The Seattle Sea Dragons (7-3) needed a win against the Vegas Vipers (2-8) and to avoid certain scorelines in order to make the XFL playoffs, and that mission was accomplished.
Seattle dominated Vegas by a score of 28-9 in front of over 15,000 fans at Lumen Field to secure a playoff spot over the St. Louis Battlehawks (7-3), who had an identical record, head-to-head record, and strength of victory, so the next tiebreaker was combined ranking for points for and points against within the division. Again, they were equal because Seattle didn’t score at least 34 points, but the fifth tiebreaker of league-wide combined ranking gave the Sea Dragons the edge needed to qualify for postseason play after an 0-2 start. The Sea Dragons had a combined PF/PA ranking of 5th (4th PF, 1st PA), whereas the Battlehawks were 7th (2nd PF, 5th PA).
This was also an emotional win, as Sea Dragons defensive end Chris Smith passed away earlier this week at just 31 years old from currently unknown causes. Players walked out of the tunnel with Smith’s No. 42 jersey in tribute to their fallen teammate. Our condolences go out to the Smith family.
The Sea Dragons defense shut the Vipers offense out for the entire first half, but Seattle’s offense sputtered frequently until the closing minutes of the second quarter. Ben DiNucci used his wheels to take off for six to give Seattle a 6-0 halftime lead.
BEN DINUCCI FOR 6️⃣— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) April 24, 2023
The @XFLSeaDragons strike first! pic.twitter.com/dyYkNxHJOQ
In the 3rd quarter the Sea Dragons put up a pair of touchdowns on some beautiful throws by Ben DiNucci. The first TD was a long ball down the middle to Jahcour Pearson, as the Vipers got caught out on a fake screen.
Touchdown Sea Dragons !!!— Spring Football News (@SpringFBnews) April 24, 2023
Un missile de 33 yds pour Jahcour Pearson #XFL #XFL2023 pic.twitter.com/mrwaMj3vWX
A Josh Gordon 2-point conversion catch made it 14-0. Vegas tacked on a field goal, but Seattle answered with a long ball from DiNucci to Juwan Green on the scramble drill.
BEN DINUCCI AND JUWAN GREEN DANCIN' ON 'EM‼️@XFL2023 | @XFLSeaDragons pic.twitter.com/vEv95NWTMX— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) April 24, 2023
Gordon got mauled in the end zone for defensive pass interference, setting up 1st and goal to start the 4th quarter with the Sea Dragons up 20-3. Jordan Veasy made this diving grab and got a foot down, then Blake Jackson converted the two-pointer to make it 28-3.
WHAT A THROW AND CATCH @XFL2023 | @XFLSeaDragons pic.twitter.com/6FG3XIsnaR— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) April 24, 2023
Thanks to a lack of clarity from the ESPN broadcast and arguably from the XFL itself, there might have been an assumption that Seattle had to score at least 34 points in order to make the playoffs. That was never true, but the Sea Dragons still had chances to get to 34 and ended up with a couple of bad DiNucci interceptions, including his usual one in the end zone. Thankfully, it didn’t matter.
The Vipers got a garbage time touchdown from Shai McKenzie from a yard out, but not after receiver Matthew Sexton was spared his blushes by XFL rule changes. In the NFL, a fumble through the back of the end zone is a turnover, but in the XFL the ball is brought out to where the ball was initially lost. Sexton’s 84-yard catch-and-run and premature celebration didn’t result in no points for Vegas, just no points for him. Seattle knew they had the playoffs locked up at 28-9 and ran the clock out.
The Sea Dragons will travel to Audi Field in Washington DC to take on the DC Defenders (9-1) for the North Championship on April 30 at 3 PM ET/12 PM PT on ESPN/ESPN+. Seattle lost both regular season games by a combined 5 points, and DC has lost just once all year. This should be another thriller, and maybe this time Seattle will come out on top and disappoint the Defenders fans while they’re in the middle of drinking from the beer snake.
The winner of Seattle-DC takes on the winner of the Houston Roughnecks-Arlington Renegades on May 13 in San Antonio.
Who doesn’t love it when a Seattle football team qualifies for the playoffs on the final day? We just witnessed it twice in three months. Let’s end this with a shoutout to the Orlando Guardians, whose 28 points made Seattle’s tiebreaker situation easier.
FAKE PUNT ➡️ 84 YARDS TO THE— ESPN (@espn) April 22, 2023
Two weeks in a row for the Guardians‼️ pic.twitter.com/MHuzsxR68V