USFL Week 1 scores, takeaways: Gamblers, Breakers win close Sunday games; Bandits-Maulers postponed

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The USFL's first weekend of games isn't quite finished yet. Sunday's triple-header took a hit due to the weather in Birmingham, Alabama. It started when the first game between the Michigan Panthers and Houston Gamblers was delayed an hour, and concluded with the nightcap between the Tampa Bay Bandits and Pittsburgh Maulers getting postponed (the game will now be played Monday at 7 p.m. ET). 

Sunday's two games that were played didn't disappoint. The first saw the Houston Gamblers narrowly hold off a furious comeback by the Michigan Panthers, whose would-be winning touchdown on the final play was juggled incomplete in the end zone. The Gamblers won Sunday's opener 17-12 as Mark Thompson rushed 13 times for 71 yards. Shea Patterson went 17 of 25 for 192 yards and a touchdown for the Panthers, but the quarterback also had three fumbles (losing one) in the defeat -- part of nine fumbles Michigan had on the day. 

In Sunday's second of three scheduled games -- before the postponement -- the New Orleans Breakers capitalized off first-half miscues by the Philadelphia Stars to build an early lead, then found their offensive flow in the second half and held on in a 23-17 victory. Jordan Ellis had the go-ahead touchdown run from two yards out to start the fourth quarter that gave the Breakers the lead for good. The Stars faced a 9-0 deficit before rallying to tie the game at 17-17 in the third quarter. Darnell Holland rushed for a 42-yard score to tie the game in the third quarter, as the Stars scored 10 points in the quarter. 

Miscues doomed Philadelphia throughout the afternoon. Stars quarterback Bryan Scott threw an interception to Vontae Diggs that was returned 37 yards for a touchdown to put the Breakers up 7-0. New Orleans also blocked a Matt Mengel punt for a safety. Mengal also missed two field goals, one from 45 yards and the other from 44 yards. The Breakers had six sacks in the win, with Davin Bellamy recording three of them. 

We had already seen a thriller in the Birmingham Stallions' win in the season opener on Saturday night, and both of Sunday's games were also close. All three victors have been from the league's South Division thus far -- here's a look at the standings -- and all the scores were within six points. Here's a look at the scores through Sunday's slate:

SATURDAY
Birmingham Stallions 28, New Jersey Generals 24

SUNDAY
Houston Gamblers 17, Michigan Panthers 12 (final)
New Orleans Breakers 23, Philadelphia Stars 17 (final)

MONDAY 
Tampa Bay Bandits vs. Pittsburgh Maulers, 7 p.m. ET, FS1, fuboTV (PPD from Sunday due to rain)

Here are our takeaways from Sunday's games (you can relive highlights and updates in the live blog below).

Why the Houston Gamblers won

The Gamblers took advantage of two turnovers by a Panthers offense that failed to score any points in the first half, using a fumble by Shea Patterson and another fumble by Paxton Lynch to score two touchdowns that built a 17-0 lead at halftime. Michigan had nine fumbles in the loss, two lost by the quarterbacks that had them facing a two possession deficit (in the USFL a team can score up to nine points on a possession). 

Why the Michigan Panthers lost

The Panthers had three fumbles in the second quarter, highlighting the inconsistent quarterback play throughout the afternoon between Patterson and Lynch. The Panthers actually completed as many passes in the first half as they fumbled (five), which led to 14 points by the Gamblers. The second-half comeback was too big to overcome due to the first-half miscues. 

Why the New Orleans Breakers won

Give New Orleans' offense some credit for finding its rhythm in the second half after going scoreless on its first six possessions. The Breakers wore down a Stars defense on the ground, rushing for 171 yards and two touchdowns en route to scoring touchdowns on consecutive possessions for the victory; 58 of those rushing yards came on those two scoring drives. 

