win at Centurylink yesterday afternoon. Before the game, Dragon head coach and GM Jim Zorn said he was impressed with how many fans showed up. The Dragons record moves to 1-1 while the visiting Tampa Bay Vipers are sent home with a goose egg still in their win column and still without an offensive touchdown.
“Everything we do, we have to earn,” said Zorn in the post-game press conference. He said that they earned the win today and are working to win over the Seattle fans.
Former Seahawk and Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Largent did the Caldron Lighting for the Dragons — a pre-game tradition much like the 12 Flag raising at Seahawks’ games.
Dragon quarterback Brandon Silvers returns to head the offense despite an ankle injury keeping him from practicing earlier this week. The Vipers were without their starting quarterback Aaron Murray due to injury; Taylor Cornelius started, but Quinton Flowers was lining up behind center before then end of the first quarter. Cornelius took most of the reps finishing 16/27 for 154 yards with two interceptions while Flowers went 3/7 for 18 yards and one interception.
“We need to figure out our QB situation,” noted Viper head coach Marc Trestman after the game.
Silvers went 7/18 for 91 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
“I didn’t play well today,” said Silvers. “I practiced one time this week, so just getting back to practice healthy,” said the Dragon quarterback on where to go from here offensively.
It wasn’t until 2:33 left in the half that Tampa Bay kicker Andrew Franks 36-yard field goal was good giving the Vipers the 3-0 advantage, which is where it would remain to end the half. Seattle only had 43 total yards on offense on 21 attempts in the first half.
UND alum John Santiago gave the Dragons good field position on a 63-yard return to bring the ball to the Seattle 46. Unfortunately, turnovers remain a problem for Seattle as Tarvarus McFadden intercepted a Brandon Silvers pass and returned it 78 yards for the pick 6. The Vipers didn’t convert the extra point, making it 9-0 with 12:04 to play in the third quarter.
“I didn’t,” said Zorn about considering a change at quarterback after the Pick 6. “I heard some of the frustration. We were all frustrated, and I wasn’t going to panic. He hung in there tough and he knew what the situation was. There was no excuse-making for him. He was in it the whole game.”
At practice earlier this week, Dragon wide receiver Keenan Reynolds said that ball security and third-down conversions are something that the Dragons were focusing on heading into week two. This was Seattle’s first and only turnover of the game and Seattle was 9/17 on third-down conversions against the Vipers’ 2/10.
Silvers answered back not even minute later on Seattle’s next drive connecting with former Seahawk Reynolds for a 68-yard touchdown. The extra point was no good as Seattle cut the Vipers lead to three. Reynolds led the Seattle offense with 3 catches for 87 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Leave it to the defense — Portland native Marcell Frazier intercepted a Flowers pass on the one-yard line while rushing for a short Pick 6. Reynolds converted the first points after touchdown for two points. The Dragons overtook the lead 14-9 and wouldn’t give Tampa the opportunity to retake the game. Frazier also had three tackles in the win.
“I feel like we really performed on coming together and just not turning aside from our belief system,” said Zorn. “It was really true coming in at half and having no points. We had some resilience there and it really showed our fans and even their teammates that they were not going to give up, so I was really pleased that we stayed with it and started putting points on the board.”
Dragon linebacker Steven Johnson led the defense with 10 combined tackles and two for loss. Dragon kicker Ernesto Lacayo widened Seattle’s lead with a 35-yard field goal with just over a minute left in the game. The Vipers would need a touchdown and at least a two-point conversion to stay in the game. With 9 seconds left to go, Tampa scored a touchdown that was called back due to an offensive pass interference.
Dragon Kyle Queiro had the game-ending pick in the back of the endzone to end the drive and game 17-9, give Seattle their first franchise win.
When asked to describe the Dragon culture in one word, Zorn said: “We’re 1-1, but that’s three words. Developing.”
Seattle defense finished the game with three interceptions, four sacks, and only three points allowed. The Dragons return to Centurylink again next Saturday, February 22nd to face the Dallas Renegades. Kick-off is set for 2:00 PM PT.