XFL Week 4 winners and losers include Vipers’ rushing attack

The XFL season is quickly approaching its midway point, and at this stage there’s enough of a sample size to assess some key themes and storylines.

The good news is there are now no winless teams after the Tampa Bay Vipers secured their first victory Sunday. Meanwhile, the Houston Roughnecks continue as the league’s lone undefeated squad.

And while play has been mixed, the biggest concerns are steady dips in television ratings and attendance. For the XFL to remain a viable professional spring league during the NFL offseason, it simply cannot afford to lose audience engagement.

Here are the Week 4 winners and losers.

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Vipers' rushing attack: Tampa Bay earned its first victory, improving to 1-3, with a 25-0 throttling of the DC Defenders.  Coach Marc Trestman got it, in large part, because of a dominant rushing attack that rolled up 266 yards. The Vipers became the first XFL team to feature two players to have at least 100 rushing yards in the same game when running backs De’Veon Smith (24 attempts and 122 yards) and Jacques Patrick (21 attempts, 108 yards and one touchdown) made it happen. In fact, those were the first individual 100-yard rushing performances in league history. 

Jacques Patrick topped 100 yards rushing for the Tampa Bay Vipers in Week 4. (Photo: Julio Aguilar, Getty Images)

Dallas attendance: Perhaps it was because the league had been trying to drum up interest in a Dallas-Houston in-state rivalry, but the Renegades have been the only team to have an increase in attendance from one home game to the next. In Week 1, the Renegades hosted 17,206 at Globe Life Park in Arlington where MLB's Rangers played until this season. In Week 4, that number jumped 6.5% to 18,332. The other markets, by comparison, have struggled. The New York Guardians had 12,116 at their Saturday game, which was down 31.2% from 17,634 in Week 1. The Vipers had a decrease of 32.4% on Sunday. Even the St. Louis BattleHawks, who have been the team with the best attendance, haven’t been able to build on strong showings, with their Week 4 game down 8% to 27,190 from 29,554 just six days earlier.

Jordan Ta’amu: The starting quarterback of the BattleHawks has seen his play steadily improve throughout the season and he posted his best game of the year in Saturday’s 23-16 victory against the Seattle Dragons. Ta’amu was efficient, completing 20 of 27 passes for 264 yards and one touchdown. He also led St. Louis with 63 rushing yards on 16 attempts and is navigating the run-pass options in coach Jonathan Hayes’ offense with ease. But most impressive about Ta’amu’s play has been his ball placement. He has flashed power and touch. Houston’s P.J. Walker has gotten all of the attention for his play, but Ta’amu has been just a step behind.

Luis Perez: Let’s get the negative out of the way first. Perez’s passes went for just 5.83 yards per attempts in Saturday’s 17-14 victory against the Los Angeles Wildcats. But Perez, getting the start for the Guardians with Matt McGloin sidelined because of a rib injury, still played efficiently and made enough plays to give New York  its second home victory to improve to 2-2. He completed 18 of 26 passes for just 150 yards but threw a second-quarter, back-shoulder touchdown pass to Mekale McKay that was instrumental. These numbers might not be enough for Perez to keep the starting gig once McGloin heals, but at the very least it creates more competition at the position and should elevate everyone’s play.

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End-zone view of @1_McKay_2’s TD ? #ForTheLoveOfFootballpic.twitter.com/xHBHoDExzn


Pep Hamilton: In the past two weeks, the Defenders have given up victories to a pair of teams that entered the weekend without a victory. In the past two weeks, the Defenders have been outscored by 43-3 in the first halves; overall, that figure has ballooned to 64-9. Quarterback Cardale Jones was benched for the second game in a row. He looks uncomfortable, out of confidence, and was missing open receivers. He was heard on the sideline asking for receiver DeAndre Thompkins, who missed an assignment, to be benched. Jones finished with 72 passing yards, but he had zero in the third quarter. He finished just 9-for-22. The entire offense ran just 17 plays after halftime.  DC gained 28 yards in the final two quarters. This all spells trouble for Hamilton, the coach and offensive mind behind the Defenders, who dropped to 2-2.

Landry Jones and Renegades' turnovers: First-half struggles for Jones and the Renegades continued in a 27-20 loss Sunday  to the Roughnecks. Landry, in the first quarter, completed as many passes to his own team (three) as he did to Houston. Jones went 3-for-7 for 35 yards with the three picks in the first frame. It even forced coach Bob Stoops to express annoyance on some of Jones’ decisions when Stoops wore a microphone. Jones finished with four turnovers after a strip-sack fumble was returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Though Jones’ play improved in the second half, he reinjured his left knee, the same one he hurt in his first-ever practice with the Renegades, on a quarterback sneak. Then, backup Philip Nelson, Jones’ replacement, turned the ball over on a play that was ruled a fumble when a backward pass was bobbled and landed in the hands of Houston linebacker DeMarquis Gates. It came with 2:00 left to play in the game and when Dallas was at Houston’s own 3-yard line.

Jim Zorn: It was a rough go for Zorn, the head coach of the Dragons, in Week 4. Not only did his team fall to 1-3 after a 23-16 loss to the BattleHawks, but he was one of the main reasons why. First, Zorn stuck with quarterback Brandon Silvers as his starter but then benched him to start the second half. B.J. Daniels, who had a legitimate claim to start as recently  as a couple of weeks ago, instantly outperformed Silvers and put Seattle in position to come back from a 17-3 deficit.  Then Zorn hurt his team again with a questionable decision early in the fourth quarter. After Daniels threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Evan Rodriguez to  cut the margin to four points, Zorn inexplicably opted to go for a three-point conversion try from the 10-yard line, when a one- or two-point try would have put Seattle in position to tie or take the lead with a field goal. Making matters worse, Zorn doubled down when asked about the decision, and his answer made no sense when he said a conversion would have put Seattle “one touchdown away.”

Jim Zorn trying to explain why he went for 3 instead of 1 to get within a field goal ? pic.twitter.com/MkT2AenySG

Wildcats' third-down tries: This is officially a problem for coach Winston Moss. On offense, time and time again, the Wildcats just can’t stay on the field. In Saturday’s 17-14 loss  to the Guardians, it was more of the same as Los Angeles converted 2 of 12 third-down tries. In LA’s three losses the team has converted just 12 of 40 (30%) attempts on third downs. In the Wildcats' victory, in Week 3 against the Defenders, that figure wasn’t that much better with LA moving the chains on 4 of 10 (40%) attempts.

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