TAMPA — Surrendering 64 points a game, the Tampa Bay Storm entered a rare Monday night game at the Tampa Bay Times Forum with the worst scoring defense in the Arena Football League.
Facing the Kansas City Command, the only winless team in the AFL, the Storm's defense improved considerably.
Tampa Bay benefitted from four Kansas City turnovers and gave up a season-low points in a 63-46 victory, pushing its record above .500 before a crowd of 7,345.
"We got the energy from the defense. They played their butts off," wide receiver Prechae Rodriguez said. "We fed off of them."
After the offense sputtered early and was shut out in the first quarter, the Storm (4-3) took its first lead early in the second. Quarterback Stephen Wasil converted fourth and short at the Kansas City 15-yard line and, a play later, found Rodriguez for a 13-yard touchdown pass.
Matt Gutierrez was intercepted on the Command's next offensive play by Lendy Holmes, who also had a fumble recovery. Wasil's 4-yard pass to Chandler Williams made it 14-3. The Storm led 21-17 at halftime.
Storm defensive back Rod Mosley made a juggling interception in the end zone to keep the Command from scoring to start the second half and six plays later, Wasil (17-of-28, 225 yards, five TDs) connected with Rodriguez on a 23-yard strike for a 28-17 advantage.
Kansas City answered with a long touchdown throw from Gutierrez to Shay Hodge and a successful two-point conversion on the final play of the third quarter. Williams, though, returned the ensuing kickoff 56 yards for a touchdown to put the Storm back ahead by two possessions.
"I just tried to make a play for my team," Williams said, "because it looked like we needed one."
Kansas City had one last gasp, a Gutierrez to Syvelle Newton touchdown with 9:45 remaining to cut the lead again to three.
That's when Rodriguez (seven catches, 124 yards, four TDs) made the grab of the game, rising between two defenders to snag a long pass from Wasil and outrace the defense 48 yards to score.
The Storm then took advantage of a special teams error to put the game out of reach. Kansas City's Rashad Barksdale misplayed a carom off the net on the kickoff, and Williams recovered in the end zone
The Storm had three sacks — two from Pernell Phillips — after coming into the game with five.