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For almost the entire fourth quarter, the Utah Blaze found themselves teetering on the brink of letting San Antonio get its third comeback victory against them this season, only one point separating them.
But as linebacker Joe Mortensen swallowed up Talons quarterback Aaron Garcia the team's only sack of the night the Blaze sideline felt fortune swaying back in their favor.
"Oh man, that was amazing," receiver Aaron Lesue said. "It's his birthday today, and we had talked before about him having a big game tonight. For him to be able to do that, it took a lot of pressure off us."
The Blaze's fifth defensive stop of the night gave them the chance to run out the clock in a white-knuckle 35-34 win against No. 1 seed San Antonio on the road the first round of the Arena Football League playoffs. After two disappointing losses to the Talons earlier in the year, the Blaze found the resolve to win when it mattered most, earning the franchise's first-ever playoff win.
Those who were hoping for a shootout between Garcia and Blaze quarterback Tommy Grady were slightly let down in the relatively low-scoring affair, which featured nine turnovers in all. But Utah didn't mind it got what it wanted.
"Their M.O. with us had been their defense stepping up at the end of the game so they could win, but tonight we did it to them," coach Ron James said. "It's not all about having to rely on one side of the ball or the other. I think we played as a team tonight."
It was hard to deny the Blaze defense gave a particularly inspired performance, however, in holding a Talons offense that averages 58 points per game to only 34. The unit produced four turnovers on downs, and an elegant end zone interception by Will Mulder.
Utah's offense did its best work in the middle two quarters, scoring four unanswered touchdowns to lead by as much as 35-20. The Talons made a march back with two straight scores of its own and appeared poised to take the lead after two fourth-quarter interceptions stunted the Blaze's offense.
Still, Grady threw for 326 yards and five touchdowns, good enough for the win. Lesue and Tysson Poots each had 14 catches for 132 yards in the game and together accounted for all of the scores.
Next week, the Blaze will travel to face either the San Jose SaberCats or the Arizona Rattlers both division opponents.
Blaze get first postseason win
R Utah's defense gets four turnovers on downs and an interception
• On his 26th birthday, linebacker Joe Mortensen gets a game-saving sack in the final minutes.