NEW ORLEANS Matt D'Orazio threw seven touchdown passes and ran for another score to lead the Philadelphia Soul to their first ArenaBowl victory, beating defending AFL champion San Jose 59-56 on Sunday.
Philadelphia scored on all six of its first-half possessions and took the lead for good with three consecutive touchdowns in the second quarter, then survived a frantic San Jose rally in the final minute to hold on in the 22nd ArenaBowl.
D'Orazio, the Arena League MVP in the regular season, hooked up for three scores with wide receiver Chris Jackson, the offensive player of the year.
Jackson finished with 146 yards on 11 catches and D'Orazio threw for 302 yards.
San Jose, which hoped to become the first repeat champion since Tampa Bay in 1995-96, lost for the first time in four Arena Bowl appearances.
San Jose scored touchdowns on its first three series, but Philadelphia made two key stops to turn a 20-14 deficit into a 34-20 advantage. The SaberCats turned the ball over on downs to stop one possession, and defensive back Eddie Moten picked off Mark Grieb's pass on the next.
Grieb tossed a league-high 18 interceptions during the regular season.
Philadelphia capitalized. Jackson tied the score at 20 on a 13-yard reception, Larry Brackins scored on a 20-yard catch on the Soul's next offensive play as Philadelphia went ahead 27-20, and D'Orazio scrambled for an 8-yard touchdown with 54 seconds left in the half.
Philadelphia extended a 37-27 halftime lead to 44-27 on Jackson's 32-yard touchdown catch and added a safety when Grieb fumbled into his own end zone.
That mistake, plus 11 penalties for 65 yards, slowed down San Jose for most of the day.
The Soul appeared to be in total control when Phil Bogle caught a touchdown pass to make the score 59-42 with 39 seconds left, but San Jose made the last half-minute interesting, scoring 16 points in 11 seconds with the help of a onside kick the SaberCats caught on the hop and returned to the Philadelphia 14.
Philadelphia, which rallied from a 33-7 deficit on the road to beat San Jose 58-57 in the regular season, finally sealed the win by recovering a second onside kick.
San Jose's Rodney Wright set an ArenaBowl record with 13 catches, including seven in the first quarter. Jason Geathers, a linebacker subbing for injured wide receiver James Roe, caught five touchdown passes.
Philadelphia, which survived a replay review after scoring a touchdown on the final play of its Eastern Conference semifinal victory over New York, came out on the good end of all three reviews against San Jose. The league adopted the review system for the first time at the start of the playoffs.
The SaberCats challenged two calls that were upheld. Philadelphia challenged one call and it was overturned a wild play in the fourth quarter when Wright intercepted a pass off a botched field goal snap and fumbled at his 8-yard line. After ruling Wright down initially, officials reversed the call, and Philadelphia scored to go ahead 52-36 a few plays later.