The San Diego Chargers aim for their second straight win to lift them to a winning record when they visit Tampa Bay and the rolling Buccaneers, winners of three of their last four. The Chargers have struggled this season against the NFC South, dropping decisions to both the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. The team has also struggled on the road lately, losing their last two games away from Qualcomm Stadium. A win would go a long way in keeping them in the midst of the AFC’s competitive playoff picture as we enter the final eight weeks of the season.
A Look Back At Last Week
The Bolts snapped their three game losing streak in convincing fashion, rolling over the Kansas City Chiefs 31-13.
What to Watch For…
On Offense for the Chargers
The potential for an explosive offense has been there all season for the Chargers, and the team finally fired on all cylinders against the Chiefs. Now, the team will look to continue that trend against the Bucs. Philip Rivers has thrown 12 touchdown passes in 2012, including a team-high three to Antonio Gates, and two to Malcom Floyd, the team’s leading receiver with 33 catches and 509 yards.
On Offense for the Buccaneers
Tampa Bay’s offense is engineered by quarterback Josh Freeman, their first-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft from Kansas State. With 2,047 yards passing through the season’s first eight games, Freeman is on pace for a 4,000-yard season and has a respectable touchdown-to-interception ratio of 16-to-5 for the year. On the ground, Doug Martin is fresh off his franchise record 251 yards rushing, four touchdown performance against the Raiders. For the season, he has run for a team-leading 794 yards and seven touchdowns on 154 carries (5.2 avg.). In the receiving game, Vincent Jackson paces the Buccaneers’ with 31 catches for 710 yards (22.9 avg.) and six scores while Mike Williams has 29 catches for 504 yards (17.4 avg.) and five touchdowns.
On Defense for the Chargers
The Chargers boast the league’s fourth ranked rushing defense, allowing just 84.0 yards per game. Their ability to stop the run will once again prove critical given Doug Martin’s rushing performance the last two weeks. Meanwhile, the team has been successful scoring points on the defensive side of the ball with the two touchdowns against Kansas City lifting the Bolts’ total number of defensive scores up to four.
On Defense for the Buccaneers
For as good as the Chargers have been against the run, Tampa Bay has been even better. They lead the league in the category by surrendering just 77.2 ypg on the ground. However, they are the polar opposite against the pass ranking last by giving up 321.1 ypg through the air. The Bucs do have 13 interceptions this season (third in the NFL), including three by five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Ronde Barber, who has a 78-yard touchdown return among his three picks.
The Chargers and Buccaneers will meet for the first time since 2008 when they square off Sunday in Tampa. The Chargers lead the all-time series 8-1 having a perfect 4-0 record in games played in the Sunshine State. The last time the two teams played, Rivers completed 21 of 31 for 287 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Antonio Gates caught a pair of touchdown passes that day and cornerback Antoine Cason helped secure the victory with a 59-yard interception return for a touchdown in the game’s closing minutes.
By the Numbers
For the year, the Chargers rank 26th in total offense (323.1 yards per game),22nd in passing (217.2 ypg), 20th in rushing (105.9 ypg) and 16th in points (23.1). The Buccaneers rank ninth in total offense (376.4 ypg), 13th in passing (245.4 ypg), ninth in rushing (131.0 ypg) and fifth in points (28.2)
Defensively, the Bolts rank ninth in total defense (321.8 ypg), 18th in passing (237.8 ypg), fourth in rushing (84.0 ypg) and eighth in points allowed (19.6). Tampa Bay ranks 29th in total defense (398.4 ypg), 32nd in passing (321.1 ypg), first in rushing (77.2 ypg) and 19th in points allowed (23.1).
Milestones on the Horizon
Ryan Mathews (2,190 career rushing yards) can move into the Chargers’ all-time Top-10 Sunday in Tampa Bay. Mathews needs 46 yards to pass Mike Garrett (2,235 yards from 1970-73) for 10th and he needs 61 to pass Gary Anderson (2,250 yards from 1985-88) for ninth.
Mathews has 14 career rushing touchdowns and is just three scores shy of moving into the Top 10. Currently the Top 10 is rounded out by Hank Bauer (1977-82), Rod Bernstine (1987-92), Dick Post (1967- 70) and Clarence Williams (1977-81), each of whom scored 17 rushing touchdowns during their Chargers’ careers.
Ronnie Brown is expected to play in his 100th career game Sunday at Tampa Bay.
Antonio Gates (79) needs two touchdown catches to match Lance Alworth’s (81) team record.
Philip Rivers (26,152 career passing yards) needs 787 more to move past John Hadl (26,938) for second in team history.
Shaun Phillips has 65.0 career sacks, fourth in team history. Phillips needs half a sack more to tie Lee Williams (65.5) for third, and he needs two to tie Gary “Big Hands” Johnson (67) for second. Phillips leads the team this season with five sacks, 12 pressures and seven quarterback hits.
Malcom Floyd (3,636 receiving yards) needs 319 to crack the team’s career Top 10 list.
Antoine Cason (245 int. return yards) needs 64 to crack the team’s career Top 10 list.
The Chargers need four regular-season victories to reach 400 all-time. The Chargers’ all time regular-season record is 396-388-11.
A.J. Smith is the winningest general manager in franchise history with 95 wins. He needs five wins to see the team reach 100 wins under his watch. Additionally, the Chargers’ next division title will be Smith’s sixth as general manager, most in team history, and the Chargers’ next playoff win will be Smith’s fourth as general manager, also most in team history.
Norv Turner (115) ranks 32nd in NFL history for career wins. Turner needs two wins to tie Dennis Green (117) for 31st, three to tie George Allen (118) for 30th and eight to tie another former Chargers coach, Sid Gillman (123), for 29th.
Photos: Familiar Faces
Chargers special teams coach Rich Bisaccia coached special teams for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2002-10. Bissacia also coached running backs in Tampa Bay in 2008 and served as the assistant head coach from 2008-10.
Linebackers coach Joe Barry held the same position for the Buccaneers from 2001-06 and again in 2009.
Special teams assistant Byron Storer was a fullback for Tampa Bay from 2007-09 and later served as an assistant special teams coach from 2010-11.
Offensive line coach Mike Sullivan played guard and center for the Buccaneers from 1992-95.
Kyle Smith, son of Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith, spent time as a wide receiver and punt returner for the Buccaneers in 2007.
Chargers with hometown ties to Florida include outside linebacker Antwan Barnes, strong safety Atari Bigby and defensive end
Wide receiver and kick returner
Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson is from Cedar Key.
Buccaneers quarterbacks coach Ron Turner is the brother of Chargers head coach Norv Turner.
Wide receiver Vincent Jackson played for the Chargers from 2005-11.
Wide receiver and kick returner Roscoe Parrish went to training camp with the Chargers this season.
CBS Sports (KFMB, Channel 8 in San Diego and KCBS, Channel 2 in Los Angeles and Orange County) – Kevin Harlan (play-by-play) and Solomon Wilcots (analyst)
Rock 105.3 FM, XTRA Sports 1360 (San Diego) and AM 570 KLAC (Los Angeles & Orange County) – Josh Lewin (play-by-play) and Hank Bauer (analyst)
Spanish Radio –XHFG 107.3 (San Diego) and KWKW 1330 AM (Los Angeles) – Jorge Villanueva (play-by-play) and Dante Lazcano (analyst)