Roughnecks 32, Dragons 23

Roughnecks vs Dragons: Good, bad and ugly

Saturday's game between the Houston Roughnecks and the Seattle Dragons had everything you could have hoped for in an XFL game. It was close from start to finish and the Roughnecks ralied to defeat the Dragons in the fourth quarter. The Roughnecks' high-powered offense may have stalled coming out of the gate, but they stepped up when it mattered the most.

The Good

Welcome back Cam Phillips. After being held scoreless last week in Arlington, the star XFL receiver caught not one, but two touchdown passes Saturday afternoon. He still leads the league in touchdown receptions with nine total TD's. He had the catch of the game too when P.J. Walker threw him a 48-yard deep ball to set up a James Butler touchdown. He is just as important to this team as is Walker, and the two still make up the best dynamic duo in the XFL.

If Walker and Phillips are the top two players on the team, then James Butler is the 3rd best player right behind them. Butler has been a solid running back for the Roughnecks, and Saturday was one of his better performances of the season. Through the first 28 minutes of the game, Butler was only given one carry. But after halftime, Butler was much more efficient and was able to help the Roughnecks offense keep pace with the Dragons. He scored two touchdowns and was able to run all over the Dragons defense after halftime. His leaps into the stands after his touchdowns were legendary, and could possibly start a new scoring celebration trend in Houston, similar to the "Lambeau Leap".

After five weeks, the Roughnecks might have finally found their number two receiver. When Sammie Coates signed in the offseason, it was implied that he was supposed to be one of the top receivers on the team. He has been inconsistent this season and is now dealing with a nagging hamstring injury, limiting him even further. Enter Sam Mobley. He had his best game of the season with six receptions for 95 yards including a 42-yard bomb from Walker that set up the teams tying score to end the first half. Mobley has seen more balls thrown his way as the season has progressed, and looks to be Walker's second favorite receiver behind Cam Phillips. If he continues to play this way, he could surely be the number two receiver on this high-powered Roughnecks' offense.

This week, i'll add an extra point in the "good" category, for Houston's fans showed up to support their new favorite team. The total attendance at TDECU Stadium for Saturday's game was 19,733, a new record for a Roughnecks home game. The Roughnecks currently rank 3rd in total attendance behind only St. Louis and Seattle this inaugural season. The rise in attendance shows that fan support is apparent and the city of Houston can support a second football team.

The Bad

If the mighty Roughnecks have an Achilles' heel, it would be their linebacking core. To put it nicely, the defense was soft to start the game. B.J. Daniels and the Dragons were able to run the ball with ease. Running Back Trey Williams was a key factor for the Dragon's offense and was able to run all day on the Roughnecks defense. The Dragons implemented short screens that killed the linebackers and lead to incremental gains throughout the first half. Running plays and screens seemed to test the Roughnecks' zone coverage for the 3rd week in a row. Luckily, the Roughnecks' offense was able to keep pace and outscore the Dragons in the second half.

Walker was good not great for the Roughnecks Saturday. Although he wasn't "bad" by other XFL quarter back standards, he had his worst statistical performance of the season. He threw two interceptions and had one fumble. He wasn't awful though, for he was still able to throw for 351 yards and lead the Roughnecks to a comeback victory. These turnovers shouldn't affect his MVP case, for he is still one of if not the best quarterback in the XFL.

The offense was slow out of the gate. The Roughnecks were a no-show on offense through the first quarter and most of the second quarter. Seattle's defense was playing a tight man coverage to stop the Roughnecks opening drive. When the Roughnecks got the ball back, the Seattle defense forced a strip fumble on Walker which set up their first touchdown of the game. Seattle's defense was defending well against the pass heavy Run N Shot Roughnecks' offense to start the game as well. Their secondary played a two deep safety coverage that initially limited the Roughnecks offense. They were able to overcome this tight defense when Walker threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Nick Holley. The Roughnecks' passing game opened up and they saw little to no trouble moving the ball down the field after this initial score.

