SPOKANE, Wash. — Tampa Bay played a perfect game on offense for three quarters, but the first play of the fourth started the Storm's downfall Monday. Spokane took its first lead on a Terrance Sanders interception return and went on to beat the Storm 55-52.
In losing its third straight, the Storm (8-9) no longer controls its playoff fate. Philadelphia claims the final spot with a win over Pittsburgh; Tampa Bay needs Pittsburgh to prevail plus defeat conference-leading Cleveland (16-1) on Saturday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Tampa Bay was ahead 45-41 when Randy Hippeard was intercepted by Sanders, who went 18 yards for the go-ahead score. Hippeard was shaken up on the play, and it carried over to the next drive, with Spokane getting a stop. The Shock extended the lead to 55-45 on quarterback Erik Meyer's 20th rushing touchdown of the season.
Joe Hills pulled the Storm within three on a touchdown catch with 44 seconds remaining, but the Shock (10-7) recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.
Tampa Bay held a 31-20 halftime lead thanks to newcomer Randall Burden. Spokane had plenty of time to answer after Hippeard's sneak put Tampa Bay up 28-20 with 37 seconds left, but Burden's interception helped set up Juan Bongarra's field goal.
It was Tampa Bay's only defensive stop of the night. The game resumed as a back-and-forth affair for the third quarter, with Hills getting a 39-yard TD on fourth down for a 45-34 lead.
The Storm will know its potential fate Saturday night sometime in the first quarter of its game, which kicks off at 7:30. Philadelphia's game at Pittsburgh (14-3) kicks off at 5.
If Tampa Bay does earn a playoff berth, it will play a rematch at Cleveland the following Saturday.