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Storm is grappling for answers

Loss at Los Angeles means team has matched worst five-game start in franchise history.

By FRANK PASTOR

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 19, 2002


Loss at Los Angeles means team has matched worst five-game start in franchise history.

Tim Marcum is getting tired of repeating himself.

"The whole thing boils down to turnovers," the Storm coach said after Tampa Bay's 38-24 loss to the Los Angeles Avengers Friday at the Staples Center.

Fullback Basil Proctor fumbled into the end zone for the third time this season, and quarterback Shane Stafford threw an interception on the next possession as the Storm fell to 0-3 in games in which it commits a turnover.

A missed blocking assignment that led to a fourth-quarter sack and a drive-stalling offside penalty on offensive specialist Carlos Johnson also contributed to the team's 1-4 start, which matches the worst in its 12-year history.

"We weren't ready to go," Marcum said. "We came out here on a leisure trip and weren't ready to play."

New additions John Williams and Corey Sawyer brought help to a beleaguered secondary, and Juaquin Feazell returned from law school to improve the pass rush.

But now, the problems are on offense.

Stafford completed 23 of 40 passes for 253 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception as the Storm scored on four of its nine possessions, including three touchdowns.

Johnson caught 9 passes for 111 yards and 2 touchdowns, but Marcum said the team needs more production from its specialist. Proctor continued to have problems protecting the football, fumbling twice and losing one.

Marcum said he will look closely at all three positions this week.

"We've got to get better," he said. "We've got to have better ball skills than that."

Stafford's 5-yard touchdown pass to Johnson with 22 seconds remaining kept the Storm from matching its record for fewest points in a game. The Storm managed 17 in a 1997 loss to Orlando.

Still, the score was tied at 17 before Los Angeles quarterback Tony Graziani passed for three fourth-quarter touchdowns, two to Greg Hopkins. Tampa Bay has been outscored 84-56 in the final quarter this season.

The loss kept the Storm two games behind first-place Carolina (3-2) in the Southern Division. Had Tampa Bay won, it would have had a chance to tie the Cobras for first place with a victory Saturday at the Ice Palace in Tampa.

But Marcum has more immediate concerns:

"We'll look at the tapes and all that and see where we're breaking down right now. I just think we have to look at every aspect. When you're 1-4, you have to look at every aspect you're doing."

Tampa Bay started 1-4 in 2000 but won six of its final seven games and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.

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