Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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2020 Game Preview: Chargers-Buccaneers, Week 4

Carlton Davis and Keenan Allen could provide one of the most important matchups in Sunday's game, and the Chargers' high-powered rushing attack will challenge Tampa Bay's stingy run defense

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers return home after a successful trip to Denver, and they draw another AFC West opponent with the Los Angeles Chargers coming to Raymond James Stadium in Week Four. Also like the Broncos, the Chargers are seeking to overcome a number of injuries to key players, an unfortunate trend that has affected both teams' quarterback situations.

In Week One, veteran Tyrod Taylor became the first player other than Philip Rivers to start at quarterback for the Chargers in 225 games, dating back to 2006. Taylor's streak proved to be much shorter, as a sideline mishap with a member of the team's medical department led to a collapsed lung and a trip to the hospital just prior to the Week Two game against Kansas City. That led to a surprise start for rookie Justin Herbert, who has now thrown for 641 yards in his first two NFL games, though both ended in close losses.

Herbert was the sixth-overall pick in this year's draft, so his ascension to the starting lineup, no matter how it happened, is going to be the most important story for this Chargers team. Last week, the Buccaneers faced a back-up in Denver when Jeff Driskel replaced the injured Drew Lock, and they greeted him (and final drive replacement Brett Rypien) with six sacks and two interceptions. Todd Bowles blitzed the relatively-inexperienced Driskel and Rypien on 60% of their drop-backs; will he choose the same strategy if the Chargers go with their 22-year-old rookie under center again in Tampa?

View some of the top photos from Buccaneers Week 4 practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.

In addition to Taylor's recent absence, the Chargers have also had to put safety Derwin James, defensive end Melvin Ingram and cornerback Chris Harris on injured reserve. Those three have a combined eight Pro Bowls and were supposed to be cornerstones of a defense that quietly finished sixth in the NFL last year and was expected to be better in 2020. Even if any of those three return to action in 2020, it won't be this week against the Buccaneers. Meanwhile, the Chargers' offensive line lost Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey to injured reserve and has recently dealt with injuries to starters Bryan Bulaga and Trai Turner.

Los Angeles has dealt with this adversity well. The defense has given up the fourth fewest points in the NFL as the Chargers have won one game by three points and suffered one three-point loss and one five-point loss. That three-point loss was an overtime game against the defending-champion Chiefs. The Herbert-led offense features one of the NFL's most versatile backs in Austin Ekeler, a high-volume receiver in Keenan Allen and a highly productive tight end in Hunter Henry.

The Buccaneers will try to stress that defense with their own wide range of weapons, which were more thoroughly exploited by Tom Brady in Week Three than in his first two games under center for Tampa Bay. Everyone involved with the Buccaneers' offense, from Brady to Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich and others, has stressed that it is a work in progress. Brady and company clearly took a step forward in that progress in Denver as they committed no turnovers while Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Scotty Miller and a trio of running backs got more involved in the attack.

Meanwhile, the Bucs' defense allowed only one touchdown drive and kept the game out of reach in the second half after the offense had built a big lead. If Brady and the offense do indeed continue to progress and the young defense simply plays as well as it has through the first three weeks, the Buccaneers should be difficult to beat. The first goal is to get to 3-1 for the first time in nine years and maintain their hold on first place in the NFC South. A banged-up but dangerous Chargers crew will try to keep that from happening.

GAME AND BROADCAST DETAILS

Los Angeles Chargers (1-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1)

Sunday, October 4, 1:00 p.m. ET

Raymond James Stadium (capacity: 65,618…a limited number of fans will be in attendance)

Tampa, Florida

Television: CBS (Local WTSP Channel 10)

TV Broadcast Team: Ian Eagle (play-by-play), Charles Davis (analyst), Evan Washburn (reporter)

Radio: 98Rock (WXTB, 97.9 FM), Flagship Station

Radio Broadcast Team: Gene Deckerhoff (play-by-play), Dave Moore (analyst), T.J. Rives (reporter)

ALL-TIME HEAD-TO-HEAD SERIES

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Chargers will meet for the 12th time on Sunday, and if the series holds true to its history the winner is going to have to score a lot of points. The average score for the winning team in the series is 29.5 points, with the Buccaneers taking the last two contests by 34-24 and 28-21 margins.

