In one week, the Tampa Bay Storm's defense went from porous to powerful. After giving up 51 points in a loss to the Orlando Predators, the Storm allowed the Columbus Thunderbolts just two touchdowns in a 53-12 rout Saturday night in an Arena Football League game.
"Our coaches put a lot of emphasis on defense this week," said lineman Tom Gizzi, who had two sacks. "We had a lot of trouble coming off the ball last week.
"I give all credit to the coaching staff, because they really geared us up tonight."
The Storm offense also changed from predictable to potent at halftime.
After leading 14-12 at the intermission, Tampa Bay outscored the 'Bolts 39-6 in the second half.
Lynn Bradford scored the first three touchdowns of the second half on runs of 5, 9 and 3 yards.
"We were trying draws in the first half, and they weren't working," Bradford, a third-year player, said. "The offensive line did a great job for us. I just walked into the end zone.
"Our offense is explosive. We can open a close game up real quick. To be honest, I don't think we've reached our peak yet."
For the second week in a row, Columbus managed just 12 points in losing. For Tampa Bay, its first win of the season was a relief.
"That first win is so important," Bradford said. "I've played on two championship teams (with the Detroit Drive), and for the young players, it's a big lift."
"The key to the game was a constant effort for our team," Tampa Bay coach Fran Curci said. "We didn't give up."
Curci said the second-half explosion was fun to watch.
"Once we got things going, you could just see their confidence disappear," Curci said.
"You're always a little up to get your first one," Gizzi said. "Now we know what we have to do to get to win."
If the Storm's defense can repeat Saturday's performance, winning next week at New Orleans will be that much easier.
The Storm allowed the Thunderbolts a touchdown at the 10-minute, 1-second mark of the first quarter, then held them scoreless for 25:01 before halftime.
After Columbus scored just 1:53 into the second half, the Storm again stopped it the rest of the way.
Gizzi and the rest of the defensive line were the main reason.
Constant pressure on 'Bolts quarterback Milton McGriggs kept the Columbus offense on its heels.
Gizzi and fellow linemen Adrian Wright and Reid Bennett were in the backfield several times, resulting in three sacks and two other plays for negative yardage.
Columbus came close to scoring just before the half. But two carries by McGriggs at the Tampa Bay 1-yard line gained no yards, thanks to stops by linebacker Marc Zeno and defensive back Brad Calip.