Make that 11 consecutive victories for the Talons, who have made their first Arena Football League season in San Antonio a memorable one.
Trailing by 13 points at halftime, the Talons rallied and then hung on to beat the Arizona Rattlers 62-61 Friday night at the Alamodome, clinching the No. 1 seed in the National Conference and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
A crowd of 8,253 that included former mayor Henry Cisneros and Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed watched the Talons and Rattlers play one of the most exciting games in the AFL this season.
San Antonio (14-3) opens the postseason July 27 against an opponent to be determined. The Talons end the regular season with a road game against the Iowa Barnstormers next Friday night.
"This is very gratifying," Talons coach Lee Johnson said. "For us to have an opportunity to play two playoff games in San Antonio and give our fans a chance to experience that atmosphere in our first season in the city is truly special."
Arena Bowl XXV, the indoor league's championship game, is Aug. 10 in New Orleans.
The Talons started their winning streak after a 68-34 loss to the Rattlers on April 22 in Phoenix. Arizona (12-5) has now lost two in a row after reeling off a seven-game winning streak that had them neck-and-neck with San Antonio for the best record in the National Conference.
Talons' defense comes up with game's biggest play
"We're a different team than we were when we played Arizona the first time," San Antonio quarterback Aaron Garcia said. "We've come together and gotten better every week since we lost to them. We struggled a little bit in the first half tonight, but we put it together when it counted."
The outcome of Friday night's thriller wasn't determined until defensive back Kenneth Fontenette and linebacker Jamar Ransom broke up Nick Davila's pass to Maurice Purify on the two-point conversion attempt after Arizona pulled to within one with 13 seconds left.
"That's the thing about Arena Football -- it's never over," Ransom said. "You're always in the game, no matter what the score is."
The Talons' defense came up big in the second half, stopping the Rattlers' cold on their first two possessions and holding them to 13 points.
"We definitely wanted to come out and change the momentum on defense," Ransom said. "We did that with those big stops."
While Arizona found the going tough against San Antonio's defense early in the third quarter, the Talons scored on their first two possessions to tie the game 48-48. Stefon Demos missed the conversion kick after the second TD.
Garcia, who threw seven touchdown passes, connected with Derek Lee to put the Talons ahead 62-48 midway through the fourth quarter, but Davila threw scoring strikes of 2 and 10 yards to former Nebraska player Maurice Purify in the final 1:46 to give the Rattlers a shot at the victory.
Talons' defense intercepts Davila twice
Arizona started its final scoring drive after Demos missed a 16-yard field goal with 44 seconds left.
"It was just the game kind of game I expected," Johnson said. "We knew it would be a tight one. I'm proud of the way our guys came back in the second half and kept playing hard. Since the seventh game of the season, they've bought into what we're doing and come together."
Garcia, 41, had another outstanding game as he drew nearer to completing his 18th season in the AFL. He completed 21 of 35 passes, with one interception, for 307 yards and the seven TDs.
The most prolific passer in AFL history, Garcia was the league's offensive player of the year last season and was named ArenaBowl MVP after leading the Jacksonville Sharks to a 73-70 victory over Arizona in the championship game.
"This is special for us as players and it's special for our fans," Garcia said. "This is what it's all about. The playoffs are coming up and that's what we've got to be ready for every week. We were down by 13 at halftime and it could have gone the other way, but guys have learned to stick together. We've gotten to know each other and we've become a family."
Davila, who led Arizona to the AFL title game last year, completed 29 of 48 passes, with two interceptions, for 313 yards and five TDs. Fontenette and Dwight Mclean had the picks, both in the fourth period, for the Talons.
The Talons led 35-24 after Garcia's 21-yard TD strike to running back Chad Cook with 5:57 left in the second quarter, but the Rattlers scored 24 unanswered points to take a 48-35 lead at halftime.
"We walked in and halftime and we were down by 13, and they're getting the ball at the start of the second half," Garcia said. "We had to get it together. We were losing it mentally. We were losing it on the field. Our cry all year has been 'Family.' We came in there and said, 'Quit yelling at each other, quit yelling at the referees. Let's play football.' And that's what we did."
Wide receiver Jason Willis, who missed the Talons' earlier game against the Rattlers, had a career night with 13 receptions for 183 yards and three TDs. Jomo Wilson, the Talons' leading receiver, also was sidelined with an injury when the team lost in Arizona. He had only three catches for 33 yards Friday night, but two were for TDs.