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LOS ANGELES - In a "must-win" situation, the Utah Blaze (8-8) got six interceptions while WR SIAHA BURLEY and QB JOE GERMAINE had record-setting nights in the 47-37 victory over the Los Angeles Avengers (9-7) in front of 13,323 fans at STAPLES Center on Saturday night. The victory clinched a postseason berth for the Blaze.
"The defense really carried us tonight," said Blaze head coach/general manager DANNY WHITE. "It was an emotional night and I am happy how our guys responded."
On the Blaze's first offensive play, Burley hauled in a six-yard reception to make him the player in United States professional football history to reach 2,000 receiving yards in a single season. Burley, who was named Offensive Player of the Game, finished with 11 receptions for 133 yards and three touchdowns. The Offensive Player of the Year candidate finished the 2007 regular season with 166 receptions for 2,129 yards and 49 touchdowns.
Utah FB/LB FRANK CARTER earned Ironman of the Game honors with 1.5 total tackles and a rushing touchdown. WR/LB RYAN DENNARD took ADT Defensive Player of the Game recognition with 2.5 total tackles and two interceptions.
The Blaze set the tone early when Carter and DL GARRETT SMITH stopped Avenger FB JOSH JEFFRIES on 4th-and-goal on the first drive. Germaine then found WR HUEY WHITTAKER on a 20-yard touchdown scoring strike to get the Blaze on the board.
The Blaze went on to take a 30-24 halftime lead before outscoring the Avengers 14-0 in the third quarter. Utah set a franchise mark with six total interceptions - two each from Dennard and DB ORSHAWANTE BRYANT, while DBs LEROY SMITH and J'SHARLON JONES each added one.
Germaine finished by completing 20-of-35 passes for 224 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. The All-Arena candidate completed a 16-yard pass to WR TOM PACE with 14:28 remaining in the second quarter to surpass San Jose SaberCats QB MARK GRIEB's record of 4,841 yards set in 2006.
Germaine reached 5,000 yards when he again connected with Pace on a 10-yard pass with just over one minute remaining in the game. He finished the 2007 regular season by completing 422-of-617 passes for 5,005 yards and 107 touchdown passes.
Utah K STEVE VIDETICH also tied an AFL record with his 177th career field goal when he connected on a 16-yarder late in the fourth quarter to help seal the victory.
The Blaze must wait until Monday's Dallas-Colorado game to see who their first-round opponent will be. If Colorado defeats Dallas on Monday night, the Blaze will travel to Kansas City on Saturday, June 30. If Dallas wins, the Blaze return to Los Angeles to play the Avengers on Monday, July 2.