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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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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