That two-game winning streak has tripled the Bucs' win total in the series, as the Chargers – now based in Los Angeles – still hold an 8-3 overall edge. That was built on six straight wins to open the head-to-head competition from the Buccaneers' inaugural season of 1976 through 1993. Tampa Bay's first win in the competition came in 1996 and is one of the more notable victories in franchise history.

The Buccaneers had a new head coach in '96, but Tony Dungy's team got off to an 0-5 start and were still only 2-8 upon taking the trip out to San Diego in Week 12. The night before the game, the Buccaneers' "Big Three" of defensive leaders – Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch – sat in their hotel room and watch an ESPN program call them "The Yuks." They vowed to change things for the franchise that night, and the next day they overcame an early 14-0 deficit to win 25-17, with Lynch providing a key interception. The 1996 Bucs won five of their last seven games, setting the stage for the franchise's long-awaited revival the next year.

The NFL's expansion to 32 teams and corresponding realignment in 2002 led to a new scheduling format that relied on rotating divisional matchups. For the Buccaneers and Chargers, that means only one meeting every four years, alternating between the two teams' home stadiums. That pattern actually got altered in 2008 and 2012, when the league switched the locations of some matchups to avoid teams having too many coast-to-coast flights in the same season. For that reason, the Bucs played host to the Chargers in both 2008 and 2012, losing the first one 41-24 but winning the second one 34-24. The Bucs won that 2012 contest by 10 points despite losing the yardage battle, 426-279, in part because Leonard Johnson returned an interception 83 yards for a touchdown.

The most recent meeting between the Buccaneers and Chargers was in San Diego, in the last season before the latter franchise moved to L.A. It was an exciting game that saw three lead changes, a pick-six by Lavonte David, a big day from tight end Cameron Brate (six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown) and a game-sealing interception by Keith Tandy at the goal line with three minutes left. The Bucs held on for a 28-21 victory.

NOTABLE CONNECTIONS

• The Chargers' coaching staff has a number of prominent connections to the Buccaneers, including Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley. After a decade of coordinating the defense at North Dakota State, Bradley got his first NFL shot with Tampa Bay, joining Jon Gruden's staff as the linebackers coach in 2006. Bradley held that job for three years before the Seahawks hired him to be their defensive coordinator.

• You have to go back a few years further to find the next Bucs connection on the Chargers' staff. Assistant Special Teams Coach Keith Burns played linebacker in the NFL for 13 years, including one in Tampa in 2004. Burns is also the father of Danielle Burns, a communications coordinator for the Buccaneers.

• Rewind another decade from there and you'll find a third connection among the Chargers' coaches. That would be George Stewart, who coached special teams and tight ends on Sam Wyche's staff from 1992-95 and who is L.A.'s Special Teams Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach. Stewart was the special teams coach when Vernon Turner recorded the first punt return touchdown in franchise history in 1994.

• There's more. Alfredo Roberts, the Chargers' current tight ends coach, tutored the same position on Raheem Morris's staff in Tampa from 2009-11. Working alongside Roberts is Assistant Tight Ends Coach Dan Shamash, who was a quality control coach on Greg Schiano's Buccaneers staff from 2012-13.

• Buccaneers Cornerbacks Coach Kevin Ross played his penultimate NFL season with the Chargers in 1996 before returning to his original team, the Chiefs in 1997. Ross later returned to San Diego in 2006 for a two-year stint as an assistant secondary/quality control coach.

