Houston 27, Dallas 20

The Houston Roughnecks are officially Texas' team


The Rockets aren't the only team in town playing "small ball."

With dynamic playmaking abilities, athleticism and instincts - the -5- foot-11 Temple prodigy PJ Walker has thrown for 987 yards and is responsible for 13 touchdowns [12 passing, one running] to just two interceptions, in the first four weeks of the XFL's inaugural season. Affectionately nicknamed, "Walker Texas Ranger," he has taken the league [and Houston] by storm and been labeled "The face of the XFL."

That "Face" faced off against the Dallas Renegades Sunday afternoon; throwing for 239 yards, 2TDs, 1INT and added another 17 yards rushing on the ground as the Roughnecks moved to 4-0 with a 27-20 win over the Dallas Renegades.

The XFL may be brand new, but Sunday's matchup of the Houston Roughnecks vs. the Dallas Renegades already had all of the ingredients necessary for a stellar rivalry game:

- XFL hype

- Media hype

- A nickname [The XFL labeled it the " #TexasThrowdown " - but I'm calling it the " #TeXFL ." Better, right?]

- Big name Quarterbacks

- Well Known Coaches [who used to rival each other in College]

- Conference rivals

But most importantly, it's simply: Houston VS Dallas... 'nuff said.


#TexasThrowdown HYPE VIDEO www.youtube.com


While the game definitely lived up to the hype, the Roughneck victory didn't come in the fashion that Roughneck Faithful probably expected...


Here are my 5 Takeaways:


#1.] Don't sleep on the Defense!

Sure, PJ Walker did PJ Walker things... but the defense had just as much to do with the win as the quarterback did.

The premise of this article is supposed to be, "My 5 takeaways from the Roughnecks VS Renegades game"... well, that's ironic, because the Roughnecks actually HAD 5 takeaways [turnovers] off the Renegades!

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The first four turnovers came off of Landry Jones, who threw three picks and was also stripped of a ball on a sack that was returned for a Roughneck Touchdown by LB Edmond Robinson. The fifth and final TO came off of backup quarterback Phillip Nelson. His pass got deflected and ended up in the paws of DeMarquis Gates to seal the game.


5th Turnover of the game!#TeXFL www.youtube.com


All in all, the Roughnecks Defense racked up a sack, six quarterback hits, five tackles for loss, four Interceptions, one Forced fumble, one touchdown.

#2. MUST CAPITALIZE!

We've given props to the Roughneck defense for causing five Turnovers... but how in the world does a Defense gift their offense 5 extra possessions and yet the team only walks away with a 7-point margin of victory? [Sounds like something the Houston Texans would do - NOT the Roughnecks.]

A championship team makes the most out of every opportunity. So, moving forward, the Roughnecks need to capitalize on turnovers and turn them into TDs. And while I wasn't present at the post-game presser to ask him - I can almost guarantee you that Coach June Jones agrees.


#3. RUN THE BALL & TIGHTEN UP

The Roughnecks actually came out of this game losing the Time of Possession "war" by -16 seconds. [29:52 to 30:08]
Do I need to remind you how absurd this is, given that the Roughnecks defense literally gave their offense 5 Renegade turnovers?!

In a perfect world, the Roughnecks WOULD have had a big lead and bled the clock out, running the ball....

But they didn't.

In a game that the Roughnecks never trailed in, the Renegades still ran the ball five more times than Houston did. Even in victory, a close game like this shows you the importance of running the ball: it wears out an opposing defenses, increases ball security, lessens risk of injury to the QB and [most importantly] keeps the ball out of the opposing QB's hands for a longer amount of time.

And that's not all... The Roughnecks lost more battles than just Time of Possession. They also lost at:

1st Downs [ 19 HOU / 21 DAL ]

Plays Ran [ 60 HOU / 66 DAL ]

Penalties [ 6 Penalties for 57yds - HOU ] [ 3 Penalties for 43yds - DAL ]

The main thing that really saved the Roughnecks from potential defeat was their third down efficiency. They were on point, at a 63% on 3rd Down Conversion rate, to the Renegades meager 27%.

If Houston can clean these things up, they'll certainly increase their future margins of victory - which is currently a solid 10 points on average.

#4. Everybody Steps Up!

PJ Walker's favorite target, WR Cam Phillips, was basically cut out of this game [1 REC / 9 YDs] as he was doubled the entire game, by a corner and a safety... but no worries! Between the Defense and Nick Holley, the Roughnecks offense didn't skip a beat.

NHolley has had some big catches in the past 4 weeks, but Sunday, he had a career game, catching eight passes for 97 yards and one TD.

