PHILADELPHIA - The Storm had two weeks off prior to their game against the Philadelphia Soul on Saturday, courtesy of a bye last week.
After yielding a franchise-worst 76 points to New Orleans in Week 3, the Storm welcomed the extra time to prepare for the AFL's best offense.
In that regard, the Storm were fairly successful, holding the Soul to their lowest offensive output this season. But two costly turnovers doomed them and they fell 59-51 at the Wachovia Center.
The Storm (2-2) nursed a slim lead for most of the first half, but headed into halftime trailing 25-23, after quarterback Brett Dietz suffered a critical fumble. Soul lineman Anthony Dunn sacked Dietz, popping the ball loose, and linebacker Rod Davis recovered it. That set up a 32-yard field goal by Connor Hughes as the half expired.
With the Storm trailing 32-30 in the third quarter, Dietz hit Lawrence Samuels for a 9-yard pass, but Samuels fumbled. Eddie Moten recovered for the Soul (5-0), who took a 39-30 advantage on the next play, a 14-yard touchdown pass to Chris Jackson.
The Storm couldn't close the gap.
"Evenly fought game, fumbled before halftime," Storm coach Tim Marcum said. "You take control of the game, then Lawrence Samuels fumbles. That's the difference in the game, guys.
"We had enough stops to win the football game. We made some big plays on third and fourth downs to stay in the game. I thought right before half, had we taken care of the ball and done what we're supposed to do, we had a chance to leap-frog their guys."
The two fumbles overshadowed an otherwise great game for the offense. Dietz completed 31 of 46 passes for a season-best 400 yards and six touchdowns. Samuels tallied 123 yards receiving and caught three TDs. Hank Edwards and Brent Holmes notched 122 and 109 yards, respectively, and each scored a touchdown.
But it was the defense that showed the biggest improvement.
The Storm placed solid pressure on Soul quarterback Matt D'Orazio all game. Tim McGill sacked D'Orazio twice, the only two sacks the Soul have given up all season. Though McGill said the Storm expect to perform better, he admitted the defense has improved since its loss to New Orleans two weeks ago.
"We're a little more focused," McGill said. "We're getting better and I think we're going to be a dangerous team."
Tampa Bay1491414-51Philadelphia13121420-59 P-Brackins 37 pass from D'Orazio (Hughes kick)
TB-Samuels 15 pass from Dietz (Marler kick)
TB-Holmes 14 pass from Dietz (Marler kick)
P-D'Orazio 5 run (kick failed)
TB-FG Marler 41
P-FG Hughes 33
TB-Saunders 2 pass from Dietz (kick failed)
P-Jackson 13 pass from D'Orazio (kick failed)
P-FG Hughes 32
TB-Edwards 39 pass from Dietz (Marler kick)
P-Brackins 8 pass from D'Orazio (Hughes kick)
P-Jackson 14 pass from D'Orazio (Hughes kick)
TB-Samuels 28 pass from Dietz (Marler kick)
P-Brackins 9 pass from D'Orazio (Hughes kick)
TB-Marshall 2 run (Marler kick)
P-Watts 14 pass from D'Orazio (kick blocked)
TB-Samuels 22 pass from Dietz (Marler kick)
P-Jackson 3 pass from D'Orazio (Hughes kick)