TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Storm's season has seen its share of ups and downs, and Friday night was a major down. Tampa Bay, clawing to remain in the playoff hunt, was thumped 64-33 against New Orleans — owners of the worst record in the AFL.
The loss didn't mathematically eliminate the Storm, but the odds of the five-time AFL champion making it to the postseason for the 22nd time in team history look bleak.
"Until someone tells us we have been eliminated," coach Dave Ewart said, "we're going to keep fighting."
The division winners from each conference make the playoffs with two wild cards, regardless of division, rounding out the field in each conference. In the American Conference, only South Division winner Jacksonville is locked in.
That leaves two slots, with Orlando and Georgia — both 9-6 — in the driver's seat. Either Cleveland (9-6) or Pittsburgh (8-7) will win the East Division, with the other one also figuring into the wildcard mix.
"Right now we have to just focus on winning one football game, and that's against Tulsa (on Saturday)," Ewart said.
The best-case scenario for the Storm is to win out and finish 9-9.
If Georgia, Orlando and either Pittsburgh or Cleveland lose out, a lengthy series of tiebreakers would ensue that couldn't be predicted until the final week.
"We've got to win them all anyhow," Ewart said. "I'll worry about anything else when it's over."
Record Watch: Cliff Dukes didn't record a sack against New Orleans, leaving the linebacker three short of the single-season record of 151/2 with three games to play. Dukes has had just 11/2 sacks in the past four games.
Record Watch Part 2: DL Tim McGill recorded a sack in his third straight game. McGill's eighth sack of the season brings the defensive line's season total to 35. The Storm's front four needs three sacks to tie the AFL single-season team total, set in 1988 when the Storm was based in Pittsburgh.
Triple threat: Hank Edwards' seven catches for 82 yards against New Orleans gave him 1,012 receiving yards for the season, joining Huey Whittaker and Amarri Jackson in the 1,000-yard club. It's the third time in team history the Storm has had three receivers pass that plateau in the same season.
Transactions: Marcus Udell's season ended this week when the rookie defensive back was placed on injured reserve after tearing his labrum against New Orleans. The Storm is expected to fill the roster spot today.