USFL Week 1 highlights: New Orleans Breakers edge Pittsburgh Maulers late

USFL Week 1 highlights: New Orleans Breakers edge Pittsburgh Maulers late

Apr 16

Week 1 of the 2023 USFL season concluded on Sunday night with the New Orleans Breakers taking down the Pittsburgh Maulers in Birmingham.

Earlier Sunday, the Michigan Panthers took down the Houston Gamblers in Memphis, 29-13.

See the full regular-season week-by-week matchups here.

Here are the top plays!

FINAL: New Orleans Breakers 22, Pittsburgh Maulers 15

Optimum field position

Tre Walker caught the opening kickoff for Pittsburgh, and then lateraled the ball to Bailey Gaither, who ran the ball down to the New Orleans' 41-yard line.

Nathan Hierlihy later hit a 37-yard field goal.

Big play sets up score

McLeod Bethel-Thompson hit wide receiver Jonathan Adams for a 37-yard gain on the Breakers' opening possession, putting them at the 5-yard line.

With that said, New Orleans had to settle for a field goal after a third down sack from Boogie Roberts.

From deep

Matt Coghlin drilled a 51-yard field goal late in the first quarter, giving the Breakers a 6-3 lead.

The precision

Punting from the Breakers' 39-yard line, Maulers punter Matt Mengel — with some help from Gaither — pinned New Orleans at its own 1-yard line.

Defensive score

On first down, Pittsburgh linebacker Reuben Foster stripped running back Anthony Jones, and Kyahva Tezino recovered the loose ball in the end zone for the touchdown. The Maulers, though, failed to convert a two-point conversion. They led 9-6.

Making it happen

Two plays after Bethel-Thompson hit Johnnie Dixon for a 27-yard pickup, the quarterback evaded a sack and took off for a 12-yard run. New Orleans got into the red zone but settled for its third field goal, evening up the score at nine apiece.

Chaotic first-half conclusion

Hierlihy missed a 42-yard field goal on the next possession, but New Orleans was called for running into the kicker, extending Pittsburgh's drive. Four downs later, Hierlihy's 34-yard field goal was blocked, ending the first half.

Drive stalls

The Breakers got a lifeline on the opening possession of the second half after the Maulers were called for offside on fourth-and-4. Bethel-Thompson then strung together 12-, 23- and 11-yard completions, the third one going to Adams, but they were unable to get the ball into the end zone, settling for a field goal.


Bethel-Thompson and the Breakers moved the ball in the air once again on their next drive … 

… but they settled for a fifth field goal. New Orleans led 15-9 at the end of the third quarter.

Goal line stand

Walker ran the ensuing kickoff out to the Pittsburgh 46-yard line. Five plays later, New Orleans was called for a personal foul on a late hit out of bounds on quarterback James Morgan, who proceeded to complete a 12-yard pass to Walker. Garrett Groshek then ran it to the 1-yard line.

Despite working their way to mere inches from the goal line, though, the Maulers were stopped on four consecutive plays, turning the ball over on downs.


New Orleans got the ball past midfield but was forced to punt. Pittsburgh's Isiah Hennie then ran the punt back 77 yards for a touchdown.

Hierlihy, though, missed the extra point, keeping the game tied at 15.

Flying high

Pittsburgh kicked the ball out of the bounds, putting the ball on the 50-yard line. Three plays later, Bethel-Thompson took matters into his own legs, scrambling and leaping for the heroic first down on third-and-4 for the Breakers.


Later in the above-mentioned drive, Bethel-Thompson hooked up with tight end Sage Surratt on a 35-yard completion.

Three plays later, the Breakers scored their first touchdown.

On third-and-goal, Bethel-Thompson hit Jones for the goal-line score, putting New Orleans up for good.

Pregame chat

The setting

Walking in

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