SAN JOSE -- On a night when their defense wasn't as dominant usual, the SaberCats' balanced offense managed to calm the Tampa Bay Storm 52-43 Friday at SAP Center.
Quarterback Nathan Stanley completed 24 of 41 passes for 291 yards and five touchdowns for the playoff-bound SaberCats (12-4) in their final regular-season home game. San Jose has won 10 of its past 11 games and already clinched the Arena Football League's Pacific Division title with two road games remaining.
Three of Stanley's TD passes went to Dominique Curry, including two in the third quarter as San Jose went ahead to stay and took a 42-35 lead into the final period. Curry also rushed for two TDs.
Since taking over for injured starter Russ Michna, Stanley has averaged 200-plus yards and five touchdown passes a game in the SaberCats' past five contests, all victories.
"Nate's doing a good job putting the time in," SaberCats coach Darren Arbet said. "He wants the job -- the guys can see it in his eyes. He's doing a good job managing the games."
More than that, though, Stanley has completed his passes to a variety of targets. San Jose did not have a receiver with more than 1,000 yards or 25 touchdowns entering Friday's contest, yet still came in ranked fourth in the AFL in scoring.
"We've got a lot of stud guys," Stanley said. "We don't have just one playmaker or two playmakers. Every guy we have is someone who we can just get the ball in his hands and let them do what they do."
Michna could still return to the starter's role. Arbet said the quarterback is expected to begin throwing Saturday and could see action in the SaberCats' regular-season finale at Iowa in two weeks.
"In the playoffs you want the 24 best guys you have on the roster, and Russ is one of those 24," Arbet said.
The SaberCats' defense, meanwhile, saw its streak of holding opponents below 40 points come to an end. The Cats, who had allowed no more than 37 points in any of their previous 11 victories, surrendered four first-half touchdowns, a total their opponents typically haven't reached until late in contests.
Fortunately for the SaberCats, their offense kept pace. Curry ran the ball in from 2 yards out with five seconds left in the second quarter, enabling the SaberCats to tie the score 28-28 before halftime.
"We want to come out and impose our will on the other team every week, even though this is an offensive game," defensive back Simeon Castille said. "We didn't do that tonight, but we got the 'W,' and that's what counts."
Curry gave the Cats their first lead early in the second half, catching a pass near the left boards and racing untouched to the end zone as San Jose went up 35-28. San Jose led from that point on.
The SaberCats attempted an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff and recovered the ball at Tampa Bay's 12-yard line after a Storm player touched it. That set up Curry's next TD catch, a six-yarder in which he thrust the ball across the goal line while being tackled at the 1-yard, to give the SaberCats a two-touchdown lead that they would never relinquish.
While no SaberCats receiver is in the AFL's top 10 statistically, as a unit the Cats' pass catchers have certainly been productive.
"It's by committee," Arbet said. "They're not selfish — they're about the team. That's what I like about these guys."
SaberCats (12-4) at Philadelphia (8-8), 1 p.m. CSNBA