IRON FIST: Defense dominates in Roughnecks 23-14 victory over Arlington

Feb 26, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; Arlington Renegades quarterback Drew Pitt (9) is sacked by Houston Roughnecks outside linebacker Tim Ward (89) in the first quarter at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

IRON FIST: Defense dominates in Roughnecks 23-14 victory over Arlington

The Houston Roughnecks improved to 2-0 on the season, one of three undefeated teams in the XFL after two weeks.

A lot of this game was not pretty, but football games aren’t always beauty contests. Sometimes they are knock-down, drag-out brawls. That suits the Houston Roughnecks just fine.

On a night where the offense struggled for long portions of the game, and the special teams were anything but special, Houston’s defense squeezed the life out of the Arlington Renegades en route to a 23-14 win, becoming the only team in the XFL South to start the season 2-0.

After a solid Week 1, Brandon Silvers struggled mightily for three quarters Sunday night, misfiring repeatedly and nearly being intercepted several times. Twice Silvers was the beneficiary of defensive backs with bad hands, and once he was the beneficiary of a defensive penalty negating an interception in the end zone. He was 9-for-22 through three quarters before finishing 14-for-28 on the night.

The special teams also lacked luster. Punt returned Will Likely was stripped twice on returns in the second quarter, giving the Renegades short fields that they converted into their only two scores of the night. There were also several kicking miscues in both the kickoff and punt games that gave the Renegades starting field position on the plus side of the 50 on multiple occasions.

The defense, however, continues to look like the league’s most dominant unit.

The Roughnecks suffocated the Renegades’ offense, holding them to just 125 total yards of offense, including -2 yards in the second half. Houston recorded five sacks and 11 tackles for loss, harassing Renegades quarterback Drew Plitt into a subpar 15-for-30 performance for just 120 yards. They also generated three turnovers off Plitt, two interceptions, and a strip sack.

The Roughnecks held the Renegades to 10 yards or less on a drive nine separate times.

Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme caused unsolvable problems for the opposing offensive line for the second consecutive week. Six players were credited with at least a half-sack among Houston’s five sacks on the night. Trent Harris, Emmanuel Ellerbe, and John Daka each had two tackles for loss among the Roughnecks’ 11 for the game.

For the second straight game, Sean Davis had an interception. Ajene Harris also had an interception on the Renegades’ first offensive play of the night.

The Roughnecks franchise is undefeated in their existence, 5-0 in 2020 and 2-0 this season.

Houston’s next game is Sunday, March 5, at 8 p.m. against the San Antonio Brahmas at TDECU Stadium.

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