They needed to cut down on the turnovers. They needed to cut down on penalties. They needed to work on the offensive rhythm. They needed to play smart.
But in the end, the Utah Blaze needed to stop Tampa Bay quarterback Adrian McPherson more than anything, and that was something they simply couldn't do Saturday night at EnergySolutions Arena in a 77-65 loss.
The Storm quarterback considered one of the best dual-threat QBs in the league beat the Blaze with his arm, but made the most crucial plays of the game with his feet, evading defenders for touchdowns. He accounted for eight in all and zero turnovers.
While the Utah offense looked more improved than it did in the Week 2 loss at home to Arizona, the Blaze still committed too many turnovers four in all and too many penalties, which allowed McPherson easy pickings.
"When the field's littered with flags, it's just symptomatic of a team that's not disciplined at this point in the season," Blaze coach Ron James said. "We have to change that."
Receiver Chase Deadder fumbled twice in Tampa Bay territory in the first half. Utah quarterback Tommy Grady, who threw five interceptions against the Rattlers last week, cut down on the picks he tossed two but those plays allowed McPherson to do work on the offensive end.
He torched the Utah defense with the help of receiver Joe Hills, who owned the Blaze secondary throughout the evening finishing with 259 yards and five touchdowns.
McPherson accounted for eight total touchdowns and threw for 294 yards and commanded the game from start to finish. He sliced through the Blaze defense with his shifty speed and timely passing. He led the Storm on five consecutive scoring drives after the teams entered halftime tied 28-28 that eventually gave Tampa Bay the lead.
"He had the type of impact we expected him to have," James said of McPherson.
Blaze wideout Aaron Lesue made his 2013 AFL debut after being hampered by a hamstring injury early in the season and he helped the offense significantly; he snagged two first-quarter touchdowns and made crucial fourth-down grabs to continue Utah drives.
Grady finished with 355 yards passing and six touchdowns, but Tampa Bay's offense kept the pace of the game in its favor, methodically marching down the field against what eventually turned into a gassed Blaze defense.
"It was really just execution," said defensive back David Hyland. "We had a good game plan coming in; they adjusted to what we had, and we just didn't make plays."
The Blaze, now 1-2, have a week off before their fourth game of the season when Chicago comes to Salt Lake City at 8 p.m. April 20.
R Tampa Bay quarterback Adrian McPherson accounts for eight touchdowns.
• Utah receiver Chase Deadder fumbes twice in Tampa Bay territory.