The Seattle Sea Dragons (5-3) are on the cusp of being eliminated from XFL postseason play after their five-game win streak was snapped by the DC Defenders (7-1) in a 34-33 thriller at a rainy Lumen Field on Sunday afternoon. Once again, an inability to score in short yardage cost the Sea Dragons in the closing seconds, and it may cost them their season.
Seattle’s offense was largely ineffective in the 1st half, with former Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay getting the Sea Dragons’ only points on a short-yardage touchdown. Keep in mind that defensive pass interference on a 3-point conversion gave Seattle a 3-point try at the 1-yard line, and they got stuffed. Oh the pain.
The offense couldn’t convert 3rd downs, while the defense kept giving up 3rd downs via penalty or through yardage gained. Jordan Ta’amu gutted through a left shoulder injury and led the Defenders to a 16-6 halftime lead. A touchdown pass in the 3rd quarter to Ryquell Armstead put the Defenders up 22-6, but a strip-sack and fumble return on the 2-point conversion was run back for two the other way by the Sea Dragons, courtesy of Tyrell Adams.
At 22-8, that sparked the Sea Dragons offense into life. Jawan Green caught a 46-yard seam pass touchdown, while Blake Jackson’s point-after conversion made it 22-15. A botched handoff was recovered by Seattle’s defense and set them up to tie or take the lead, but Ben DiNucci has his customary interception on a tip drill at the DC 3-yard line. Gregg Williams had a Cover-0 blitz and DiNucci is not Russell Wilson.
After a defensive stand, the Sea Dragons got the ball back but stalled out in the red zone and only kicked a field goal to make it 22-18. DC embarked on a 13-play, 73-yard drive that took over seven minutes off the 4th quarter clock, culminating in a Ta’amu touchdown to Brandon Smith. At 28-18 with 5:13 left, this could’ve been the dagger. Back came DiNucci with a long touchdown to Green for his second score, and this crazy three-point conversoin (after an unsportsmanlike penalty) from the 25-yard line made it 28-27.
The Defenders promptly fumbled the ball on a 1st down carry and recovered it, lost yards on 2nd down, and then turned loose for a 70-yard touchdown by Chris Blair on a way too easy catch-and-run. Critically, DC did not convert the 2-point try which gave Seattle a chance to tie or win at 34-27.
DiNucci went 9/9 for 70 yards in the two-minute drill, finding Jahcour Pearson for the touchdown with :31 left. The two-point attempt for the win... ended in a sack. In the 4th and 15 onside kick alternative, DiNucci was pressured and heaved a prayer to Josh Gordon that was incomplete and likely short of the sticks.
Former Seattle Seahawks cornerback had a particularly difficult afternoon with defensive pass interference penalties and just getting beaten in coverage, and the Sea Dragons defense allowed 67 percent of DC’s 3rd down plays to turn into a new set of downs.
That was a really fun game and I say this half-jokingly, but that felt exactly how some recent Seahawks teams would similarly lose a game—the 4th quarter rally, the inability to get critical defensive stops, and allowing untimely pressures and sacks with the game on the line.
DC wins the XFL North, and they are surely the favorites to win the championship.
Full Game Highlights
The Sea Dragons take on the St. Louis Battlehawks (6-2) in St. Louis next Sunday at 3 PM ET/12 PM PT on ESPN+ and ESPN. A Seattle loss eliminates them from the playoffs, whereas a win keeps them alive entering the final week.