ORLANDO — The Storm looked far from a winless and wounded club Friday night in its game against the rival Predators, but as improved as Tampa Bay came off, the win column remained vacant.
Orlando stayed undefeated and the Storm stayed winless as the Predators defeated Tampa Bay 42-40 at the Amway Center.
"We stood toe to toe with the best team in the league," coach Lawrence Samuels said. "We're better than everyone thinks."
With the loss, the Storm fell to 0-6 for the first time in the franchise's storied history. Tampa Bay started the 2007 season 0-5, but it rebounded to finish 9-7.
The "War on I-4" has been one-sided of late.
The victory was the Predators' fifth straight against the Storm in the 60th all-time meeting with the teams. Orlando (7-0) hammered Tampa Bay 76-25 in the season opener, the largest margin of defeat in Storm franchise history.
Despite how much better the Storm looked than in previous weeks — Tampa Bay scored more than 30 points for the first time all season — routine mistakes plagued them.
The Storm had one extra point missed, another blocked and a wide-open touchdown dropped.
"We make those simple plays," Samuels said. "And we win. Simple as that."
Tampa Bay forced a turnover on downs at the Storm 3-yard line with 3:42 to play and trailing Orlando by two. Tampa Bay reached the Orlando 22, but on fourth and 4, Jason Boluts' (27-of-46 for 254 yards, four touchdowns) desperation heave was picked off by Sonie Varmah with 39 seconds remaining to seal the win.
The Storm put together its best half of the season and took its first lead of the season into the break. Boltus tossed a pair of touchdown passes and punched in another from the 1 with 38 seconds left in the second quarter to give the Storm a 27-21 halftime advantage.
The Predators then took their first lead of the game on the opening possession of the second half when Kendal Thompkins turned a short sideline curl into a 39-yard touchdown and a 28-27 lead.
The Storm never lead again.
Tampa Bay, which came in with just one sack on the season, recorded three during the game, including a pair from linebacker James Gordon. James Harrell had an interception and the defense forced a pair of turnovers on downs.