Chargers 31, Buccaners 24
By Gary Montgomery
They just keep on winning. In spite of all the naysayers, doubters and just plan haters, the Bolts have rattled off seven straight wins against some quality opponents.
It seems prophetic that on the 10th anniversary of the Chargers' only Superbowl appearance that the team will finally return to prominence. The Chargers' have won 9 games only once since 1994, finishing 9-6 in the year after going to the Superbowl.
Since 1995, the Chargers' have had eight starting quarterbacks and five coaches. The teams best season was 8-8 twice in 96 and 99, its worst was 1-15 in the 2000 season.
On Sunday, before a raucous crowd of 65,858 fans the Chargers' used their defense to finish off a tough Tampa Bay (5-8) team that had shut out Michael Vick and the Falcons the week before.
The first quarter ended scoreless with the Chargers' dominating the time of possession 9:49 to 5:11 but unable to get the ball into the end zone on the tough Bucs defense.
The Bolts struck first in second quarter when wide receiver Eric Parker got behind Tampas secondary for a 79-yard touchdown play.
The play was the longest touchdown pass of Brees' career and the longest touchdown reception of Parkers career. It was also the longest play by a Charger quarterback since Ryan Leaf threw and 83-yard touchdown against Denver on November 19, 2000.
Tampa Bay quarterback, Bryan Griese didnt hesitate to respond. Griese completed a 36-yard touchdown pass to Joey Galloway to complete and 5 play 81-yard drive in just 2:47 to event the score at 7-7.
I just laid it out there for him and let him go get it said Griese about his touchdown pass to Galloway.
The two teams continued to match each others performance right into the fourth quarter when Griese again tied the game at 21-21 with a 20-yard throw to Michael Clayton. Claytons acrobatic one-hand grab made it a tied game with 6:53 left in the game.
Thats when lightning struck the Bucs. After exchanging a couple of possessions the Bucs had the ball on their 21-yards line when Donnie Edward slipped into Grieses throwing lane and picked off his second pass of the day and ran this one in to give the Chargers' a 28-21 lead. The second one (interception) was just a simple turn route and again, he came from inside out. I was working one side of the field and flipped to the other side of the field and he made a great play cutting in front. I didnt see him. Its a shame because it was a great effort by our team and I felt bad, said a dejected Griese.
Edwards second interception of the day and touchdown run all but put an end to the Bucs chances. The good news for the Bucs is they are still alive in the very crowded NFC Wildcard race.
The Chargers' win maintains their two game lead over the stagnant Denver Broncos for the lead in the AFC West.
We found another way to win and thats the mark of a good football team... We made some plays in a timely fashion...Offensively we made plays when the opportunity presented itself, for the most part. When you look at the whole picture it was clearly, a team victory, said an obviously elated Schottenheimer.
The Chargers' have won two games that the oddsmaker thought they might lose. Last weeks game against a Denver defense that was rated as high as number 1 early in the season and a surging Tampa Bay unit that had shut out conference leading Falcons a week before.
I really think that if we continue to play together, believe in each other, I mean thats what our Tampa Bay team did in 2002. We believed in everyone on that team and I think that is what we have going (here) right now, said Keenan McCordell when asked about the Chargers' Superbowl chances.
The Bolts LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 131-yards on 25 attempts to give him a total of 1143 for the season. Drew Brees threw for 220-yards for a season total of 2,784 total yards.
The Charger are getting their share of great breaks and bounces of the ball. Many detractors are quick to seize these seemingly lucky breaks as evidence that the Bolts have been lucky, but the statistics tell a different story. The Chargers' have a well balanced squad that can go deep into the playoffs.
The Chargers' are looking for their first AFC West title since 1994. The 2004 Chargers' team has shown that it can win games in multiple ways.
Not only is that a quality of good teams but it is a necessity for any team to advance into the playoffs.
The Chargers have become a team with offense, defense and special teams, including one of the best punters in the league.
Mike Scifres has pinned opponents deep in their own territory all season long.
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