Bucs Defense Takes Step Back
Phillip Buchanon struggled to surmise his team's defensive performance against San Diego. "It seems like we're in a bad dream," Buchanon said. "A slump. We can't get anything going right now."
Tampa Bay's defense did go one way against San Diego - backwards, during its 41-24 dismantling at home. It was Tampa Bay's first home loss at Raymond James Stadium this season and the first time since 1993 the Bucs gave up that many points at home. It was also the most points scored against Tampa Bay at home since Monte Kiffin became the Bucs' defensive coordinator in 1996.
San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers was the biggest factor in Tampa Bay's loss, completing 21 of 31 passes for 287 yards and four touchdowns and no interceptions. Rivers was able to operate with minimal pressure from Tampa Bay's defensive line, which recorded one sack and four quarterback hurries.
"We were getting pressure. He was just moving around," Bucs defensive end Gaines Adams said. "Philip Rivers, he's a good quarterback and we knew we had our hands full coming in today. Obviously we weren't good enough."
Tampa Bay's defense, which was ranked ninth entering the game, also was not good enough when it counted. San Diego led 17-10 with 17 seconds remaining before halftime and possession on its own 36-yard line. Rivers completed a pass to receiver Vincent Jackson to Tampa Bay's 39-yard line, setting up San Diego kicker Nate Kaeding's 57-yard field goal as time expired.
The kick gave San Diego a 20-10 halftime lead. "It was a big play, 57-yard field goal," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "We knew the Chargers had that weapon, Both Mike Scifres punter and Kaeding are both outstanding."
The Bucs took a 24-20 advantage with 5:19 remaining in the third quarter, but Rivers answered with an 11-play, 63-yard drive. He capped off that drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Antonio Gates, giving San Diego a 27-24 lead.
San Diego then scored two more unanswered touchdowns to seal one of the Bucs' worst home losses. The Chargers' average starting position was on their own 40-yard line, but Tampa Bay is optimistic its defense can be reignited in Sunday's season finale against Oakland. "They came in with a good game plan and they executed well," Bucs defensive end Greg White said. "We tried our best and it wasn't good enough."
Anwar Richardson, The Tampa Tribune December 2008