The Bucs were going for a ‘California sweep’ on the road this week and the Bucs went out and delivered in San Diego.

Tampa Bay ran its winning streak to four by going back and forth with the Chargers before coming out on top, 28-21. The Bucs went to San Francisco in Week 7 and won 34-17, taking both games played in the Golden State.

The victory improves the Bucs’ overall record to 7-5 and its near-perfect road record to 5-1. A Week 2 blowout loss at Arizona represents Tampa Bay’s lone defeat away from home. Coupled with Kansas City’s dramatic win over Atlanta, the Bucs are now in a first-place tie with the Falcons.

After allowing Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to march San Diego 75 yards into the end zone in the game’s first 4 minutes and 7 seconds, Tampa Bay kept itself within striking distance until emphatically jumping ahead for the first time late in the third quarter.

A three-and-out forced the Bucs to send Bryan Anger onto the field and one of this year’s top punters pinned down San Diego at its own 8. The Chargers opted to pass on first down, but Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III got his arm in on Rivers’ quick-hitter to Tyrell Williams and the ball bounced straight into linebacker Lavonte David’s arms at the 15. David made sure the Bucs offense could stay on the sideline by bee-lining it into the end zone for a 17-14 lead.

The pick-six came about four minutes after Tampa Bay kicker Roberto Aguayo hit a 27-yard field goal, but Rivers, running back Melvin Gordon and the Chargers didn’t back down after the 10-point swing to start the second half. On three runs and one reception, Gordon picked up 35 quick yards and set up Rivers’ 40-yard touchdown strike to Williams that regained the advantage, 21-17.

The Chargers bounced back from Tampa Bay’s first 10-point run Sunday, but they wouldn’t recover from the next. Aguayo – who missed his first attempt from 31 yards at the end of the first half – capped an eight-play, 59-yard drive with a 35-yard field goal two minutes into the fourth quarter. San Diego went three-and-out on its next possession and Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston delivered the clincher.

Playing with spare parts after early injuries to wide receivers Cecil Shorts III and Adam Humphries, tight end Luke Stocker, and running back Doug Martin, Winston cut straight through the Chargers defense. He hit young wideout Freddy Martino for 16 yards, found running back Jacquizz Rodgers for 21 yards, handed off to Rodgers for five yards, and then split three San Diego defenders with a perfect pass into the end zone to tight end Cameron Brate.

The Winston-to-Brate strike combined with Winston’s two-point pass to receiver Mike Evans provided a seven-point cushion at 28-21. Rivers worked San Diego from its own 25 to the Tampa Bay 31 with about 3 minutes to go, but backup-turned-starting safety Keith Tandy dealt the knockout blow by picking off Rivers in front of the end zone. Starting for injured starter Chris Conte, Tandy made the leaping interception at the 2-yard line and fell on top of receiver Dontrelle Inman in the end zone. The Bucs took over at their own 20, Rodgers picked up a first down with a strong third-and-1 run, and Winston set up the victory formation.

Sunday might not have been Winston’s best statistical game of his brief career, but Tampa Bay would have been hard-pressed to win without his ability to extend plays and succeed under pressure. The second-year signal caller finished with a 93.8 passer rating by completing 20 of 30 attempts for 280 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.

It was also a record-setting day for Winston. He now has more passing yards than any quarterback under 23 in NFL history. Winston is at 7,065 yards passing with four games remaining this year. The Bucs’ final regular season game in on New Year’s Day at home against the Carolina Panthers and Winston turns 23 on Jan. 6.

The Bucs needed Winston’s fortitude as Bucs running backs struggled to find room to run. Martin (17 carries for 45 yards and one touchdown) and Rodgers (seven for 29) led a charge that totaled 81 yards on 30 attempts. Martin limped off the field late in the third quarter but managed to return.

Tampa Bay edged San Diego in total yardage, 349-330. Gordon showed why he’s regarded as one of the game’s premier running backs, racking up 84 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, and 54 yards on four catches, but it wasn’t enough to revive San Diego’s scant playoff hopes.

