TAMPA — Early on Saturday night, the Storm hardly looked like a team jockeying for postseason position.
It didn't muster a point in the first quarter. After which, Alabama, hardly a powerhouse at 6-8, led 10-0.
But Tampa Bay scored the next 33 and buoyed its hopes for hosting first- and second-round playoff games by beating the Vipers 53-29 in front of 15,685 at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"We've got four more to go," receiver Tyrone Timmons said. "Beat Orlando, win in the first round, the second round then take the championship."
Tampa Bay (11-4) remains tied for first in the Southern Division with Jacksonville, which beat Bossier-Shreveport 48-20. But because the Sharks swept the season series, the Storm must beat Orlando (7-8) in Saturday's season finale while the Sharks lose to Spokane (13-3) on Friday.
"If we get help, that's fine," Storm coach Tim Marcum said. "If we don't get help, then we have to be the best team on the field for three road games."
Timmons (six catches, 64 yards, two touchdowns) and Brett Dietz (18-of-28, 226 yards, three touchdowns) reached milestones on a 13-yard third-quarter score. It was Timmons' 36th of the season, breaking George LaFrance's team record set in 1998 (over 14 games). And Dietz became the sixth quarterback in Arena League history with 100 passing touchdowns in a season.
"I didn't know what the record was," Timmons said. "I just go out and play every week. It's just a blessing from God."
The first quarter marked the first time the Storm failed to score in a quarter since March 16, 2008, against New Orleans.
"For whatever reason, (Dietz) wasn't seeing it," Marcum said.
"But we managed to keep it close."
Trailing 3-0, Garrett Rivas' 40-yard field goal was blocked. On the ensuing play, Tony Colston swung a lateral to Michael Johnson, who threw across the field to an open Dan Alexander for a 33-yard touchdown.
But Tampa Bay turned the tide in the second quarter, outscoring Alabama 26-0.
Eric Ortiz scored on a 1-yard run. Michael Hawthorne picked off Colston on the next series. Ortiz scored from the 4 to put the Storm up 14-10. And on the ensuing series, lineman Tim McGill pulled down Colston in the end zone, the ball bouncing out of the end zone for a safety.
The Storm had three sacks, two interceptions and forced a fumble that Hawthorne recovered in the end zone in the third quarter. It was only the sixth time this season an Arena League team allowed fewer than 30 points.
"Our pass rush took over," Marcum said. "And that was the end of the story.