• Mike Biehl, the Buccaneers' director of college scouting, was part of the Chargers' personnel department for 13 seasons (2001-13), working in a variety or roles, including assistant director of college scouting.

View photos of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster as it currently stands.

SENIOR COACHING STAFFS

• Tampa Bay:

• Head Coach Bruce Arians

• Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin

• Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles

• Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich

• Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong

• Los Angeles:

• Head Coach Anthony Lynn

• Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen

• Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley

• Special Teams Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach George Stewart

KEY 2020 ROSTER ADDITIONS

Buccaneers:

• QB Tom Brady (UFA)

• RB Leonard Fournette (FA)

• TE Rob Gronkowski (T-NE)

• T Joe Haeg (UFA)

• WR Tyler Johnson (5th-round draft pick)

• RB LeSean McCoy (FA)

• C A.Q. Shipley (FA)

• K Ryan Succop (FA)

• RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn (3rd-round draft pick)

• S Antoine Winfield Jr. (2nd-round draft pick)

• T Tristan Wirfs (1st-round draft pick)

Chargers:

• T Bryan Bulaga (UFA)

• CB Chris Harris (UFA)

• QB Justin Herbert (1st-round draft pick)

• DT Linval Joseph (FA)

• RB Joshua Kelly (4th-round draft pick)

• LB Kenneth Murray (1st-round draft pick)

• G Trai Turner (T-CAR)

• LB Nick Vigil (UFA)

ADDITIONAL 2020 CHANGES OF NOTE

Buccaneers:

• Though it is noted in the "Roster Additions" section above, it's worth further elaborating on the extremely dramatic change the Buccaneers made at the game's most important position. After five seasons, the team moved on from Jameis Winston, the first-overall pick in the 2015 draft, and filled the starting quarterback spot with the man many consider the G.O.A.T., former Patriot Tom Brady. Brady brings 20 years of experience and six Super Bowl championship rings to Tampa in one of the most notable free agent signings in NFL history. Brady's move to the Buccaneers also prompted former Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski to come out of retirement and he was promptly traded to Tampa Bay for a fourth-round draft pick. Coincidentally, Winston will be there for Brady's Buccaneers debut as he signed with the Saints as an unrestricted free agent.

• Tampa Bay debuted new uniforms in Week One in New Orleans. The uniforms are largely inspired by the ones the team wore during its Super Bowl era and overall from 1997 through 2013. Some elements of the uniforms introduced in 2014 remain, such as the sharper, more detailed skull-and-crossed-swords logo and the larger flag on the helmet (though not as large as before). The uniforms debuting in 2020 also include an all-pewter version that is completely unique in team and NFL history and were worn for the first time last week in Denver.

• The Buccaneers have two new additions to their coaching staff in 2020: Defensive/Special Teams Assistant Keith Tandy and Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach Cory Bichey. Tandy worked at the high school and college levels in 2019, the latter at his alma mater of West Virginia, but he begins his NFL coaching career with the same team that drafted him in 2012. Tandy spent six seasons in Tampa as a safety and special teams standout before finishing his playing career in Atlanta in 2018. Bichey comes to the Buccaneers from Mississippi State University, where he previously worked under current Buccaneers Head Strength & Conditioning Coach Anthony Piroli.

• The Buccaneers used their franchise tag during the 2020 offseason for the first time in eight years. That tag was employed to retain outside linebacker Shaq Barrett, who went from a rotational reserve in Denver to the NFL's 2019 sack leader after signing with the Bucs as an unrestricted free agent. Barrett's 19.5 sacks in his first year with the Buccaneers broke Warren Sapp's single-season franchise record and made him one of the team's top priorities in the offseason. Barrett and the Bucs were unable to reach agreement on a long-term deal during the 2020 offseason, in part due to the uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, so Barrett will play on the tag's one-year contract this fall.

