The New York Guardians (1-0) defense caused three turnovers en route to a dominant 23-3 win over the Tampa Bay Vipers (0-1) to start their XFL season on Sunday afternoon.
The game took place at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey and was televised live on FOX.
By the end, the Vipers led the Guardians in nearly every offensive category including passing yards, rushing yards, offensive plays, first downs, and third-down efficiency, but New York shined in the red zone and caused turnovers that amounted to the most important offensive stat.
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Led by a pass rush that hounded Vipers quarterback Aaron Murray, the Guardians’ defense wreaked havoc when it mattered most and made up for their own deficiencies on the offensive side of the ball. Defensive ends Cavon Walker and Bunmi Rotimi, nose tackle Joey Mbu, and linebacker Ben Heeney all played a vital role in disrupting the Vipers’ offense and that allowed the New York secondary to make plays for head coach Kevin Gilbride’s defense.
Safety Andrew Soroh got the defense started with an interception on a deep ball in the first quarter, and cornerback Bryce Jones picked off another toward the end of the first half to prompt Murray’s rough day. Jamar Summers returned a fumble for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to seal the game while safety Wesley Sutton recorded two sacks on the Vipers final drive to keep them from the end zone completely.
On the other side of the ball, Guardians QB Matt McGloin led his team to an opening drive touchdown, which came on his own sneak from the one, and early in the second quarter he hit a wide-open Colby Pearson for a 12-yard TD to secure a lead that only required proper game management the rest of the way.
Murray, who ended the game completing 16 of 34 passes for 231 yards and two interceptions, was pulled in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach, but not even the playmaking legs of backup Quinton Flowers could fix their red zone woes. On the heels of a 37-yard pass to Daniel Williams that put the Vipers on the one-yard-line with under two minutes to go, the Guardians’ defense stifled several rushing attempts and ended the threat by producing their fourth and fifth sacks of the game on consecutive plays. Befittingly, that final defensive stop by the Guardians was the fourth red zone possession where the Vipers came up empty.
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