The Ugly

Although the Roughnecks won this game, there was a controversial play at the end of the 4th quarter. On 4th down and with four seconds left in the game, Walker took a knee on his own 21-yard line. By XFL rules this should have stopped the clock and given the ball back to the Dragons. However, the refs left the field with two seconds left. Officiating supervisor Wes Booker said on the broadcast the the call was botched but there wasn't much that could have been done as the game concluded and both teams left the field. Had the refs given the dragons the ball with two seconds left they possibly could have scored and tied the game with a 3-point conversion. The league released a statement that sated "The game should not have ended the way it did…" and that the "XFL sincerely regrets this error."

DeMarquis Gates was ejected after a game saving fumble recovery. Gates had the defensive play of the game when Seattle Quarterback B.J. Daniels was tackled and fumbled the ball. Gates recovered the ball, but was caught punching a player in the pile during the fumble recovery by the refs. This caused Gates to be ejected, but not before he signed a few autographs and was interviewed on his way out. Interviewing a player after he gets ejected is the most XFL thing and it's awesome.

The Roughnecks look to remain undefeated as they travel to New York to take on the Guardians who are riding a three game win streak. Both teams are coming off an impressive victories and this could be a preview of the XFL championship game.

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A new hotel is in the works near Minute Maid. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Astros owner Jim Crane says the team is ready to break ground on a major construction project that will include a hotel and entertainment complex across the street from Minute Maid Park as soon as the 2023 baseball season wraps up – hopefully with another World Series parade in downtown Houston.


But another hotel? Another entertainment complex? More construction downtown? My first reaction was, how much more does Houston need? I remember when the Super Bowl was held in Houston in 2004, clubs and restaurants sprung up downtown practically overnight, only to disappear virtually the morning after. When it came to downtown development, the expression “less is more” turned out true. At least that Super Bowl.

I asked my contacts in government and the Houston welcome wagon, is this a good idea, building a hotel and entertainment complex next door to Minute Maid Park? Do we need it? Can we sustain it?

The answer every time was a resounding yes! For a couple of reasons: first, downtown Houston, coming out of Covid, is booming, leadership is creative and budget-minded these days, and most important, if Jim Crane is behind the idea, you can trust it’ll work. The guy’s got a track record.

“In 2004, the idea was to turn downtown’s Main Street into Bourbon Street. Is that what we really want? It was a misguided plan, the wrong philosophy, and businesses opened and closed in short order,” a source told me.

It was a different story when the Super Bowl returned to Houston in 2017. This time Houston saw the Marriott Marquis, a 1,000-room hotel complete with an iconic Texas-shaped swimming pool, open in time for the tourist onslaught. Also, Avenida Houston greeted downtown visitors with new restaurants and entertainment venues. Both the Marriott and Avenida Houston have continued to thrive long after the Super Bowl left town.

“We want our downtown to attract visitors while providing services for the growing number of singles and families who are making their home downtown. As we continue to host major events and conventions, there will be a need for more hotel rooms,” the source said.

The Astros’ plan to build a sprawling hotel and entertainment complex originally was discussed in 2021 but was put on hold due to Covid. Now Crane and the Astros are ready to come out swinging. Similar complexes operate successfully next to the baseball stadium in St. Louis, Chicago and other cities.

An Astros-themed hotel adjacent to Minute Maid Park is particularly intriguing. The lobby could be home to an Astros museum and team Hall of Fame. Rooms and restaurants could be decorated in honor of Astros legends – the “Nolan Ryan honeymoon suite,” or “Strech Suba’s Bullpen Bar and Grille.” There could be meeting space for autograph and memorabilia shows. There could be a broadcast facility for post-game interviews and analysis. And maybe one day, fingers crossed, a betting parlor like the Cubs have at Wrigley Field.

The Astros have a contract to play at Minute Maid Park through 2050 – the only long-term contract that doesn’t make Crane cringe. Anything that enhances the fan experience and generates revenue is good for the team and the city. I might even consider going downtown on non-game nights.

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