The Tampa Bay Vipers had an incredibly frustrating XFL debut against the New York Guardians

I mean, good gracious, can any Tampa Bay quarterback go a game without throwing at least two interceptions?

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click to enlarge The Tampa Bay Vipers had an incredibly frustrating XFL debut against the New York Guardians
Photo via Tampa Bay Vipers/Twitter

Greg Olsen’s sigh on the FOX broadcast (Olsen did a phenomenal job in the booth) following a turnover on downs by the Tampa Bay Vipers inside the New York Guardians' 10 yard-line just about summed up the day for the Vipers offensively.

The Vipers were shutdown in their 23-3 loss to the Guardians Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium, and their offense was atrocious.

While they moved the ball quite effectively, gaining 394 yards total offensively compared to the Guardians’ 226, their inability to finish drives in the red zone was the Vipers’ biggest problem, as a lone field goal represents the outcomes of four drives that ended inside the Guardians’ 10 yard-line. 

Another issue that plagued the Vipers offensively throughout the game was turnovers. I mean, good gracious, can any Tampa Bay quarterback go a game without throwing at least two interceptions? 

Aaron Murray had both of the picks, and they were inexcusable. The first came in the Guardians’ end zone in the first quarter after he floated a pass targeting tight end Nicholas Truesdell, who was double (or triple) covered, resulting in a pick by Guardians safety Andrew Soroh. The second interception came following Murray throwing a pass intended for receiver Jalen Tolliver that fell into the hands of cornerback Bryce Jones following a tip from one of Jones’ teammates. 

Add in a lost fumble by Truesdell that was returned by UConn grad Jamar Summers for a Guardians touchdown and you have one horrendous game for the Vipers offensively, with three turnovers in total. 

However, the game wasn’t a total loss.

Former USF Bull Quinton Flowers seems to be someone the Vipers could look to when the offense needs a little bit of a jump. Whenever Flowers was on the field in any capacity, the Vipers offense seemed to flourish. However, it was very strange that Flowers was left off of the field on most third downs, even in one pivotal drive in the fourth quarter that ended in the turnover on downs (which resulted in Olsen sighing due to the Vipers leaving Flowers off of the field). It will be interesting to see as this next week develops if Flowers will get more practice reps with the starters, or if Murray will continue to soak up most of the snaps. 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Vipers only gave up 13 points (the fumble recovery for a TD and a pick setting up a field goal accounted for the other 10 points). It was an encouraging game from that end, as while they didn’t force any turnovers, they only allowed 226 total yards. The Guardians’ 1-10 on third down conversions was a big indicator of how well the Vipers’ defense played, despite one of the Vipers’ defensive lineman, Ricky Walker, getting ejected for throwing a punch at a Guardians offensive lineman in the second quarter. 

Overall it was a very frustrating game, as the play calling was confusing at times and the offense showed potential, but could never quite get that big play to shift momentum.

Hopefully the Vipers can bounce back in their next game in Seattle against the Dragons Saturday at 2 p.m. The Dragons have another former USF QB on their roster, as former FSU-slayer B.J. Daniels is the backup to Pensacola-native Brandon Silvers. 

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