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About the Author: Eric Horchy

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cgmaster27
4 years ago

This is just fucking incredible. Excuse my language but this is just nuts. This team is peaking at the right time. It’s unbelievable what Jameis is doing with the receivers at his disposal. Outside of the pick he threw to Mike, which looked like a mis-read, he was money in the second half. The defense is legit. There’s no other way of saying it. Every time this team needs a big turnover, we get it. They were getting some chunk plays, but a bend but don’t break defense helped out. Despite the fact that numbers might not show it, Noah… Read more »

chetthevette
Reply to  cgmaster27
4 years ago

No need to apologize. Sometimes the F BOMB just works.
FUCKIN’ A
GO BUCS

chefboho
4 years ago

Couldn’t agree with what my twin said. I’ve been waiting for the implosion that always seems to happen to this team. Jameis and this coaching staff are doing this the right way. They’re playing like “a family” and I’m seeing a new game changing play every week by someone different. This is some of the best football I’ve seen in years from this team. Imagine if we can keep this continuity and these coaches. We could be on the rise for years. We just need to pick some guys off the street for Jameis to throw to. He’s making practice… Read more »

Horse
4 years ago

They found a way to win despite some poor offensive run blocking and defensive tackling. I’m so proud of this team because that’s what it is right now; a good team. Now lets get the win against the Saints. Go Bucs!

pinkstob
4 years ago

The Bucs keep finding ways to win games, which is what good teams do. Thinking back on the game I can’t remember any dominant performances by any particular group, but as a team we found a way to win. One thing now that I think more about it is key turnovers at the best time, when it counts the most. With 75% of the season complete, I’ll say more about the team. During the most recent quarter of the season (last 4 games) the Bucs have definitely turned into a very good football team. I think the difference is 3rd… Read more »

drdneast
4 years ago

Like last week this was the type of game the Bucs knew how to didnlose.
Spence didn’t get the headlines, but was responsible for two penalties and an intentional grounding call.
Bucs did a much better job of containing Gordon in the second half.
Winston, of course, played great,

76Buc
Reply to  drdneast
4 years ago

N. Spence was a beast.

RootsCrew
RootsCrew
4 years ago

What an incredible win! The team fought for this after a disastrous 1st quarter. Quick breakdown: I’ll start with the defense. Man, they played their asses off. After San Diego basically had their way with them the first 3 drives, Smitty adjusted and they made big plays. Chargers only scored 7 points in the second half! DL did enough to make Rivers uncomfortable and make mistakes. Smitty was also very good. Adjusted and defense responded. The offensive line really underwhelmed today. I was shocked to see them get tossed around after playing so well the last two weeks. They severely… Read more »

drdneast
4 years ago

I should clarify the above statement. Two years ago this was a game the Bucs would know how to lose. Pretty much last year as well.

76Buc
Reply to  drdneast
4 years ago

Coaching.

Amo
Amo
4 years ago

It is BLEEPING incredible. I don’t know what to do with myself. We are learning how to win. I’m thrilled. Just as important, we have a likeable team. Yes, Demar Dotson and Aguayo stink to high heaven but we are still winning. Anyone else notice how many Bucs fans are coming out of the woodwork?? Go Bucs!!!!!!!!1

chetthevette
Reply to  Amo
4 years ago

I did notice there were many BUCHEADS at that game.
GO BUCS

artpac
4 years ago

1. Winston is so good. He is now top 10 in the league, and is the biggest reason we win games. He was running for his life out there. Very heady. Totally impressive. 2. D line was inconsistent but Noah was amazing, Ayers had a big sack, and Mccoy’s sack cost them 3 points and gave us some momentum. Not our greatest day on the line, but some highlights. 3. Continued great play by Hargreaves, and Tandy made a big time play. Still don’t think our safety play is good enough, but I applaud the effort. 4. We can’t keep… Read more »

HeyHeyTampaBay
4 years ago

We are thin at WR. What about calling Roddy White?

Amo
Amo
4 years ago

I like that idea!

