Observations of the Bucs/Chargers Showdown 11/11/12

1) Not much call for a silly title for this Observations. For the most part this was a consistently well-played, hard-fought game.

Still and all: HOLY BLEEPBLEEP, we got ourselves a WIN STREAK!

2) Coming into this game, the expectation I had was for a shootout between two offense-heavy teams: the Chargers led by a franchise-caliber QB in Philip Rivers and the Bucs with the Freeman-Jackson-Williams Martin tandem. While this was still a high-scoring game for the most part, the Bucs prevailed because of huge turnovers converted into touchdown returns.

The Bucs offense was pretty well-contained, with well under 100 yards rushing and barely over 200 yards receiving. But the Bucs managed with decent field position and those turnovers to make it work. On the other side of things, the Bucs defense may have given up 300+ passing yards yet again, they made adjustments in the Second Half to contain Rivers, slow down their offense, and keep the Chargers out of the End Zone that Second Half. It was Bend-Don't-Break Defense once more, and it was a key reason the Bucs won.

3) Player of the game: While the secondary remains a maligned and porous unit, there are individual performances that made an impact today. Above all, undrafted rookie CB Leonard Johnson, alumnus of Largo High, made the biggest play of his life (so far, one hopes) with a huge INT and return of an errant Rivers throw at the start of the Fourth Quarter. Taking it back 83 yards and putting the Bucs score up 31 to 21, turning what was a Chargers threat of a touchdown/lead into a Bucs touchdown, a 14-point reversal. Johnson was still part of a secondary that gave up 300+ yards, but he took the opportunity and made it work, and the team won. Keep getting better, Johnson, we seriously need the upgrade at Corner.

3a) Dakota Watson and Adam Hayward don't get their names called too often, but today the two of them combined for an incredible blocked punt (Watson) and return for a touchdown (Hayward) that kept the Bucs in the game late in the Second Quarter. Huge play, guys, huge.

3b) He wasn't flashy yet again, but QB Josh Freeman played smart football, few if any miscues, two touchdown throws and no INTs. Of the QBs drafted First Round in 2009, Freeman is right now the better of the three draftees.

3c) K Connor Barth returned to form this game, after having a few bad weeks, making both FG kicks asked of him. YAY.

3d) LB Lavonte David remains a tackling machine, getting into double digits (14 total, 13 solo) for the day.

3e) The defensive line itself earns some mention: while they got only one sack out of the two earned by the Bucs' D today - thanks Te'o-Nesheim - the line put solid pressure on Rivers in the Second Half, forcing him into making two errant throws that became INTs.

4) Stats of the game: Chargers gained 426 total yards of offense, had the ball for 37 minutes of the game, converted 10-of-15 third downs... and still lost. All because of this key stat: 3 turnovers. 2 INTs (one for a touchdown) and a blocked punt recovered for a TD.

4a) Doug Martin gained only 68 rushing yards... but add on his receiving yards of 51 and you've got 119 total offensive yards, not a shabby day.

4b) Conversely, the Chargers gained 103 total rushing yards, but their top back Ryan Mathews only got 54.

5) This three-game win streak keeps Tampa Bay in the thick of the playoff hunt. The more surprising development is that the Bucs in my opinion are playing well enough to garner a winning season - at least 9-7 - at least. A 10-6 season does not look out of the question right now.

5a) On the bad side, this is moving the Bucs further down next year's draft list and may keep us from getting that surefire starting rookie CB we need to get better in 2013... sigh.

6) In other NFL news: No more unbeaten team. Damn Dolphins vets from 1972 get to rub it in our faces yet another season. Worse, having Atlanta lose to New Orleans allows the Saints back up to 4-5 on the year and now the media commentators are talking up New Orleans as a playoff threat, not the Bucs. Damn it all.

6a) Wait a minute... Did the 49ers and Rams TIE a game today? Good lord, I didn't think that happened anymore in the league.

6b) Do you think ESPN would have liked trading away the Chiefs/Steelers matchup for this Monday night in exchange for, oh, Bills/Patriots?

7) In professional hockey news, there's always the last week or two of NASCAR...

8) In baseball news, will the Rays lose one Upton only to trade for another?

9) In movie news, is Skyfall the first Bond movie made with the serious intent of offering it up for Best Picture contention?

10) Next week: Bucs travel to Carolina to face the Panthers for the seasonal re-match. While the Panthers don't look like much of a threat, having gotten WORSE since their Week 1 loss, this is a rivalry match-up and the game is gonna be played tough. Stay healthy, Bucs, stay healthy...

Did I miss anything, sirs?

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