Feb 26, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Roughnecks quarterbacks Brandon Silvers (12) talks with Cole McDonald (14) talks after the Roughnecks scored against the Arlington Renegades in the second half at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports The Roughnecks won 24 to 17.
These were the five biggest takeaways from the Houston Roughnecks’ division-clinching 28-21 win over the Vegas Vipers:
The Roughnecks have a serious quarterback problem. Brandon Silvers doesn’t look right. He missed a game earlier this season with an arm injury and he has been unable to put any zip on the ball since. He is consistently under-throwing receivers 20 or more yards downfield and needs to muscle up to throw intermediate routes. Silvers’ accuracy is suffering as a result, and his mistakes are getting intercepted. The passing game was almost completely impotent against a subpar Vegas Vipers team, and Silvers finished 16-for-27 for only 105 yards. Silvers threw two interceptions before the midpoint of the third quarter.
The Roughnecks have a championship-worthy defense. Despite the fact it is missing its second-best pass rusher in Tim Ward and one of its top defensive backs in Sean Davis, Houston’s defense continues to pressure quarterbacks and force turnovers. The Roughnecks’ defense scored twice while their offense spun its tires for nearly three quarters. Tavante Beckett recovered a fumble after Vipers quarterback Jalan McClendon was sacked, and Beckett ran it 35 yards for a score. Ajene Harris stole the football right out of Vipers wide receiver Martavis Bryant’s hands for a 12-yard score. Houston led 13-12 at a point in the third quarter when its offense had gained fewer than 100 total yards. The Roughnecks finished with five sacks, six tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, and two touchdowns on defense.
Houston is still struggling to get the football to Deontay Burnett. Silvers threw seven passes intended for Burnett, and only completed one for five yards. Silvers twice misfired so badly he was intercepted. He missed a wide-open Burnett high on a short sideline route and under-threw him badly on an intermediate sideline route that allowed the Vipers’ defender to get to the ball first. As a result, the defender managed to drag the play out of bounds before Burnett could wrestle the ball away from him. Burnett is talented enough to be Houston’s most impactful playmaker on offense, but Silvers cannot get the football into Burnett’s hands. Houston needs to be more creative at getting him the football in space so he can rack up yards after catches.
Feed Max Borghi. Borghi is a threat to break a big play every time he touches the football, and he needs more touches. Borghi ripped off runs of 21 and 36 yards within his first seven carries, the latter of which set up teammate Brycen Alleyne’s 14-yard touchdown run. Borghi’s combination of speed and elusiveness puts him among the XFL’s best, and considering Silvers’ struggles, Houston needs to lean on its running game more. Borghi finished with 10 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown.
The Roughnecks are XFL South champions. With Saturday’s victory, the Roughnecks clinched the XFL South regular season championship. Houston will host its first-round playoff game as a result. In the XFL’s playoff structure, division winners will host division runner-ups, and the winners of those games will meet in the XFL Championship at the Alamodome in San Antonio on May 13.