STUNNING FAILURE: Roughnecks fall apart in 26-11 loss to Renegades in South Division Championship game

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.

STUNNING FAILURE: Roughnecks fall apart in 26-11 loss to Renegades in South Division Championship game

It wasn’t supposed to end like this. Not on this field. Not in this manner.

In a stunning performance for all the wrong reasons, the Houston Roughnecks’ season ended in the South Division Championship game against a team they had handled with ease twice during the regular season.

The weakest link in the offense was exposed, and the opportunistic defense had no answers as Houston lost in stunning fashion to the Arlington Renegades 26-11.

Quarterback Brandon Silvers was terrible early, misfiring on a critical fourth-and-3 in Arlington territory on the opening drive to a wide-open receiver for what would have been a first down conversion. The pass was a solid three yards behind its target. He threw a pass to running back Brycen Alleyne on the next drive that nearly got Alleyne killed, as the telegraphed pass led to the back being crushed as soon as he made the reception. Silvers would ultimately be benched, as the offense was going nowhere with him at the helm. While he had dealt with an arm injury earlier in the season, there was an expectation the extra time off from being rested last week in a meaningless game would help him. No injury was listed as a reason for Silvers’ removal at any point in the game.

The Roughnecks wanted to run an air raid style offense, but Silvers was the only quarterback who could run that style of offense. Backup Cole McDonald excels in an RPO-based offense. They made some changes to the playcalling, but couldn’t implement an entirely different offense on the fly. McDonald’s inexperience showed as a result, and he finished a terrible 9-for-25 for only 82 yards. He did rush for 47 yards on seven carries, but it couldn’t offset the passing game’s futility.

Arlington opened the game with a power run attack behind De’Veon Smith with a lot of success. Houston had defended the run well all season, but they couldn’t slow Smith down early. As a result, the defense was on their heels instead of attacking, and the league’s best pass rush never got on track. Smith finished with 94 yards on 24 carries.

Renegades QB Luis Perez had all the time he wanted to throw and clean pockets to throw from. As a result, he was able to surgically dismember the Roughnecks’ secondary. Perez was brilliant, delivering quick, accurate throws on crossing patterns and then dropping deep balls directly on target for big plays. He finished 19-for-27 for 289 yards and three touchdowns and a very clean uniform.

Unable to get pressure, the Roughnecks’ defense couldn’t generate the big plays they needed to help their struggling offense. The big sacks, the forced fumbles, the interceptions, none were to be had. The Renegades controlled the line of scrimmage for the overwhelming majority of the game, and the league’s best pass rush, which garnered 35 sacks in the regular season, managed only one in this game.

The Roughnecks ran the ball effectively, but since they were chasing the whole game, they never really relied on it. It proved to be their undoing, as the passing game never materialized behind inaccurate passes and at least six dropped passes that often were drive-killers. It was perhaps the worst all-around performance by the Roughnecks this season at the absolute worst time. The Roughnecks rushed for 132 yards on 25 carries (5.3 YPC) while only passing for 104 yards.

The Renegades’ offensive performance was very unexpected, as they averaged less than 15 points per game this year, and only scored 23 points in two games combined this season against Houston. They matched that in the first half. Meanwhile, Houston scored a season-low 11 points.

The upset loss ends the Roughnecks’ season, and the Renegades will head to San Antonio for the XFL Championship game in two weeks against the winner of Sunday’s XFL North Divisional Championship game between the Seattle Sea Dragons and the D.C. Defenders.

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