|March 23||vs Jacksonville||
|March 30||vs Cleveland||W 69-37|
|April 6||AT Utah||
|April 12||vs San Antonio||L 36-52|
|April 20||AT Orlando||
|April 27||AT Spokane||W 70-62|
|May 4||vs New Orleans||
|May 10||AT San Jose||L 34-64|
|May 18||AT Pittsburgh||
|May 25||vs Philadelphia||L 55-73|
|June 1||AT Iowa||
|June 8||vs Orlando||L 48-55|
|June 15||AT New Orleans||
|June 22||vs Chicago||L 49-50|
|July 6||vs Spokane||
|July 13||AT San Antonio||L 42-68|
|July 20||vs Pittsburgh||
|July 27||AT Jacksonville||7:00pm|
Tampa Bay held a 14-point lead and the chance to pull a second shocking upset of Spokane, but a disastrous end to the third quarter sent the Storm to a 63-49 defeat Saturday at the Forum.
It was the Storm's fourth straight loss and drops them below the .500 mark at 7-8. It also officially gave the South Division title to Jacksonville.
Saturday's other results, mostly Orlando losing to Arizona, all but have the Storm pegged into the No. 3 seed in the American Conference when the playoffs start early August. They will head to the lesser of division winners Philadelphia and Jacksonville (both 10-5).
For the first part of the game a division title still seemed possible. But three key swings, the worst of which ended the third quarter, turned the game towards Spokane's favor.
Tampa Bay led 42-35 but had just been stopped for the first time on the night. However Mike Lindsey, playing both ways after DB Chris Smith hurt his leg, took back an interception for a 38-yard score. But illegal defense was called and instead of being back up by two scores, Tampa Bay found itself tied three plays later.
On the ensuing kickoff Chris Davis -- returning the kickoff because Lindsey needed a rest -- was indecisive as the ball bounced off the net. Spokane recovered in the end zone and led 49-42 to end the period.
Later on the Storm were doomed by another close-but-not-quite moment. Randy Hippeard overthrew a wide-open Joe Hills in the end zone, which would have tied the score at 56 with seven minutes remaining. Two plays later Spokane had its second stop of the night.
Hills had 10 catches for 101 yards and four touchdowns, one a spectacular over-the-wall effort where he crashed hard onto the concrete. Playing again for the injured Adrian McPherson, Hippeard was solid (23-37-249 with six touchdowns). Davis had eight catches for 110 yards and a TD.
But Brandon Thompkins was a star for Spokane with five touchdowns and several key grabs to move the chains. Erik Meyer threw for 303 yards and seven scores to lead Spokane (11-4), which later clinched a playoff spot with San Antonio's loss.
Speaking of San Antonio, that's where the Storm head next. The Talons can no longer win a Wild Card and so will be in must-win mode, entering the final week tied with Chicago at 8-7 atop the Central Division.
Tampa Bay could have clinched a playoff spot if New Orleans had lost, but the Voo Doo prevailed at Utah. Still just one more win by the Storm, or Voo Doo loss, does the job; New Orleans is at league leader Arizona next week.
New Orleans actually is now tied with Orlando for the fourth and final playoff spot at 5-10, and those teams meet in Orlando the final week of the regular season.
After having no first-half stops in the previous four games Tampa Bay got one right away when Vance Cuff picked off a Meyer pass and ran it back 11 yards to the Shock 5. Hippeard found Lindsey on the first play from scrimmage and the Storm were off to an advantage they held throughout the half.
Unfortunately a two-score halftime advantage barely eluded the Storm. After a Davis score on third-and-goal from the 14 put Tampa Bay ahead 28-21 with :44 before the break, Davis was there to recover the ensuing kick off the net. Having recovered just outside the 1-yard line the Storm were able to advance the ball forward, forcing Spokane to use its timeouts on the next two plays.
With :32 remaining Hippeard looked like again he was trying to fall just short of the end zone, which would have allowed Tampa Bay to potentially close the half with a score and 14-point lead. But instead his momentum carried Hippeard into the end zone, and although Tampa Bay led 35-21 the Shock had just enough time to answer. Indeed on the final play of the half Meyer hit Thompkins and the Shock were able to catch up much more easily.
The Cuff interception ended up being the only defensive stop of the game for Tampa Bay.