TAMPA — In the swarm of players at the line of scrimmage, it was hard to identify which Storm defensive lineman got his hand up to block Portland's potential winning field goal in the final second.
Tampa Bay coach Lawrence Samuels couldn't tell, either, though for an entirely different reason.
"I think my eyes were shut," he said.
Turns out it was James McClinton, and that final play was the difference as Tampa Bay held off a late Portland rally to win 41-40 Saturday and halt a six-game losing streak in front of an announced 8,958 at Amalie Arena.
"I'm proud of my guys for playing until the final play," Samuels said. "That was a motivational win."
Tampa Bay (2-13) led by as many as 21 in the first half, but Portland pulled within one on Nick Truesdell's 45-yard touchdown catch with 6:32 to play.
Matt Pierce then intercepted the Storm's Adam Kennedy with just more than four minutes to play, and it looked like the Storm was headed to its 14th loss in 15 games.
"It's hard to keep a team that's 1-13 together, but it's been pretty easy with this bunch," Samuels said. "Hats off to my coaching staff for getting these guys to fight until the end."
Portland (2-13) moved down the field and Jared Perry ran 10 yards off left tackle, but he chose to intentionally go down at the Storm 5 with 37 seconds to play. Rather than try to score a touchdown, Portland elected for two running plays that resulted in losing 3 yards. The Steel called timeout with 3 seconds left, setting up a 23-yard field goal by Ernesto Lacayo for the win.
"I'm not going to say (Portland's decision) was right or wrong because it's easy to play Monday morning quarterback," Samuels said. "(Portland coach Ron James) decided to play for the final play."
McClinton took a quick bull rush and reached up, swatting the ball away. The 6-foot-1, 285-pound defensive lineman also blocked an extra point earlier in the game.
"I pressed him and then shot the gap," McClinton said, "because (the offensive lineman) was giving it up."