DC’s second win came in front of 15,031 fans, a drop from the 17,163 who took in last week’s 31-19 win over the Seattle Dragons. But Saturday’s environment mirrored the energetic atmosphere on display during the debut, with a crowd starving for a winning football team to get behind.
“It’s been outstanding,” Defenders Coach Pep Hamilton said. “Defensive players are organically more emotional, and our guys, they’ll tell you, they get excited when the fans get excited. They look forward to making a play and getting the response that we’ve gotten from our fans. And that means a lot to us.”
Safety Rahim Moore recovered a fumble in the first quarter, and safety Matt Elam picked off a pass by Guardians quarterback Matt McGloin in the second. Linebacker Jameer Thurman took another McGloin interception 46 yards for a touchdown in the third.
In two games, DC’s defense has forced six turnovers.
“You can’t ask for a better defense,” Defenders quarterback Cardale Jones said.
The player who earned last week’s pick-six, cornerback Bradley Sylve, was traded Friday to the Los Angeles Wildcats for defensive lineman Anthony Johnson. A team captain for Los Angeles, Johnson arrived in the District around midnight yet still managed to play Saturday, finishing with three tackles and and 1½ sacks.
Jones posted another strong performance, finishing 23 for 37 for 276 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.
Wide receiver Rashad Ross led the Defenders with 95 receiving yards, and DeAndre Thompkins added six receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown. Hamilton also praised wideout Eli Rogers, who led the team in receiving yards in Week 1 after the death of his mother and missed her funeral Saturday to face the Guardians, finishing with five catches for 49 yards.
The Defenders possessed the ball for 36:40 and held the Guardians to 137 yards. McGloin, who told ABC sideline reporter Dianna Russini heading into halftime that his team needed to change its entire game plan, finished 8 for 19 for 42 yards and two interceptions. Backup quarterback Marquise Williams led New York’s final two drives.
Leading 27-0 with 1:29 remaining, DC tried a double forward pass on a three-point conversion attempt, a pair of tweaks in the XFL rules. The bid failed but was the first time an XFL team had attempted either.
The Defenders’ first road game is up next: They visit Los Angeles at 6 p.m. on Feb. 23 (Fox Sports 1).
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