The Utah Blaze were 15 yards away from the end zone with 15 seconds to go. Down only three points, a win was possible.
They put the ball in the hands of quarterback Tommy Grady. San Antonio's Victor DeGrate sacked Grady, knocked it out of his hands, and that was the game.
The forced fumble effectively ended Utah's chances at winning a contest that was all but theirs to take. San Antonio (8-3) claimed a 64-61 victory Saturday night at EnergySolutions Arena in front of a crowd of 8,093, and the Blaze (6-5) were left smarting after leading by as many as 12 points in the fourth quarter.
After the much-maligned defense showed improvement under new coordinator Rob Keefe, coach Ron James put the defeat squarely on the shoulders of what he termed an "erratic" offense.
"It's pretty simple: We were in scoring position and could win the game with a touchdown or tie the game with a field goal," James said. "We can't give up protection on that play."
DeGrate's sack of Grady wasn't the only time the Blaze quarterback found himself under fire. Utah gave up a sack on fourth down with 4:04 left that gave the Talons possession on the Utah 4-yard line.
Talons passer Aaron Garcia made quick work of the opportunity, throwing a go-ahead score to take the team's first lead since the third quarter. It was a turning point that the Blaze never quite recovered from.
James also was scratching his head by some passing choices by Grady, who still finished with 342 yards and seven touchdowns. Utah had a chance to go ahead by 18 points only 6 yards out from the end zone, but Grady threw into double coverage when a checkdown receiver was open.
In all, the offense turned the ball over twice on interception returns, twice on fumbles and once on downs. The defense wasn't perfect either, but the turnovers essentially invalidated a stop on downs, a fumble recovery and two special teams net recoveries on kickoffs.
"We had a great gameplan, but it came down to we turned the ball over more than they did," Keefe said. "I though the defensive side brought it. We have to cut out some mental mistakes, but I thought they did a good job."
One of the mental mistakes might have also cost the Blaze the game: William Mulder was called offside on a play in which he picked off Garcia and took it to the house.
The blame game won't help Utah, which now has a three-game losing streak. The Blaze head on the road for their next game against the Kansas City Command.
Storylines Blaze fall to San Antonio
R Utah gives up five turnovers in the defeat.
• Tommy Grady throws for seven touchdowns but is sacked for a fumble in the final minute.
• Shaun Kauleinamoku and Aaron Lesue both have more than 100 receiving yards.