Feb 18, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Roughnecks quarterback Brandon Silvers (12) throws a pass against the Orlando Guardians in the fourth quarter at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Standing Tall: Defense comes through again as Roughnecks hang on for 22-13 win over Brahmas
While the offense sputtered in the second half for the Houston Roughnecks, the defense remained a dominant force leading the victory.
Once again, the Houston Roughnecks’ defense will be haunting the dreams of another quarterback.
Houston’s offense, terrific in the first half, went ice cold in the second half and turned what should have been an easy win into a white-knuckle ride down the stretch. The offense’s failures put all the pressure on the defense to hold the lead, and hold they did, including a goal-line stand with under 4 minutes remaining as the Roughnecks held on for a 22-13 victory over the San Antonio Brahmas at TDECU Stadium.
Brandon Silvers was terrific in the first half, connecting on 15-of-22 attempts for 225 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns went to Jontre Kirklin, who was a one-man wrecking crew in the first half.
Kirklin hauled in six receptions for 77 yards, a pair of touchdowns, and a 2-point conversion. Kirklin showed speed, elusiveness, and the ability to win contested throws as he stole an underthrown pass by Silvers away from DB Kameron Kelly for a 27-yard gain. Kirlin was completely unstoppable in the first half.
After an opening drive touchdown by San Antonio courtesy of a short field following a 59-yard kickoff return by Travis Jonsen gave the Brahmas the ball at the Houston 36, the Roughneck defense locked the Brahmas down the rest of the half. San Antonio’s five other drives of the first half resulted in four three-and-outs and one four-play drive. Those 16 total plays over five drives netted the Brahmas a grand total of 23 yards.
Houston outgained the Brahmas 276 to 94 in the first half, as they opened a 22-7 lead.
The Roughnecks looked every bit the part of a team that should be considered the favorite to win the XFL Championship this season, as the defense held San Antonio quarterback Jack Coan to 4-for-10 passing for just 35 yards. Coan entered the game leading the league in completion percentage, connecting on over 68% of his attempts.
In the second half, however, the Roughneck offense would stall out. Over their first four drives of the second half, the Roughnecks ran 21 plays for 33 total yards. Their drives would end with a pair of punts and an interception that led to a short-field San Antonio touchdown and a turnover on downs.
The fourth quarter would be a wild ride as Houston did everything it could defensively to hold onto their one-score lead.
Following a turnover on downs by the Houston offense that saw the Roughnecks stuffed twice on quarterback sneaks on third-and-one and fourth-and-one, the defense came through.
Ajene Harris made an impressive interception, stealing the ball away from T.J. Vasher down the near sideline to take the ball back for the Roughnecks with 11:30 remaining in the fourth.
However, the ice-cold offense went three-and-out, losing seven yards on the drive, and gave the ball back to the Brahmas with 9:34 to go in the game.
The Roughnecks would commit two major penalties on the drive, one for unsportsmanlike conduct that gave San Antonio the ball at the Houston 23 and the other for defensive pass interference in the end zone, which resulted in a first-and-goal at the 1.
With their backs to the wall, the Roughneck defense stood tall, coming through by stuffing four straight run plays by the Brahmas, including the final one for a 4-yard loss with 3:54 left to play.
The goal-line stand reinvigorated both the team and the crowd and seemed to deflate the Brahmas, who knew their best chance to at least tie the game just slipped through their fingers.
Houston would embark on their best drive of the second half at that point, taking the ball from their own 5 to the San Antonio 39 before punting with only 0:18 remaining. Linebacker John Daka would sack Coan on the final play of the game to wrap up the victory.
With the win, the Roughnecks improve to 3-0, in first place in the XFL South, and remain undefeated as a franchise. Houston and the D.C. Defenders are the only remaining undefeated teams in the XFL this season after three games.
The Roughnecks’ next game will be Saturday, March 11, against the 0-3 Guardians in Orlando. It’s the first time the Roughnecks will be on the road this season. Game time is 6 p.m. CT.