After nearly a month of excruciating waiting, the St. Louis Battlehawks finally played their home opener in Week 4, putting up a stellar win in front of a record-breaking crowd of over 38,000 fans.
Now, Week 5 is here and it’s set to be another one to remember.
Today, St. Louis is set to rock The Dome once again as they attempt to seize the North division lead from the DC Defenders. With the Roughnecks loss to the Sea Dragons on Thursday, the Defenders now stand alone as the only undefeated team in the league.
At least until tonight.
The Battlehawks will once again be facing a familiar foe this weekend—the dreaded DC Defenders. The teams first met in Week 5 of the 2020 season in what turned out to be their last game before the league folded. Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu and the Battlehawks were unable to get the ball rolling on offense which ultimately led to them falling 6-15.
Both sides squared up again in Week 3 of the 2023 campaign, but this time with Ta’amu as the opposing quarterback. The matchup featured a very different pace and atmosphere with touchdowns being dished out like they were going out of style. DC would take a commanding two-score lead in the waning minutes of the game, and with an interception on the goal line by AJ McCarron with 30 seconds left to play, you couldn’t fault anyone for changing the channel.
What most certainly appeared to be a finished game however spontaneously turned into a toss up when Ta’amu fumbled the ball attempting to run out of the endzone. Recovering the ball, the Battlehawks remarkably found themselves back on offense on the 1-yard line, hopes and dreams intact.
The Battlehawks turned the game on its head, scoring a touchdown on their first play and following up with a two-point conversion to cut the deficit down to 6. The crowd was stunned, but the job wasn’t over. For the third straight week they were attempting to muster an incredible comeback.
AJ McCarron ➡️ Steven Mitchell
The TD AND the 2-pt conversion 😤 pic.twitter.com/Jy9FxIO9bJ
— St. Louis Battlehawks (@XFLBattlehawks) March 5, 2023
Needing to convert on a 4th and 15, McCarron’s pocket collapsed, leading to a sack which would finally end a true rollercoaster of a game. The drama was far from over, however. Tempers flaring, a fight ensued with players shoving and piling on one another—even a helmet was chucked across the field.
A scuffle broke out towards the end of the Defenders vs. Battlehawks game 😳 pic.twitter.com/1dydLX18mE
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) March 5, 2023
The game was over, but a rivalry was born.
St. Louis is now 0-2 against the Defenders, but they have the opportunity this evening to shake things up in front of their home crowd.
Just like Week 3, this matchup between the two XFL North titans has major implications for the division and the league as a whole. Both teams look excellent coming into Week 5, having put up big offensive numbers against their unfortunate Week 4 adversaries.
The Battlehawks defense, which struggled in Week 3, put up a stellar performance against Arlington in Week 4, forcing four turnovers against the Renegades and holding them to just 11 points. This week, however, they’ll be facing the team that put up 34 points against them just two games prior. The Defenders boast the best rushing stats in the XFL with three of the top five rushers in the league, including the former Battlehawk Jordan Ta’amu. With Ta’amu coming off his best passing game of the season on top of the team’s deadly running game, the Battlehawks defense will need to stay vigilant in order to prevail against the juggernaut Defenders.
As the last undefeated team in the XFL, the Defenders naturally look like the team to beat. As was shown in Weeks 1 and 3, however, they’re most certainly beatable. Though things looked better in Week 4, the Defenders’ passing game has looked extremely weak overall. Unlike 2020, Jordan Ta’amu has not been moving the chains with his arm, posting less than 150 yards on average per game. His completion percentage also sits at a concerning 54.2%, a far cry from the 72.4% he posted in 2020. Despite this sharp decline in yardage and completion percentage, Ta’amu has thrown just one interception through four weeks. As a USFL quarterback in 2022, Ta’amu led the league with 12 interceptions in just 10 games.
Though it hasn’t come to bite the Defenders yet, the team’s lack of presence at the helm, at least in the passing game could really start to cause some problems if not addressed. Ta’amu is extremely talented and has a really high ceiling as a quarterback, but he hasn’t lived up to the hype or his potential this year. Whether he’ll be able to recreate his success from Week 4 will be a big factor heading into tonight.
The Defenders have also played three of their first four games in front of their home crowd, the only road game being in Las Vegas, which unfortunately provided a conspicuously weak atmosphere. This will be the first time DC will have to truly overcome a hostile crowd, something Arlington struggled heavily to do last Sunday.
Given the facts, it’s hard to predict who’ll come out on top. What is for certain however is that this is a game you won’t want to miss.
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