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D.C. Defenders Lose Big Game and Quarterback in Playoff Push

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© UFL | DC Defenders 2024

Fresh off last week’s big conference victory the D.C. Defenders stepped back onto Audi Field Sunday to face the Michigan Panthers. What the Defenders thought would be a game they could control at the line of scrimmage, slowly spiraled into a game that was well out of their control. 

First Quarter: Fire Works

The first quarter was reminiscent of two fighters looking for the slightest opening to land a knockout punch. The Defenders, aware of the dual quarterback system they were facing, game-planned to stack the box with players to take away the Panthers running threat. Defender’s defensive coordinator Greg Williams wanted to make the Panthers one-dimensional and lean on the inexperience of the Panthers quarterbacks Bryce Perkins and Brian Lewerke.

Before the defensive gameplan had any chance to come together Mattew Colburn II, behind hard running and poor tackling, exploded Coach Williams’s game plan early. Colburn’s 53-yard run set up the first touchdown of the game when Lewerke scrambled into the endzone a few plays later.

Scoring Drive: 5 plays | 94 yards | 7-yard TD run by Brian Lewerke [1pt conv good] (Mich 7 - D.C. 0)

After a few series, both defenses found some footing.  It was the Panther’s running game again breaking the Defender’s gameplan over their knee. Following a muffed punt by Defenders wide receiver Chris Rowland, the Panthers responded with a tough drive concluding in a 1-yard touchdown run by Wes Hills.

Scoring Drive: 9 plays | 57 yards | 1 yard TD run by Wes Hills [1pt conv failed] (Mich 13 - D.C. 0)

On the following offensive drive for the Defenders, quarterback Jordan Ta’amu found wide receiver Ty Scott on a 5-yard slant route and Scott flipped it into 65 yards and a touchdown. The quick score brought life back to the Defenders and their fans, but this would be the last positive drive the Defenders would have.

Scoring Drive: 1 play | 70 yards | 70-yard TD reception by Ty Scott [2pt conv failed] (Mich 13 - D.C. 6) 

Second Quarter: The Jake Bates Show

The second quarter saw both offenses struggle to convert 3rd downs and find any consistency. The Defender’s defense stood stout when it needed but had no answer for the heroic leg attached to Jake Bates. Following his game-winning FG last week, his second this season, Bates dominated the scoreboard in the second quarter with two field goals to increase the Panthers lead by 6. His first kick was a booming 51-yard kick and the second was a 22-yard strike right before the end of the half. 

Scoring Drives: 5 plays | -20 yards | 51-yard FG by Jake Bates (Mich 16 - D.C. 6)

   11 plays | 52 yards | 22-yard FG by Jake Bates (Mich 19 - D.C. 6)

Third Quarter: Defenders Lose Ta’amu and Francois

Keeping with the second quarter theme, the third quarter fell one field goal short of being a rerun of ‘The Jake Bates Show’. It was a frustrating quarter for Defenders fans as the offense continually came up short of converting third downs. Often with routes that ended short of the yard to gain leaving commentators and spectators befuddled with the offensive gameplan. 

Adding injury to insult, the Defenders’ third-quarter woes continued when starting quarterback Jordan Ta’amu was injured on a hard hit from Panthers defensive end Breeland Speaks. Speaks came free after beating guard D’Marcus Hayes and engulfing the unsuspecting quarterback, who was later confirmed concussed on the play. Backup quarterback Deondre Francois was injured shortly after he entered the game on a run play. He left the game with an undisclosed knee injury.

Scoring Drive: 8 plays | 38 yards | 40 yard FG by Jake Bates (Mich 22 - D.C. 6)

Fourth Quarter: Survival

The fourth quarter brought some fight from the Defenders’ defense keeping the Panthers out of the endzone but could not keep Colburn II from eating yards and first downs. On their third quarterback Jalan McClendon, the Defenders did find a little rhythm and consistency in both the run and pass game. It was never enough to find the endzone but did manage a scoring field goal drive before time expired.

Scoring Drive: 11 plays | 48 yards | 37 yard FG by Matthew McCrane (Mich 22 - D.C. 9)

Key Play

The game was all Panthers from the kick-off but whatever hopes the Defenders had of getting back into the game were ended in the third quarter with the Breeland Speaks sack. Jordan Ta’amu is the most valuable player on the Defenders’ offense and his injury put a struggling offense in even more of a bind.

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© UFL | DC Defenders 2024

Most Valuable Players

D.C. Defenders: WR Ty Scott - 2 recs | 87 yards | 1 TD

Michigan Panthers: K Jake Bates - 3 FGs | 9 points | longest 51 yards

Defenders Playoff Picture

The most devastating news from Sunday’s loss is not the change in standings. The loss of Jordan Ta’amu will affect the outcome of the Defenders’ playoff push more than anything else. Next week’s game against the conference leader St. Louis (5-2, 3-0) could prove an overwhelming foe if the Defenders can not solve their offensive woes and overall inconsistency on both sides of the ball.

The Defenders are currently 2-2 in the conference and tied for the final playoff spot with the San Antonio Brahmas (4-2, 2-2) who have split their series against each other this season. The Defenders need to win their remaining conference games to have any control over their playoff futures.

The Defenders take the field again on Sunday, May 19, 2024, at 12:00p. The game can be watched on ABC or ESPN Xtra.


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