Extra Effort: Defense saves Roughnecks from collapse, keys 17-15 overtime win over Brahmas

Apr 2, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Roughnecks defensive back Ajene Harris (93) celebrates defensive back Sean Davis defensive play against the St. Louis Battlehawks in the second quarter at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Extra Effort: Defense saves Roughnecks from collapse, keys 17-15 overtime win over Brahmas

They should not have needed a huge defensive effort in overtime, but the defense gave it to Roughnecks anyway.

After a brutal late interception by quarterback Brandon Silvers gave the Brahmas new life late that allowed them to tie the game, the defense once again came up big in the shadows of their own goalposts in overtime. Houston stopped San Antonio on all three of their overtime attempts, and Houston snuck out of the Alamodome with a 17-15 overtime victory.

Silvers, who missed last week’s game with an elbow injury, looked good early as he took the Roughnecks down the field for a touchdown on their opening drive. He had more zip on the ball than he showed in Week 6, made fast decisions, and looked sharp. However, as the game progressed, his velocity appeared to wane slightly, and he struggled with his accuracy. After their opening drive touchdown, the only other touchdown Houston would score would come following an interception that gave them the ball at the Brahmas’ 7-yard line.

Silvers again struggled to connect with open receivers, missing several throws that would have resulted in big gains, including throwing a ball out of bounds on a sideline throw when a receiver got behind the defense and overthrowing Justin Smith, who was wide-open over the middle of the field in the fourth quarter.

The defense once again rose to the occasion to save the Roughnecks from their offensive failures. The Roughnecks battered and bullied Brahmas QB Jack Coan, sacking him six times and intercepting him twice. Coan finished an inefficient 23-for-41 for 190 yards. A 22-yard completion to Landen Akers was the only completion over 20 yards San Antonio had all day. The Roughnecks also had seven tackles for loss on the day.

XFL sack leader Trent Harris, who entered the game with seven sacks, added 1½ sacks in the game. He leads the XFL with 8½ sacks and 11 tackles for loss despite missing one game with an injury.

Defensive lineman Trevon Mason intercepted Coan after pulling down a ball he batted in the air. His return to the San Antonio 7 set up Houston’s second touchdown.

One week after setting season highs in both rush attempts and rushing yards, Houston put forth their worst rushing effort of the season. They ran only 13 times for 25 yards, with a 7-yard scamper by Max Borghi being their longest run of the game.

XFL overtime rules are unique. Each team gets one play from the opponent’s 5-yard line three times in an alternating manner. After the three rounds, whichever team is ahead wins. If no team is ahead after three rounds, the teams continue to get one play each from the opponent’s 5 until there is a winner. Each score in overtime is worth two points.

Both teams were unsuccessful in their first two attempts in overtime before backup quarterback Cole McDonald connected with wide receiver Deontay Burnett for an overtime score on Houston’s third attempt. Houston’s defense held up on the Brahmas’ third attempt to seal the win.

With the victory, the Roughnecks improved to 5-3 and clinched a playoff berth. Houston is the first team to clinch a playoff berth in the XFL this season. Houston’s victory eliminated the Orlando Guardians from the postseason.

Next week, the Roughnecks will host the 2-6 Vegas Vipers in the home finale. The game will be played Saturday, April 15, with an 11:30 a.m. kickoff. A Roughnecks victory paired with a loss by the currently 4-4 Arlington Renegades (who play the D.C. Defenders, owners of the league’s best record, on the road) would clinch the division for Houston and guarantee them a home playoff game.

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