Tampa Bay outdid the dangerous Philadelphia offense Friday, grabbing a two-score lead early and never letting the Soul catch up in a 63-49 victory at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Philadelphia has advanced to the last two Arena Bowls but is now 0-3 on the season. The Storm are 3-1, tied for first in the South Division thanks to Orlando's loss this weekend.
Randy Hippeard threw for 276 yards and seven touchdowns, three to Amarri Jackson who caught 10 passes for 143 yards. Not counting a one-play possession that started with three seconds left in the first half, Tampa Bay scored a touchdown on its first seven drives.
Meanwhile all-time leading AFL rusher Derrick Ross, who had six touchdowns in Week 1 and has at least 35 per season, only carried it once for a big fumble early.
Tampa Bay answered with consecutive defensive stops after Philly made it 35-28 to start the third quarter.
New kicker Geoff Boyer was perfect on extra points and Chris Smith continued his season of tremendous defensive plays.
After falling behind 14-0 in their previous two games the Storm reversed that Friday but needed a couple of unexpected breaks. Philadelphia actually recovered the opening kickoff but fortunately for Tampa Bay the ball hit the wall just before. Starting from their own 1-yard line the Storm needed six plays, Samuel Tranks getting a 26-yard TD in his first Tampa Bay catch. Tranks ended with 57 yards on four receptions.
Then as Philly was moving in for a score, Ross -- the league's only legitimate running threat -- got the ball from the 10. Jammie Kirlew popped the ball loose and Richard Clebert recovered for the Storm. A TD pass for fullback Dexter Jackson made it 14-0.
Breaks were a story of the game for Tampa Bay though Philadelphia, perhaps feeling the frustration of a winless start, committed several unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Both teams were flagged for nine fouls but many of the Storm's came after the game was decided.
The sides exchanged scores the rest of the half, including Smith scoring on a five-yard kick return as Philly made a mess of an onside try. Justin Hilton (6-57-2) added a terrific one-handed catch for a TD. Philly scored with just eight seconds left to make it 35-21 at the break, then quickly started the third with a touchdown drive to pull within a score.
Hippeard and the Storm responded quite well. On 3rd-and-10 Hippeard hit Jackson for a 14-yard TD. Jackson was interfered with on the play but somehow managed to haul it in. That was followed by a solid stop with the Soul gaining no yards on four plays, and a quick 17-yard Hilton TD to make it 49-28 entering the fourth quarter.
Twice Tampa Bay stopped the Soul on apparent touchdowns in the fourth. Tiger Jones, the only receiver in AFL history with three straight 2,000-yard seasons, thought he had his third score of the night but Smith knocked the ball loose as Jones was at the goal line -- and Smith caught the ball while on the ground. It's Smith's sixth interception.
Former Jefferson star QB Stephen Garcia saw his first AFL action late but didn't do too well. He fumbled his first snap, his first drive came up empty and as Tampa Bay was simply trying to run out the clock in the final minute Garcia bobbled another snap. Hippeard had to be brought back in.
Rodney Beamon recovered two onside kicks in the fourth quarter as Philly went 0-for-4 on those. Mike Lindsey enjoyed a five-yard rushing touchdown in the late going after one successful recovery.
James Harrell, signed earlier in the week, got the start and led the Storm with 10 solo tackles. De'Audra Dix had five pass break-ups.
Next week the Storm are in Jacksonville.