In a game they absolutely needed to win to stay in the playoff hunt, the New York Guardians tamed the visiting Los Angeles Wildcats, 17-14, on Saturday afternoon in XFL Week Four. QB Luis Perez made his XFL debut and finished 18-of-26 for 150 yards and a touchdown. RB Darius Victor rushed 18 times for 92 yards.
Let’s look at the positives and negatives.
It couldn’t have been a better first half for the Guardians on both sides of the ball. Following their first drive, which resulted in a three-and-out, the Guardians offense started to heat up on a windy, frigid day at MetLife Stadium. The following three drives resulted in scores; a 9-play drive resulted in a field goal, a 10-play drive resulted in a touchdown, and an 8-play drive resulted in a field goal. The Guardians were efficient by establishing the run and the pass throughout the first half. They were improved on third down, converting on 5-of-13 chances (38%). Defensively, the Guardians allowed a touchdown in the first half, but for the most part, kept the Wildcats’ offense in check. QB Josh Johnson was sacked three times in the first half, twice by DL Jarrell Owens. To go with the two sacks, Owens had three total tackles, four QB hurries, and a blocked field goal. The Guardians’ run defense was much better, allowing only 40 total rushing yards.
Let @1_McKay_2 just go up and GET IT 👀
— New York Guardians (@XFLGuardians) February 29, 2020
On the flip side, the second half was a much different story for both teams. The Guardians had the chance to grab a hold of this game after Owens’ FG block. Inexplicably, the Guardians deviated from the offensive efficiency they had in the first half. Head coach/GM Kevin Gilbride and OC G.A. Mangum decided to use the passing game more rather than continue to establish the run. This included two plays on fourth down where Gilbride seemed to be indecisive and the Guardians were forced to punt. On the other side of the ball, the Guardians’ defense couldn’t get off of the field in the second half. The Wildcats put together two long drives in the second half, one of which resulted in a touchdown following a questionable DPI call on fourth down. But the defense came up with a turnover to take back control of the game. DB Jamar Summers’ interception was converted into points with Matt McCrane’s 47-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. From then on, it was bend-don’t-break for the Guardians as they held on for the win.
The Guardians came out on fire but put a fright into their fans when they couldn’t keep their foot on the throats of the Wildcats, one of the more improved teams in the XFL. The offense looked crisper and more efficient with Luis Perez at quarterback. On defense, the front seven was much better, but the secondary can’t surrender anymore big passing plays. They’ll have to have a more complete game when they travel to Dallas next Saturday. If they can steal a game from the Renegades, they’ll be in playoff contention at the halfway point of this sprint of a season.