Why the Philadelphia Stars lost

Special teams miscues cost the Stars in this one. Two missed field goals took six points off the board and a blocked punt led to a safety by the Breakers -- hurting all the offensive progress Philadelphia made in the first half. Bryan Scott also threw an interception returned for a touchdown to put the Stars in a 7-0 hole early in the game. The Stars gave the Breakers nine points and missed an opportunity for six of them on offense. They lost by six. 

Play of the day

The Gamblers held a 3-0 lead with the Panthers driving in the red zone before defensive end Ahmad Gooden forced a Shea Patterson fumble as Reggie Northrup took the recovery 87 yards the other way for the score and gave Houston a commanding 11-0 lead to start the second quarter. 

Patterson stumbled to start the play, but Gooden took advantage of the situation. He finished with three forced fumbles and two sacks. 

Up next 

The Panthers (0-1) will play the New Jersey Generals (0-1) on Friday night at 8 p.m while the Gamblers (1-0) will play the Birmingham Stallions (1-0) on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. The Stars (0-1) play the Pittsburgh Maulers (0-0) on Saturday at noon ET while the Breakers (1-0) play the Tampa Bay Bandits on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. All games of the USFL's regular season are in Birmingham, Alabama. 

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The USFL game between the Tampa Bay Bandits and Pittsburgh Maulers has been postponed (weather). 

Game will be played Monday at 7 p.m. ET on FS1. That's it for today's slate of games. 

April 18, 2022, 1:04 AM
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Disappointing defense for the Stars in the final 20 minutes of this one. Team was dominant for the first 6 possessions, but trailed that's to offensive and special teams miscues. Stars are 0-1 -- and have a lot of work to do.

Breakers took an early lead off those miscues and held off teh Stars rally. Their defense is gonna be a problem. 

April 18, 2022, 12:04 AM
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C.J. Logan will ice this one for the Breakers. 

April 18, 2022, 12:02 AM
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Stars are out of timeouts after giving the Breakers a first down on an offsides penalty. Dire need for a turnover to have a chance to win this one. 

April 18, 2022, 12:01 AM
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Two first downs should seal this one for the Breakers. Up 23-17 with 2 minutes left

April 17, 2022, 11:54 PM
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Bryan Scott is 25-of-36, but he has thrown a lot of high passes and has two turnovers.

Not efficient enough for the Stars. 

April 17, 2022, 11:51 PM
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The FG kicking in the USFL hasn't been good. Stars get a break after the Breakers missed a 40-yard FG that may have iced it (9-point deficit is still a one-score game in USFL). 

April 17, 2022, 11:49 PM
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Breakers go for it on 4th-and-3 on the Stars 38. They don't get it. Huge stop by the Stars as they look to score the go-ahead TD with 8:33 left.

Entertaining 2nd half thus far. 

April 17, 2022, 11:37 PM
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Questionable decision by Bart Andrus to have  a kicker who missed a 45-yard FG attempt a 44-yard FG where the Stars are trailing by 6 with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter. 

Mengel missed the kick. Stars still trail 23-17. He's 1-for-3 on FG attempts today. 

April 17, 2022, 11:32 PM
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Breakers did to start the fourth quarter and Ellis ran right up the middle and scored a TD. Breakers take a 24-17 lead to start the final quarter. Let's see if the Stars can respond. 

April 17, 2022, 11:24 PM
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Breakers have a 4th-and-1 at the Stars 2. I'd go for it here. 

April 17, 2022, 11:17 PM
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The Stars run defense is wore out too. All of a sudden the Breakers have a run game and the Stars have no answer. New Orleans set to score again as the Breakers are in the red zone. 

April 17, 2022, 11:16 PM
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Holland with the TD for 42 yards as the Stars answer back. The Stars have teh speed to wear down the defense and they are doing that in this second half. 

Tied at 17-17. 4:19 left. Holland has 8 carries for 56 yards and a TD. 