Matthew
4 years ago

I can’t believe what was going on. I thought the season was over when this team was 3-5 but what a turnaround. I was so afraid we would blow this game but this team is different, things have changed.

chetthevette
4 years ago

As others have said. Just f_____g fabulous. in spite of losing 2 thirds of our starting wide receivers we end up passing better with Martino and Shepard. The reason, Cameron Brate the Great. How ever discovered this guy needs a pay raise. What a find. I think they had 1 sack against us. That’s a top sacking team we just played. Granted they were all in the backfield but Winston is one slippery dude for sure. As I was basking in another win I was trying to think of the best word to describe this effort. GUTSY is the word… Read more »

scubog
Reply to  chetthevette
4 years ago

Wish I had a neighbor like that. Me, I have a Patriots fan who has lived here for 30 years. He adopted the Gators as his team during their heyday and is now wavering in his support after the ‘Bama game, but still clings to the Flying Elvises. Just another front runner.

chetthevette
Reply to  scubog
4 years ago

Hey scubog. I’m from Detroit and still root for all those teams. But the BUCS are my team. Still watch Michigan football also. This is why I absolutely despise Tom Brady. He could not hit water if he fell out of a boat in college. Now he the best ever. This is really just sour grapes on my part. My question to you is this, would your neighbor be a Patriots fan if they sucked. Most likely not. Fair weather fans suck. I’m talking you Yankees and Dallas fans. The cherry on this ice cream would be a complete ass… Read more »

scubog
Reply to  chetthevette
4 years ago

That’s always my point when folks relocate to sunny Florida. They often retain their loyalty when their former hometown team is good. Why stay a Steeler fan but drop the Pirates and cheer for the Rays? JonnyG could easily dump the Bucs for the Cardinals. He is a fan of both. Nothing wrong with that.

wnb0395
Reply to  chetthevette
4 years ago

I love it that the other NFL teams aren’t taking us seriously. I love being the under dog and beating them. Every game against us is a trap game for the other team. Cant wait for the Dallas game. How big would it be to go into the Cowgirls stadium and upset the league leaders.

SaskBucs
4 years ago

Well everyone in here has said enough but what a great team win. There are a lot of Bucs fans showing up now. I was at the game and there was red all over the place. Field level behind the Bucs bench was filled with fans sporting the red orange and pewter, unfortunately I was not seated with them but they were into it and even got a decent Defense chant going in the 4th. The team could definitely feel the support …. hopefully we can keep feeding off each other! Thats when something special happens. Let’s get them Saints.… Read more »

scubog
Reply to  SaskBucs
4 years ago

Way to represent Sask. I couldn’t believe all the red and even orange in the stands behind the Bucs bench. We heard the “Defense-Defense” cheers. I’m sure the support you and the others brought helped the team get the victory. As Dr. D mentioned, this was the type of game and opponent to whom in years past we would lose. This team has no quit. What a “culture change”.

WiltheBrewer
4 years ago

Missed half the game because of recording issue- better to miss the 1st than the 2nd! Great that they were actually able to run at the end when they had to to ice the game…the entire team is playing w/ Fire these days- you can just sense the confidence! -and on the road too- which they will need to be able to do as they get to the playoffs… If we can just get Aguayo to the same point- to where we are not thinking, “please don’t miss”, but “he’s got this”. Nice run Bucs! Keep it up thru the… Read more »

drdneast
4 years ago

Chetvette, I agree wholeheartedly in your synopsis of Brown fan and also other teams like the Bills and yes, even the Lions. They have suffered long and hard for their teams which shows a persons true character. At least we had one brief shining moment in Camelot/Tampa when we got our Super Bowl victory. At the same time I have to admit I am a closet Patriots fan because Tom Brady is the greatest QB I have even seen play the position with Joe Montana running a close second. It is just a pure joy to watch him slice up… Read more »

scubog
Reply to  drdneast
4 years ago

I was in the stands that day too Dr. D. I was the one in the orange shirt.

drdneast
4 years ago

Love it scubog.