Vipers hiss but can't strike in Week 1
It’s rare that a team’s first drive sets the tone for the game, but it was the case for the Tampa Bay Vipers in New York on Sunday.
Tampa Bay had a promising opening drive dashed with an interception in the end zone. It was a nine-snap drive in which Aaron Murray went 4-for-6.
Murray struggled against the Guardians hungry defense, completing less than half of his passes. While his indecisiveness led to poorly-thrown passes, the offensive line did him no favors, allowing six QB hits (eight overall), three sacks, and six tackles for loss (seven overall).
When Murray did connect with his receivers, Dan Williams was the majority recipient with 123 yards on six receptions. Jalen Tolliver and Reece Horn chipped in 47 and 42 yards, respectively, while TE Nick Truesdell added 49 yards on three receptions.
The Guardians defense had a field against day versus the Vipers, as defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann’s squad amassed five sacks, eight QB hits, seven tackles for loss, two INTs, and three forced fumbles. The defense scored twice off of turnovers.
With a 47% third-down conversion rate and four trips to the red zone (six in Guardians’ territory), the Vipers were moving the ball, but they just could not put together a successful drive.
When all was said and done, Tampa Bay finished first in total offense (424 yards), first in receiving yards, and second in rushing (150 yards). Defensively, they held their opponent to a mere 182 yards passing and 45 yards rushing, the fewest allowed by any team. Deduct the two TDs on defense and the Guardians offense only scored nine points.
But it was still not enough to win the game. Not even close. Three points will get the Vipers nowhere in what is a very short season. Scoring touchdowns, not extra points or field goals, is what Tampa Bay must focus on as they head into Seattle.