PHILADELPHIA — Aaron Garcia sat on the turf, elbows resting on his thighs, and stared at the pile of players wrestling for the ball he had fumbled.
This was not the end that seemed so imminent for the Orlando Predators' quarterback moments earlier.
The Philadelphia Soul recovered Garcia's final-minute fumble to preserve a 59-55 victory Saturday night in the first round of the Arena Football League playoffs before an announced crowd of 9,641 at the Wells Fargo Center.
Three times in the second half, Garcia brought the Predators back from deficits against the Soul. He had two chances to do it a fourth and final time, but couldn't find a way.
Orlando (7-12) had a first down on the Philadelphia 7-yard line with less than 30 seconds remaining when Garcia was sacked to cause the fumble.
Two minutes earlier, the Soul (13-6) stuffed three straight Orlando running plays by Mykel Benson to turn over the ball on downs at the 4-yard line. Benson had rushed for two touchdowns.
"We just didn't execute," Orlando coach Doug Plank said. "Give the Philadelphia Soul some credit. Those things just didn't happen by accident. They made them happen."
Garcia completed 18 of 28 passes for 296 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. He threw long scoring passes on his first pass of both halves.
His counterpart, Dan Raudabaugh, took advantage of a patchwork Predators secondary to throw for 325 yards and six touchdowns, including the go-ahead strike to Andrae Thurman with 8:46 left.
Thurman torched the Predators for 113 yards and three touchdowns.
"More of it was our mistakes,'' Plank said. "We were playing with a secondary that really never played together before. It's just hard to be on target with your plays when you're continually replacing players.
"That's really been the story of our season."
Five Preds caught TD passes, led by T.T. Toliver with two.
The Predators lost their first five games but rallied to claim the final playoff spot in the American Conference. Plank, who coached the Soul to an ArenaBowl berth last season, wasn't satisfied.
"No one is happy, but maybe this [year] is something we can build on," Plank said.