April 17, 2022, 11:11 PM
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Breakers retake the lead. On their 7th offensive possession, they finally get points. 

Jordan Ellis makes the difference on this scoring drive. 5 carries for 44 yards on the drive. Got the ball on 5 of the 6 plays -- 6 play, 58-yard drive. 

Breakers get the conversion to extend the lead to 17-10. 5:06 left in 3Q. 

April 17, 2022, 11:06 PM
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The Breakers have 122 total yards of offense and 0 points on 6 possessions. Stars defense doing its job so far. 

April 17, 2022, 10:56 PM
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Mengel makes the 30-yard kick and the Stars take a 10-9 lead. Stribling's INT led to the Stars taking the lead, as Philly went 3 plays for 0 yards. 

Stars 1-for-3 scoring TDs in the red zone today. 

April 17, 2022, 10:48 PM
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That INT by Holland has put the Stars in business, but can they get points? Already missed a 45-yard FG today. 

April 17, 2022, 10:45 PM
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Bryan Scott to Bug Howard for the first Stars TD in franchise history!

(New Stars, not 1983-1985 version). 

That wa steh TD the Stars needed and it cut the deficit to 9-7. All those Stars mistakes and its a two-point game. 

April 17, 2022, 10:22 PM
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Chris Rowland has 5 catches for 45 yards in the first half. For you USFL fantasy owners, he's a player you have to pick up. 

April 17, 2022, 10:16 PM
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The Stars defense hasn't allowed a point, but the Breakers special teams has gotten the job done. Two good punts and a blocked punt have helped lead to 9 points on the board. 

Stars need some momentum before the half. 

April 17, 2022, 10:05 PM
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The Breakers are up 9-0 as a result of Stars miscues. Trying to get something going offensively as this is their first efficient drive. 

April 17, 2022, 10:01 PM
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The Stars have the worst offensive line I've seen of all these USFL teams so far. 

3 sacks already by the Breakers today and now a blocked punt. Bad O-line and bd special teams. Recipe for L's. 

Breakers up 9-0. 

April 17, 2022, 9:55 PM
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Missed FG and a failed 4th-and-goal from the 3 lead to no points from the Stars.

Philly dominating in spite of bad O-line play, but no points to show for it. 

April 17, 2022, 9:42 PM
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After 1. Breakers 7, Stars 0.

Stars outgained the Breakers 93 to 8. Had the ball 12:27 to 1:46.

In the red zone looking for the tying score. 

April 17, 2022, 9:37 PM
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Davin Bellamy has 2 sacks in the first quarter already. He's the best defensive player I've seen in this league thus far. 

April 17, 2022, 9:35 PM
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Vontae Diggs  had the helmet cam on the pick-6. Just a sick view of his easy INT. What we used to see when we played back in the day. Ball comes at you fast. 

April 17, 2022, 9:30 PM
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Just a brutal throw from Bryan Scott, a she started down his target and led toa  Breakers interception. Vontae Diggs with the pick-6 to give the Breakers a 7-0 lead with 6:04 left in the first quarter. 

Stars up 47-8 in total yards. Lead TOP 7:30 to 1:46 -- yet trail 7-0 thanks to the turnover. 

April 17, 2022, 9:28 PM
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Bryan Scott went 4 of 6 for 26 yards on the Stars opening drive. A missed 45-yard FG cost the Stars points on their first possession, but the defense forces a 3-and-out right away. Stars have some speed at linebacker. 

April 17, 2022, 9:21 PM
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What a sequence of events. The Panthers nearly rally back from a 17-0 deficit to win on a Hail Mary on fourth-and-26 in the waning moments after Patterson nearly fumbles and then takes a sack on a critical second down -- still having a chance to pull victory from the jaws of defeat. It was not to be, however, as the Gamblers avoid disaster following a scoreless second half filled with mistakes of their own after taking advantage of the Panthers' list of mistakes in the first half.

Welcome to the USFL, folks!

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