By Anthony Vieira, Jr.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Who says home-field advantage doesn’t matter? For the DC Defenders (3-2), Audi Field has become an oasis full of winning football. That trend continued Sunday with DC’s 15-6 victory over the St. Louis BattleHawks (3-2) in front of an energized crowd of 16,342.
It was a much-needed win for the Defenders after last week’s debacle in Tampa Bay, and the defense/special teams units were a big reason why. DC’s defense generated heavy pressure, sacking Jordan Ta’amu four times, and forced the BattleHawks to settle for field goals on an afternoon where points were at a premium.
Perhaps the biggest play of the game came at 5:37 in the fourth quarter when linebacker Jameer Thurman blocked a punt that set the Defenders up at the St. Louis 4-yard line—this led to a field goal and a nine-point lead that DC would not relinquish.
“How about our defense?” Defenders’ coach Pep Hamilton said. “We’ve won together, we’ve lost together. We knew that we would have to ultimately come back together—to D.C.—and really identify the things that we do well. Ideally, we wouldn’t have liked to put our defense back in the position we put them in late in the game.”
In a game that was low-scoring, it was the BattleHawks who struck first. An interception thrown by Cardale Jones put St. Louis in position to take a 3-0 lead. The Defenders responded by replacing the embattled Jones with backup quarterback Tyree Jackson, who led the offense to a 6-3 lead after finding Khari Lee for a nine-yard touchdown pass.
St. Louis would tie the game with 9:42 left in the second quarter after nailing a field goal from 40 yards out. DC would put together a drive late in the second quarter, but a missed field goal sent both teams to the locker room with a 6-6 halftime score.
In the third quarter, a 28-yard run by Deandre Thompkins set up a field goal and a 9-6 lead. The Defenders would extend the lead to 12-6 with 3:20 in left in the third after Ty Rausa nailed a field goal from 50 yards out.
The BattleHawks tried to answer early in the fourth quarter, driving all the way to the DC 5-yard line. However, on 4-and-1, St. Louis opted to go for it instead of kicking the field goal and was stuffed for no gain.
In the wake of Tyree Jackson’s solid performance, the immediate talk has been about a permanent quarterback change, though Pep Hamilton has not confirmed that. “Cardale’s our starter. We had discussed prior to the game that we would put Tyree in at the beginning of the third offensive series, regardless of where we were in the game.”
St. Louis BattleHawks: At Tampa Bay Vipers (1-3) Saturday, Mar. 14
DC Defenders: Host the Dallas Renegades (2-3) Sunday, Mar. 15