I truly believe this was Tampa’s most important game thus far this season. With this victory they put themselves at 5-4 with a legitimate chance at making the playoffs. Of course they will have to continue to win, but they are a serious contender. This victory was also against a pretty good ball club. San Diego features a good offense with a lot of talent on defense. Tampa’s offense wasn’t phased a bit, as they continued their hot play as of late. The defense held up well also, giving up some yardage, but also forcing turnovers from Philip Rivers.
This game wasn’t won by Tampa dominating all phases of the game. They know their secondary is struggling, and that Rivers is a good QB that will throw for a lot of yards most games. He threw for 337 yards and added 3 scores, but that is where the offense stopped. The Chargers had 21 points, which isn’t a ton after looking at those stats. It could have been a lot more, but Tampa was able to get the two interceptions from the QB and slow down the running game. It is really the formula that the Bucs will have to live by going forward this season. The secondary has been torched each week, so they cannot expect that to change any time soon. They can find a way to win despite of that, which is what they have been able to do lately.
A big reason the defensive struggles haven’t mattered as much lately is because the offense has been sensational. Doug Martin had another great game, but a timid one at his recent pace. He still managed 119 total yards in this one, split between rushing and receiving the ball. Freeman wasn’t incredible, but was effective in doing what was asked from him. He had just 20 passes in this game, but completed 14 of them, good for 210 yards and a TD. His main target was former Charger Vincent Jackson who had 59 yards on 5 catches.
Ultimately it was the big plays that doomed the Chargers. Adam Hayward had a 29 yard punt return for a TD that tied the game in the first half. They took the lead in the fourth after Johnson picked off a Rivers pass and took it 83 yards back for a score. Those big plays game the Bucs the game, and not making those mistakes helped them hold onto the lead.
Tampa Bay has a very winnable game next week against the two win Panthers. This game could jolt them into a 6-4 record and a force in the NFC.