Storm Limp Into Playoffs In Spite of Record-Setting Loss to Power
TAMPA BAY -- There may as well have been a complete power outage at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday night. The Tampa Bay Storm were beaten 48-37 by the Pittsburgh Power on a night in which they backdoored their way into the playoffs. Tampa Bay is in the postseason courtesy of losses by both the Orlando Predators and the New Orleans VooDoo on Saturday.
The offense was out of sync for the Storm from the get go. The team managed just five total yards on its first 10 plays of the game. Tampa Bay didn't get its first offensive points of the game until the 3:27 mark of the first quarter, and it didn't score another offensive touchdown until the 11:49 mark of the third quarter.
The offensive woes for the Storm ran deep on Saturday. QB Randy Hippeard, forced into starting duties for the rest of the year thanks to the fact that QB Adrian McPherson was placed on injured reserve, had a shoddy game, going 25-of-45 for 202 yards with four scores and an INT.
The problem wasn't all on Hippeard, though. The Tampa Bay offensive line surrendered six sacks to a Pittsburgh team that had managed just 19 sacks for the entire season coming into the game. Hippeard was under pressure all night long, and quite often, he ended up throwing balls up for grabs or into the stands when a free rusher got through the line.
Matters weren't helped when WR Chris Davis, who finished with 10 catches for 88 yards and a TD, fumbled on the second drive of the game.
In total, the Storm managed just 176 total yards of offense, one of the worst offensive outputs in team history and the fourth worst offensive performance in a single game this season.
The Storm went just 0-of-5 on fourth down and 3-of-9 on third downs on the day.
Alas, the news wasn't all bad for Tampa Bay. The announced attendance of 16,118 marked the best crowd of the season by a country mile, and it was the best attendance in a regular season game since the Philadelphia Soul posted 16,429 fans in Week 20 in 2011.
However, Head Coach Dave Ewart has some real questions to answer at this point. His Storm might be going to the playoffs, but they are doing so on a record-setting skid. Tampa Bay has lost six games in a row, the longest single-season losing streak in team history.
Ewart is now just 22-31 since taking over for Tim Marcum at the outset of the 2011 season. To put this in comparison, Marcum only lost 77 games in 15 seasons with the Storm.
Tampa Bay heads north next week for an instate rivalry game against the Jacksonville Sharks. A win in that game, and the Storm will be the No. 3 seed in the conference and will likely have to return to Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena the next week for the start of the playoffs. A loss though, and the stage could be set to drop to the No. 4 seed if the Predators beat the VooDoo in Week 19.