Chargers:

• As was the case against Carolina in Week Two, the Buccaneers will be facing a franchise in Week Three that has just moved on from a long-established starting quarterback. In the Chargers' case, that is the now-departed Philip Rivers, who started 224 straight gams for Los Angeles from 2006 through last season. Los Angeles actually started the 2020 season with veteran Tyrod Tayler in the starting lineup but rookie Justin Herbert has handled the last two games. That sudden switch wasn't anticipated; Herbert was pushed in the lineup just before L.A.'s Week Two game against Kansas City after Taylor had to go to the hospital after a sideline mishap.

• Though Sunday's game will be at Raymond James Stadium, the Chargers have a new home back in California. After their move from San Diego, the Chargers played the 2018 and 2019 seasons at the Dignity Health Sports Park, with a capacity of 27,000. This year, they have joined the Rams in moving into the brand-new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. SoFi Stadium has a capacity of more than 70,000 and the Chargers made their debut there against Kansas City in Week Two.

• Last season, the Chargers fired Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt two months in and replaced him with Shane Steichen, who had been serving as the quarterbacks coach. Steichen initially got the job on an interim basis, but the promotion became permanent in 2020 and the Chargers brought in Pep Hamilton to tutor the quarterbacks. Hamilton's most recent NFL job before 2020 had been as the Browns' assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach in 2016. The Chargers also hired a new offensive line coach in James Campen, who coincidentally was the Browns' assistant head coach (and OL coach) in 2019.

• The already nattily-attired Chargers updated their uniforms in 2020 for the first time since 2007. The team has six different sets of uniforms, most of which emphasize their powder blue and yellow colors over the navy blue. The lightning bolt logo and wordmarks were also slightly re-designed.

TOP STORYLINES

Who's In Charge of Chargers' Offense? – This one may have been answered by the time you read this, or Los Angeles may choose to delay either the decision of who will start at quarterback against the Buccaneers, or at least the announcement of that decision. The real question is whether or not the decision comes down solely to Tyrod Taylor's health. Taylor has been unable to play the last two weeks, so rookie Justin Herbert has been in the lineup by default. Initially, Head Coach Anthony Lynn made it clear that the team was going back to Taylor when he was cleared to play, but is that still true after Herbert has put together two relatively impressive starts? Herbert is the Chargers' quarterback of the future, of course, and was probably always the quarterback of the near future. Has the future become the present? Los Angeles has lost both of Herbert's starts, but they were in both games and the rookie has completed 69.5% of his passes for 641 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. His passer rating of 90.5 is impressive, and his average of 7.8 yards per attempt is significantly better than Taylor's 6.9 yards per attempt. While it is obviously not fair to judge Taylor on just one start, that yards per attempt figure is nearly identical to his career mark of 7.0. The Chargers may get to the point where they feel they've gone too far with Herbert to turn back.

Another Progress Report? – The Buccaneers have no such question at quarterback, and no worries about a rookie's inexperience hurting the offense. But Tom Brady only has one more start for Tampa Bay than Herbert has for Los Angeles, and neither had the advantage of any offseason program or preseason action. Brady has made it clear that the Buccaneers' offense will be developing as the season progresses and Quarterbacks Coach Clyde Christensen says he's eager to see the occasional stretches of brilliance he sees in practice show up in a game. Well, Brady and the Buccaneers got closer last week in Denver. The offense had its first turnover-free game of the season and Brady supplement near perfect work on shorter throws and horizontal plays with a trio of drive-starting deep shots, one each to Scotty Miller, O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin. Brady also just missed hooking up with his pal Rob Gronkowski on a long touchdown, but Gronkowski did have his first impactful game in Tampa as a pass-catcher, with seven receptions for 48 yards. Brady spread the ball around to eight different pass-catchers and generally was in command throughout the afternoon in Denver. Will this be the beginning of a steady climb for the Bucs' offense or will it progress in fits and starts? Given the steadiness with which the defense has played through three games, this is the real question as to how Tampa Bay's season will unfold.

