SALT LAKE CITY -- For a moment on Saturday night, it appeared the Utah Blaze were on track to turn a rough start to the season around.
After logging a solid first-half performance against the Chicago Rush at EnergySolutions Arena, turnovers and undisciplined play haunted the Blaze through the second half yet again, and led to a 59-56 loss, dropping the Blaze to 1-3 on the season.
The defeat is Utah's third straight and something coach Ron James says is unacceptable.
"We were better tonight," James said. "But we missed opportunities to score and you can't afford to squander that in a back-and-forth game."
The Blaze (1-3) battled Chicago (3-2) to the final seconds, but a field goal from Rush kicker Jose Martinez as time expired proved to be the difference as the Blaze will look to stop a three-game losing skid next week in Cleveland.
Utah quarterback Tommy Grady ended the game with 345 yards and seven touchdowns. The biggest stat for the Blaze shot-caller however, was four interceptions, including a back-breaker with 2:57 remaining when Grady's pass was deflected to Chicago DB Kelvin Morris' waiting hands for a pick-six.
If there was a silver lining during Saturday's game, it was the play between Grady and his favorite target WR Aaron Lesue, who missed the first two games with a hamstring injury. Grady and Lesue hooked up for multiple scores and look to be back to last season's rhythm.
James stressed his team's lack of discipline two weeks ago after Utah's loss against Tampa Bay, and said it would be the focus as the Blaze had time off with a bye last weekend. He said a few of the issues were resolved but there are still big discrepancies that needed to be fixed before the squad can move forward.
"We played with good energy at the beginning of the game and solved some of our third-quarter issues," James said. "But being better isn't good enough."
After being tied at 28 at the break, both teams battled to a stalemate through most of the second half. It was turnovers though, particularly interceptions, that proved the biggest obstacle for the Blaze.
After Morris' pick six late in the game though, Utah stormed back down the field and Grady hit Brandon Thompkins with a 45-yard touchdown pass. A two-point conversion tied the game.
Tied at 56, Utah's final hope rested on an onside kick that Chicago recovered, leaving just enough time on the clock for Martinez' 25-yard field goal, handing Utah their third straight loss.
Chicago QB Carson Coffman notched 275 yards with five scores in the win.
The Blaze travel to Cleveland next Saturday to face the Gladiators before returning home to host the Spokane Shock on May 4 at 7 p.m.