Game Preview: Storm at Rattlers

Apr 12, 2016 Tampa Bay Storm

The Tampa Bay Storm (0-2, 0-1) will head to Phoenix to take on the Arizona Rattlers (2-0, 2-0) this Saturday, April 16, at Talking Stick Resort Arena.  Fans will be able to catch all of the action as Darek Sharp and Ian Beckles make the call for 1250 AM WHNZ.  The game will also be streamed live on ESPN3 and on the Lightning Power Play which can be found on the iHeartRadio app or at TBLPowerPlay.com.  Kickoff is set for 9:00 p.m. EST.

This will be the 17th meeting between these two storied franchises and seventh in Arizona.  The Storm leads the overall series with a record of 10-6 and holds a record of 3-3 on the road.  Both teams hold an Arena Football League record of five ArenaBowl Championships, with Arizona becoming the most recent dynasty, having one three of the past four championships (2012-14).

The Storm enters the game coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Cleveland Gladiators.  With 18.4 seconds left in regulation, and only down by five points, the Storm was on the verge of a game-winning drive.  The win would be shattered when Gladiators defensive back Joe Powell intercepted a pass, returning it 52 yards for a touchdown, solidifying the win for Cleveland. 

While last week’s loss was heartbreaking, there were several positives to take away from the game.  The defense stepped up its play after giving up 76 points to the Orlando Predators, holding the Gladiators to just 34 points.  The game saw several stops including an interception by Storm defensive back Cortez Stubbs, who also had a fumble recovery.  While the defensive line did not get a sack, it did apply the pressure allowing the defensive backfield to go to work.  The defense will have to play a perfect game in order to stop a potent Rattlers offense that is first in the League, averaging 74.5 points per game.

Offensively, the Storm improved slightly but it must put together a complete game if it wants to put points on the board.  An area of struggle that needs the most improvement is the team’s red zone efficiency.  Last week, the Storm had two drives stopped short of the goal line, leaving at least 12 points off the board.  Look for Storm wide receiver V’Keon Lacey to put up some big numbers in the red zone.  Versus the Gladiators, Lacey was limited to just three catches for 18 yards, but two of the catches were touchdowns, with one coming from just seven yards out.

On the other side of the ball, the Rattlers have been putting together some stellar performances.  The offense dropped 80 points on the Portland Steel in week one and followed it up with a 69 point performance versus the LA KISS.  Arizona’s offense is driven by veteran quarterback Nick Davila.  So far this season, Davila has completed 30-of-42 passes for 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions.  Davila’s receiving corps. is anchored by Rod Windsor who leads the team with 20 catches for 237 yards and eight touchdowns.  Windsor leads the League in receptions per game (10.0) and scoring (24 ppg.).

Look for the Storm to put up a fight and continue to improve this week.  With several key additions, the team will look to get back on track before it heads into the bye week.