Tampa Bay halts Shock’s perfect start
Meyer intercepted for first time this season
Spokane had scored at least two touchdowns in every quarter of its first five Arena Football League games this season. The Shock put up just one touchdown in the first half Saturday.
Quarterback Erik Meyer hadn’t thrown an interception in 190 attempts spanning five games. He was intercepted twice by Tampa Bay and the Shock dropped two passes in the end zone in the first half.
The Shock defense got beat deep for a touchdown with Tampa Bay facing third-and-22 from its 4-yard line.
It was that kind of night for top-ranked Spokane, which battled back in the second half but was knocked from the unbeaten ranks by No. 4 Tampa Bay, 70-62, in front of 9,872 at the Arena. Spokane (5-1) visits West Division rival Utah on Saturday.
“That first half was pretty bad,” said defensive back Terrance Sanders, who set a franchise record with 266 kick-return yards, including a 58-yarder for a touchdown. “It actually ended up doing us in because we weren’t able to come all the way back.”
Neither of Meyer’s interceptions were bad throws. Duane Brooks juggled one pass and ended up booting the ball high into the air with his foot as he was falling. That gave defensive lineman Rodney Beamon time to make a diving catch. The other interception bounced off a dasherboard in the end zone into defensive back Chris Smith’s hands.
It didn’t help matters that Spokane was held on downs inside the Storm 5-yard line. On Spokane’s next series, offensive lineman Patrick Afif couldn’t haul in a low pass from Meyer in the end zone. On the ensuing play, Meyer was intercepted by Smith.
“We had two bad bounces, but even then we were facing third down both times and usually we’re not in third down a whole lot,” Shock head coach Andy Olson said. “We were just flat and for some reason we were confused by their zone.”
Tampa Bay (4-2) scored to take a 28-7 lead with 6.8 seconds left in the second quarter. Sanders returned the kickoff to the Storm 15-yard line. Putting a fitting conclusion to a frustrating half, Meyer zipped a pass to an open Kamar Jorden, who dropped it in the end zone on the final play.
Adron Tennell’s 1-yard touchdown run capped Spokane’s first possession of the third quarter. Following a Storm fumble, Jorden made a touchdown catch falling over the dasherboard, pulling the Shock within 28-21 with 10:38 remaining.
The teams traded touchdowns the rest of the way. Spokane couldn’t get a defensive stop and eventually tried four onside kicks but Tampa Bay recovered each time. The teams combined for 97 second-half points, an AFL record.
Tampa Bay dual-threat quarterback Adrian McPherson rushed for three touchdowns and passed for seven TDs. He finished with 50 yards rushing and 310 passing.
“He was good in the pocket, even when he wasn’t running,” Olson said. “He slides around and buys time and finds receivers down field.”
Former Shock receiver Joe Hills had 10 catches for 177 yards and five touchdowns. Greg Ellingson, who recovered three onside kicks, added eight receptions for 108 yards.
“It was a tough night all around, but we’ll go back to work,” Sanders said. “Now our goal is to be 17-1. One blemish doesn’t change the season. Our goals are still intact.”
Meyer finished 21 of 35 for 258 yards and seven touchdowns. Tennell and Jorden each had three TD receptions.
Saturday: Spokane at Utah, 6 p.m.