Terrance Taylor's deflection led to Terrance Sanders interception return for a touchdown, which unfortunately might lead to the Tampa Bay Storm missing the playoffs.
After Tampa Bay's offense withstood the tough road conditions in Spokane for three quarters Monday night, one play turned the fate of the game and perhaps the Storm's season. Sanders' pick-six, after good pressure from NG Taylor, gave Spokane its first lead of the game, one it would never give up in a 55-52 victory late Monday.
The Storm's third straight loss means they now need help to get into the postseason. Namely Philadelphia must lose to Pittsburgh Saturday, and the Storm must defeat 16-1 Cleveland. Pittsburgh is 14-3 so the help isn't the most out of the question, but the Storm beating Cleveland won't be easy.
For a long time Monday it looked like the Storm would be helping themselves. Tampa Bay scored every time it had the ball, and when Joe Hills caught a daring long pass on fourth down for a 39-yard TD it was 45-34. But Spokane quickly answered and then got the defensive score beginning the fourth quarter for a 48-45 lead.
Storm QB Randy Hippeard was knocked down hard by Taylor on the field, and appeared a bit woozy still on the next possession. Sure enough he was a bit off on his throws and Spokane earned a turnover on downs. After Shock QB Erik Meyer ran in for a 55-45 lead the Storm took too long to score, with Hills' 2nd TD of the night coming with :44 remaining.
Tampa Bay needed to either recover an onside kick -- which it didn't -- or hold Spokane to negative yardage on one of its next three snaps to stop the clock. It couldn't and Spokane (10-7) prevailed.
The Storm's only chance to make the playoffs is to have Philadelphia lose, followed by the Storm beating a 16-1 Cleveland team. The Philly-Pittsburgh game kicks off at 5 p.m. Saturday with the Storm starting at 7:30, so Tampa Bay will know its fate sometime in the first quarter.
Hills caught two of Hippeard's five touchdown passes. The Storm looked to have taken control of the game late in the first half. Hippeard snuck in for a score with :37 left for a 28-20 lead, and then new DB signing Randall Burden made a big interception to set up Juan Bongarra's field goal with three seconds left.
It was Tampa Bay's first field goal attempt of the year and made the score 31-20. But the Randall pick was Tampa Bay's only stop of the game.