Kahlil Lewis also came up big, catching six for 53yds - as well as Blake Jackson, who caught two for 26yds and 1TD.


#5. Dallas Unstable at the Quarterback Position...

Thoughts and prayers go out to Renegades QB, Landry Jones, who reinjured his knee late n the fourth quarter. The injury looked gruesome, as Landry appeared to violently twist his left knee under Roughneck DE Caushaud Lyons.

While Landry has not yet been ruled out officially for the rest of the season, he limped off of the field and proceeded to cry on the sideline for the remainder of the game - thus furthering some assumptions that Landry may not return this season.

In the post-game press conference, Head Coach Bob Stoops said, "Fortunately, he had a brace on it and hopefully that minimized the damage." Landry stated that he hopes the injury is an MCL injury, which has an expected recovery time of 5 - 6 weeks. The Dallas Renegades Twitter account [@XFLRenegades] is reporting that Jones will undergo an MRI tomorrow morning

If Jones is out for the remainder of this season, eyes will turn to QB Eric Dungey, who left the team earlier, to mourn the passing of his Father.

If Dungey is not available, the team may potentially look to trade for a QB.

Some names circulating are Tampa Bay Vipers QB Quinton Flowers and Houston Roughnecks QB Connor Cook.

Flowers [USF] and Cook [Michigan State] were both extremely successful at their respective colleges. Flowers believes he should be starting and thus, it's no secret that he wants out of Tampa, as a result of a lack of playing time. Cook was drafted in the first round of the XFL Draft by the Roughnecks and was expected by many to start this season. However a lack of mobility/versatility with his legs would inevitably cause him to lose the starting role to PJ Walker.

Renegade QB, Landry Jones re-injures left knee www.youtube.com

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The Rockets may be the smartest guys in the room. Or the cheapest

The Rockets have their new head coach. Composite photo by Brandon Strange

On Wednesday afternoon, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that the Rockets' coaching search had come to an end finally. The front office tabbed Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas as the successor to Mike D'Antoni, beating out former Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy and current Rockets assistant John Lucas.

Knee jerk reaction?

I'm not mad at it. I expected Jeff Van Gundy to be the next hire, but maybe that was just nostalgia clouding my judgment. Either way, the Silas hire should be viewed optimistically. He's been highly regarded for some time around the league as an inventive mind that comes from basketball pedigree and has worked with big-name guards in prior stops around the league. If the Rockets didn't grab him, it was only a matter of time before another team gave him a shot.

Now there are two very distinct ways to look at this hire:

The first is that the Rockets, in spite of being one of the last teams to fill their coaching vacancy, are the smartest kids in the room. Every team is looking for the next version of what the Celtics found in their current head coach, Brad Stevens; a young brilliant coach that just needed a team to give him a shot. Hired at 37 from the college ranks, Stevens endured one losing season (his first) and has since guided the Celtics to six playoff appearances, to include three conference finals appearances. Not bad, considering he was up against LeBron James for most of those.

That is what it looks like the Rockets are trying to go for. Now at 47, Silas probably won't be mistaken for a wunderkind, but compared to 69-year-old D'Antoni, he might as well be announcing his hire on Tik Tok. If it works out, the Rockets will have once again been one step ahead of the league with the hiring of their innovative new coach.

The other way to look at the Silas hire is a little less rosy.

While Silas is only 47, he's also been an assistant in the league since he was 27. The positive spin on his resume is that he's worked with star players the likes of Kemba Walker, LeBron James, and Stephen Curry. The reality is that he worked with them while they were very young in their careers, and worked on teams like the Cavaliers, Bobcats/Hornets, Wizards, and Warriors (when they were bad). Until the last two seasons working with Luka Doncic on the Mavericks, there hasn't been a lot of success following Silas. That's not necessarily an indictment since he was an assistant, but it's not exactly a sparkling pedigree.

So while this could be a brilliant hire, at the moment, it has all of the markings of the cheaper hire. As I've mentioned before, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has been quite vocal about the financial impact that COVID-19 has had on his portfolio. Clips and quotes moaning and groaning about losing money are not typically precursors to an owner gearing up to make a big financial investment in the front office of a sports team that he can't sell tickets for anyone to come see. If in fact, money factored in more than fit, it would make sense that the Rockets would forego a coach like Van Gundy, whose previous head coaching experience would automatically command a higher starting price. We'll, of course, have to wait and see what the actual contract figures are once released.

It could be one. It could be the other. It could be both. Hopefully it translates into wins either way.

One thing that's for certain though is that Silas needs to take some pointers from Russell Westbrook and James Harden before he steps out courtside in any more of those TJ Maxx suits, circa 2000. Big boy job means big boy suits.

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