TAMPA — Tampa Bay scored on all of its offensive possessions, the defense came up with a big play when needed and the Storm defeated Chicago 68-60 on Friday night in front of 15,704 at the St. Pete Times Forum for its seventh straight victory.
"That was a wild one," coach Tim Marcum said. "We knew how good they were and it would be a tough one."
The Storm's winning streak is two off the franchise record (set twice, 1995 and 1998). The victory also improved Tampa Bay's home record this season to 5-1. The Storm (9-3) moved a game and a half in front of Jacksonville in the Southern Division. The Sharks host Alabama at 7 tonight.
"Things are going our way, and our locker room has been phenomenal," quarterback Brett Dietz said. "The balls are bouncing our way, we're feeling it and good things are happening."
Ahead 55-53, the Storm recovered an onside kick at the Rush 6-yard line with just more than three minutes to play. Dietz (24-of-31 for 359 yards and eight touchdowns) then hit Tyrone Timmons (nine catches for 92 yards and three touchdowns) in the back of the end zone on the next play to put Tampa Bay ahead 62-53 and make it a two-possession game.
On fourth down during Chicago's next possession, Storm linebacker Michael Hawthorne stripped receiver Syvelle Newton from behind, and the ball caromed right into the arms of the Storm's Erick McIntosh. McIntosh weaved his way along the wall, then cut across the field and into the end zone, sealing the win with a 30-yard return.
"Michael made a heck of a play," Marcum said. "Punching the ball out like that is something we work on every day in practice, and it's nice to see it happen in the game."
Hank Edwards, coming off an Arena Football League offensive player of the week award for his game against Bossier-Shreveport, had another big night. Edwards caught eight passes for 172 yards and four scores.
"I'm getting time because of the guys up front, and when I get that time, we can do some damage offensively," Dietz said.
Both offenses looked sharp in the first half. The Storm scored on all five possessions, including a pair of touchdown passes from Dietz to Edwards.
Chicago (9-4) quarterback Russ Michna, who went 14-of-16 for 184 yards and four touchdowns in the half, tossed scoring passes to Allen Turner on the Rush's first three possessions of the game.
Chicago's Clifton Smith went off left tackle for a 4-yard score with 34.6 seconds left in the half. But Dietz marched the Storm down the field, keyed by a 27-yard strike to Sedrick Robinson to the Rush 1. Terrance Royal then took the handoff and bulldozed up the middle for a touchdown with 7.3 seconds left in the half, giving the Storm a 35-34 lead and possession to start the second half.
The Rush pulled within 55-53 with less than four minutes to play on Smith's second rushing score (2 yards). Chicago went for two, but DeJuan Alfonzo's pass out of the wildcat formation was intercepted by Brandon Hefflin.