Considering that the Power historically has played better on the road than at home, it didn’t appear Consol Energy Center would be the best place for it to end a two-game losing streak.
Instead, the Power halted two skids and moved into second place in the American Conference East Division in the process.
Keyed by a sack and fumble forced by defensive lineman Jake Killen and a clutch defensive stop deep in Philadelphia territory, the Power scored three consecutive first-half touchdowns en route to a 65-57 victory. It was the Power’s first home win in four meetings against the Soul (3-4) at Consol Energy Center and extended its current home winning streak to three.
With the victory, the Power (4-3) is off to its best seven-game start in its first four seasons. Its previous best came in its inaugural campaign when it opened 3-4.
“That [sack and fumble], you gain a possession there and I looked at the play and it looked like the ball slipped out of the quarterback’s hand and we struggled to recover and we took it away,” Power coach Ron James said. “We showed a lot of fight.”
Power quarterback Tommy Grady continued his stellar play as he completed 32 of 45 for 316 yards and eight touchdowns, including scores on each of the first five possessions. His 40 touchdowns this season are second most in team history behind only the 55 from Bernard Morris in 2011. He is also third on the team in single-season completions (173) and fourth in single-season and career yards (1,817).
“I think, when we get pass protection like that, that’s how we’re going to be,” Grady said. “Our receivers are good at getting downfield and our offensive line was great. If we play like that, we’re going to be good.”
While Philadelphia had defensive matchup problems with Grady, its offense took a huge hit early in the second half when receiver Ryan McDaniel — who caught two touchdowns from Dan Raudabaugh — was flagged for a personal foul and ejected. After a Power fumble, players from both teams were wrestling on the turf for the ball when McDaniel was caught punching a Power player and was summarily tossed.
Without the league’s No. 3 player in receptions per game, the Soul offense struggled to find continuity.
“It was a huge loss and every time you lose a player like that on your offense, it affects it,” Soul coach Clint Dolezel said. “He was in a place where he shouldn’t have been … but it seems like we just keep making mental mistakes.”
As the Soul struggled, Grady carved up Philadelphia’s defense. Rodney Wright picked up the slack from the loss of leading wide receiver Aaron Lesue — who injured his left knee last week in a loss at Cleveland and was placed on injured reserve — and caught 16 passes for 163 yards and five touchdowns. Hank Edwards, acquired for future considerations earlier in the week from Spokane, caught the Power’s first touchdown, while Shaun Kauleinamoku and Tyrone Goard caught the other two scores.
“[Lesue] is amazing and he’s been a huge part of this league for years, but I just see this as an opportunity and I just want to make the best of it,” Wright said. “All the guys feel that way. That’s a huge blow … and we have to step it up. We can’t take no breaks and …if we keep that mind set on Saturdays, we’ll be a good offense in this league.”