Defenders run to win; stay perfect at home
WASHINGTON -- The Defenders found their way back into the win column and now find themselves in first place in the XFL East after a 15-6 win over St. Louis on Sunday afternoon at Audi Field.
After trading empty possessions to start the game, the Defenders began their second drive with a promising 13-yard end-around by Eli Rogers. Three plays later, starting QB Cardale Jones was picked off by BattleHawks safety Kenny Robinson.
The next time DC's offense took the field, there was a new QB under center.
Tyree Jackson came off the bench in a move that was preplanned according to head coach Pep Hamilton.
“We had discussed prior to the game that we would put Tyree in at the beginning of the third offensive series, regardless of where we were in the game,” Hamilton said.
He confirmed the interception by Jones was “a coincidence” and not a factor in the decision. He also clarified that there would be no change in the depth chart at quarterback.
“Cardale is our starter,” Hamilton said.
Regardless, Jackson made his presence felt from his first series.
Taking over at the St. Louis 45 after an illegal kickoff, the 6-foot-7 quarterback directed DC on a five-play drive that ended with a 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Khari Lee to give the Defenders a 6-3 lead.
In addition to Jackson's spark, DC relied on a run-heavy attack to wear down the BattleHawks. The Defenders came in averaging 105.5 rush yards a game but exploded for 229 on the ground on 41 carries (5.6 average).
“It feels great to know we have a few great backs,” Hamilton said. “It was good to see (Jhurell) Pressley puncture the defense some today … Jhurell had a really great day running the football.”
Pressley finished with 107 yards on 15 carries.
The BattleHawks also ran the ball well and finished with 173 yards on the ground.
After a blocked punt by linebacker Jameer Thurman with 5:30 remaining, the Defenders were again gifted prime field position on St. Louis’ 5-yard line. However, they could not convert it into a touchdown and settled for third, and final, field goal by kicker Ty Rausa.
That left the DC defense with the task of shutting down the XFL’s second-best offense to close out the game.
A scramble on 3rd-and-14 by St. Louis QB Jordan Ta’amu came up one-yard shy of the first-down marker and a key tackle on 4th-and-1 by Siupeli Anau and Tracy Sprinkle secured the victory and kept the Defenders a perfect 3-0 at home.
“We did a heck of a job on defense stopping them twice in critical fourth-down situations. That is ultimately how you win games, by being able to control both sides of the line of scrimmage,” Hamilton said.
Next Sunday, the Defenders continue their two-game homestand as they play host to the Dallas Renegades (2-3) at Audi Field (4 p.m. ET, FS1).