The San Diego Chargers had all the advantages. Their defense was playing well. The Bucs couldn't stop Philip Rivers and Dynamite Doug was under control.
Then Philip Rivers became the Rivers we all know and love (unless you're a Charger fan).
What did we learn from Sunday's game? Well, here's what we think:
1. The Buccaneers can win even if the offense doesn't but up 30 points a game. San Diego dominated time of possession, limiting the Bucs offense to just 43 plays. The Chargers owned a 13 minute advantage playing some keep away and it worked, as the Bucs offense managed just 20 points and 279 yds. Yet huge plays from the defense and special teams got the Bucs over the hump in this one. Its not every week the Bucs offense will be limited - but it's nice to know they can still win when it happens.
2. While Rivers obliterated the Bucs secondary in the first half for 218 yds and three touchdowns, you have to credit the Bucs defense. They limited the Chargers to just 3 points in the second half, sacked Rivers twice and forced two interceptions. Rivers second half numbers - 13-of-19 for 119 yards with no touchdowns and 2 picks.
3. Even though the Chargers went into half-time up 21-17, I felt confident in a Bucs comeback. It's a unique feeling for Bucs fans to believe you're never out of it with this offense.
4. The Chargers will crow they stopped Doug Martin but he still went over 100 yds of total offense. Martin needed 108 yds of yardage from scrimmage to break Walter Payton's 1977 record for yds from scrimmage in a 3 game span. He finished with 119 yds thanks to a 42 yd reception and a 14 yd run. In addition, Dynamite Doug was a pair of shoe string tackles away from making this one another highlight reel game. Martin is still the Dougernaut.
5. Josh Freeman put together another efficient stat line, 14-of-20 for 210 yds and 2 TDs, but he should give a shout out to Vincent Jackson. V-Jax saved an interception for Freeman by ripping the ball away from a defender deep in Bucs territory and getting the catch on simultaneous possession. If not for Jackson's effort, the story could have been a lot different today.
6. While we know the Bucs' secondary is similar to what comes out of a dog's hind quarters, we have to give a shout out to three rookies. First, Mark Barron who completely blew the coverage on a receiver but rallied to make a spectacular play (with his helmet no less). Then Largo High's Leonard Johnson made perhaps the play of the game on his gift interception from Philip Rivers. It was one thing to get the gift, it was entirely another to take it 83 yds for a killer touchdown. Finally, newcomer LeQuan Lewis was forced into duty for Eric Wright who hurt his ankle in the first quarter - Lewis had his ups and downs but made a terrific play on Rivers' second interception, setting up the Bucs' game sealing field goal.
6. Speaking of that field goal, did anyone else's heart stop when it looked like a Charger had a great shot at blocking the kick? Yeesh.
7. Well wishes go out to Quincy Black - who appeared to be seriously injured on a tackle in the second half. It was a scary moment especially for coach Schiano who had experienced the tragedy of Eric Legrand at Rutgers.
"I think he’s going to be okay," Schiano said after the game. "We just have to work through some things."
Thank goodness. Get well Quincy!
8. LaVonte David - we say it every single week - but this kid is amazing. Another 14 tackles (13 solo, 1 assist) and a number of TFLs from the Bucs' second round draft pick. Sooner or later, the rest of the league is going to notice this guy.
9. So maybe the Bucs should just do away with the stunting and games on the defensive line. For the third time this season, DT Gerald McCoy asked his defensive coaches to stop with the nonsense and just let the boys roll.
"They (defensive coaches) kind of let us go," McCoy told the Pewter Report, "You know I said I have a time where I tell y’all they need to let us go this way (motioning up the field). We said, ‘coach we are doing too much of this (motioning lateral stunts) and we need to do more of this (motioning up the field). And he did. They kind of did. Our coaches trusted us they made a decision, and said, ‘look, if this is what y’all want, then go.’ And it changed things (in the second half)."
The result was a more consistent rush against Rivers, who was sacked once, nearly sacked on two other plays (he would rush for short gains) and threw two interceptions in the second half.
10. Are you excited yet Buccaneer fans? Not only do you have an explosive offense with a galaxy of stars, you have a competitive, hard hitting team that is making highlight reel plays in every facet of the game. I don't know if you're waiting to see if a blackout is lifted or what - but it's time to support this football team. They play an exciting brand of football, one worth your entertainment dollar and they need your support - especially in two weeks against the Falcons. Don't let the Atlanta fans turn Raymond James Stadium into their own home field advantage the same way the Saints fans did.