Good news: The Seattle Sea Dragons (0-2) made amends for last week and scored the go-ahead touchdown in the final minutes against the St. Louis Battlehawks (2-0).
Bad news: They still lost the game.
Yes, the Sea Dragons’ home opener on a chilly night at Lumen Field ended in a heartbreaking 20-18 loss to the Battlehawks, who have gone on the road and snatched dramatic wins in consecutive weeks. Seattle raced out to a 12-0 lead, but the offense sputtered significantly and the turnovers. Oh the turnovers. It was so bad that even the special teams got involved.
Ben DiNucci threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Jahcour Pearson to give Seattle it’s first TD of the night.
Ben DiNucci came out FIRING today for the @XFLSeaDragons.— James Larsen (@JamesLarsenPFN) February 24, 2023
He finds Jahcour Pearson for the bigtime score, and the Dragons now lead 12-0 early in the second quarter after a successful three point attempt to Josh Gordon. #XFL pic.twitter.com/6RieS1UUqS
St. Louis did march down the field after this TD and score on a 1-yard sneak with A.J. McCarron.
The Battlehawks struggled to sustain drives for most of the night, but they were also given gifts by Seattle on a regular basis. Pearson muffed a punt, which the Battlehawks recovered deep in Seattle territory, only for kicker Donny Hageman to doink his field goal off the uprights.
On the next possession, running back Morgan Ellison coughed up the ball and the Battlehawks pounced on it. This time, Hageman made his field goal to cut the deficit to 12-11.
With a quality drive going into the 4th quarter, a botched 3rd and 1 sneak by DiNucci resulted in another lost fumble. This one was in field goal range and while St. Louis didn’t score, obviously Seattle threw points away. McCarron gave St. Louis the lead on a blitz-beating touchdown to Hakeem Butler on a crossing route.
HAKEEM BUTLER PUTS ST. LOUIS ON TOP @XFL2023 I @XFLBattlehawks pic.twitter.com/ztJKWGOAMI— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) February 24, 2023
Offensive coordinator June Jones then unleashed the run-and-shoot-yourself-in-the-foot offense, dialing up passes on 3rd and 4th and 1 that would both fall incomplete. DiNucci openly questioned why they didn’t just run the ball, as the XFL is mic’ed up and we don’t need to read lips. Once again the Sea Dragons D stepped up, and again Hageman missed a field goal.
DiNucci found Josh Gordon on a 33-yard play, and a few snaps later they were faced with goal-to-go. On 4th down and less than two minutes to go, DiNucci hit Jordan Veasy in the back of the end zone for the touchdown to go up 18-17.
JORDAN VEASY. IT'S NOT OVER‼️@XFL2023 I @XFLSeaDragons pic.twitter.com/QP1olnbDET— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) February 24, 2023
Curiously, Jim Haslett opted to go for 3 and not 2, and the conversion failed. The successful conversion would’ve forced St. Louis to go for a touchdown, but trying to convert from the 10 figures to be lower percentage than the 5, and the gamble didn’t pay off.
McCarron went to work and methodically marched down the field, including a clutch throw to former (Sea) Dragon Austin Proehl on 3rd and 3 to put Hageman in comfortable field goal range. He didn’t miss this time.
BACK-TO-BACK COMEBACK THRILLERS.— St. Louis Battlehawks (@XFLBattlehawks) February 24, 2023
DONNY CALLED GAME. pic.twitter.com/vqqF79brTZ
It’s really hard to win when you commit six turnovers over two games and the opposition only commits one. DiNucci was 19/29 for 196 yards, 2 touchdowns, 38 yards rushing, and no sacks taken. Thanks to Seattle’s staggering sloppiness and poor 3rd down play, they only ran 50 plays compared to 65 for St. Louis.
Seattle is on the road next Saturday against the Vegas Vipers on March 4th at 4 PM PT on FX and ESPN+.