AND STILL … 5 Observations from the Houston Roughnecks 22-13 victory over the San Antonio Brahmas

Feb 26, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Roughnecks defensive back Ajene Harris (3) celebrates his interception against the Arlington Renegades in the first quarter at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

AND STILL … 5 Observations from the Houston Roughnecks 22-13 victory over the San Antonio Brahmas

These five things stood out the most in the Houston Roughnecks’ 22-13 win over San Antonio, keeping the franchise undefeated all-time.

The Houston Roughnecks’ defense continues to dominate: After allowing an early touchdown on a short field, the Roughneck defense held the San Antonio Brahmans to 16 total plays the rest of the first half on five drives. Those drives ran three, four, three, three, and three plays. Those 16 plays netted a total of 23 yards. The Roughnecks continually came up with third-down stops, including multiple third-and-short stuffs. The defense also came up with a monster goal line stand with under 4 minutes to go in the fourth quarter following a pair of bad penalties that gave the Brahmas first-and-goal at the 1. That goal-line stand came one drive after Ajene Harris made an incredible interception down the near sideline on a long pass attempt by Coan intended for Vasher. Both touchdowns the Brahmas scored were the result of short fields, one on a 59-yard kickoff return and one on a Silvers’ interception.

Jontre Kirklin is a bad man: The Roughnecks wide receiver dominated the first half of this game with a pair of touchdowns and a 2-point conversion. He also stole a 27-yard pass right out of the hands of defensive back Kameron Kelly. Kirklin displays speed, agility, quickness, shiftiness, and an ability to make both tough and acrobatic catches. If he continues to produce as he has, there will be an NFL contract for him this coming season. Lots of teams could find a role for him. It should not be overlooked that the offense sputtered when they did not go to Kirklin at all in the second half.

Will the real Brandon Silvers please stand up: Silvers was outstanding in the first half, driving the team up and down the field at will. He showed a touch for the long ball and made the right reads all over the field. He was a very efficient 15-for-22 for 225 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, demonstrating the kind of play that would make the Roughnecks clear favorites to win the title. However, in the second half, Silvers was as cold as he was hot in the first. The first four drives for the Roughnecks in the second half resulted in a total of 33 yards, an interception, and a turnover on downs. The inability to move the football at all allowed the Brahmas back into a game they had no business being in, and Silvers’ interception led directly to a short-field touchdown for San Antonio. His Jeckyl-and-Hyde performance made a game the Roughnecks should have won easily turn into a white-knuckle ride.

Speed kills, and the Roughnecks receivers have tons of it: Houston receivers consistently displayed speed and agility that Brahmas defenders simply couldn’t handle. Jontre Kirklin, Deontay Burnett, Justin Smith, and Travell Harris all showed the ability to beat their man and get behind the defense. All caught passes of at least 18 yards, and Burnett’s 18-yard catch was a touchdown. All of these guys are dangerous with the ball in their hands as well. There may not be any NFL names in their wide receiver corps, but they may be the best and deepest group in the XFL.

Discipline matters: In the face of pressure in the first half, in tough situations, the Brahmas consistently committed penalty after penalty, whereas the Roughnecks made plays in clutch situations. In a league where officials mostly look the other way, the Brahmas were getting laundry thrown all over the field. Personal fouls, holds, and illegal formations, it was a blatant lack of discipline that cost San Antonio in many important situations. The Roughnecks made those same mental breakdowns in the second half, including a costly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that gave the Brahmas the ball at the Houston 23 with 7:19 to go in a 22-13 game. The Roughnecks committed two defensive pass interferences in the end zone in the second half, one just a few plays after that aforementioned unsportsmanlike setting up first-and-goal from the 1. It took a goal-line stand by the defense, stopping the Brahmas on four straight runs, to hold the lead with 3:51 remaining in the fourth. Houston finished with eight penalties, San Antonio with 10.

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