Rush to Judgment – Brady had a lot of time to throw in Denver and the two sacks he absorbed came on long-developing plays. In contrast, Denver quarterback Jeff Driskel was often under immediate duress from the Bucs' pass-rush, which recorded six sacks and 10 QB hits and played a part in the Bucs' first interception. Tampa Bay ranks seventh in the NFL with a sacks-per-pass-attempt rate of 10.71%. Another such outing with stifling pressure on Sunday could be the difference, particularly if the Chargers are starting their rookie passer. Meanwhile, Los Angeles has one of the NFL's very best pass-rushers in Joey Bosa, who has had one sack in each of his team's first three games. Overall, the Chargers only rank 20th in sacks per pass attempt at 5.41% and are missing their star complement to Bosa, Melvin Ingram. Still, they can't afford to let Brady get comfortable and may try to create pressure any way they can. That said, the Chargers have not blitzed very much at all so far this season, bringing extra pass-rushers on only 12.5% of their opponents' dropbacks.

Containing Number One – If Chris Godwin is unable to play due to his hamstring injury, the Buccaneers will have a very clear number-one receiver in Mike Evans. Similarly, the Chargers could be without Mike Williams, but Keenan Allen was already their clear focal point with an NFL-high 37 targets through three games. In Denver, the Broncos made a concerted effort to bracket Evans with extra coverage, though he did still manage two touchdown catches. Will the Chargers adopt the same strategy and force Brady to look elsewhere among his Godwin-free additional targets? Will they choose to shadow Evans with their top cornerback, Casey Hayward? The Buccaneers could choose to do the same thing to Allen with Carlton Davis, who did a phenomenal job moving around the field and shutting down the Saints' Michael Thomas in Week One. Both the Buccaneers and Chargers have seen their defenses get off to very good starts in 2020. Which one does the better job containing their opponent's top pass-catcher could also be the one that tastes victory at the end.

Irresistible Force, Meet Immovable Object – The Buccaneers had the NFL's best run defense in 2019 and it has shown no signs of cracking in 2020. Tampa Bay has already faced three very good running backs in Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey and Melvin Gordon but has still only allowed 70.3 rushing yards per game and 2.9 yards per carry. Of the 72 runs by Buccaneer opponents so far this season, only two have gone for 10 or more yards, and neither was by a running back. That defense will need to gear up for a big challenge in Week Four, because the Chargers run the ball a lot, and they run it well. Through three games, Los Angeles has run the ball on 47.3% of their offensive snaps, the seventh-highest percentage in the NFL. They are averaging 151.7 rushing yards per game, sixth-most in the NFL, and 4.3 yards per carry. The lead back is Austin Ekeler, who is known mostly as a great pass-catcher but is averaging 5.0 yards per carry and can succeed between the tackles…against most teams. The Bucs' interior line of Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, Will Gholston and Rakeem Nunez-Roches has been dominating the middle on run plays since the start of last season. This is strength on strength; which will be stronger Sunday?

KEY MATCHUPS

1. Chargers WR Keenan Allen vs. Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis

As noted, we'll have to wait until Sunday to see if Todd Bowles wants to give Allen the Davis shadow treatment, but either way these two will end up matched against each other plenty of times. Like the Saints' Thomas, Allen doesn't have an elite yards-per-catch figure but his volume is so high that he remains very productive. His league-high 37 targets have resulted in 24 catches for 265 yards and one of the Chargers' two touchdown catches. Allen (6-2, 211) is a bigger receiver like Thomas but that doesn't pose a huge problem for the 6-1, 206-pound Davis, whose size and length make him a good matchup for such wideouts. The Chargers throw a lot of passes to running back Austin Ekeler and tight end Hunter Henry (16 catches each) but would not have a particularly worrisome second receiver option if Mike Williams is out. Davis could make things very tough on Justin Herbert or Tyrod Taylor if he took away their favorite target.

2. Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski vs. Chargers LB Kenneth Murray

Murray, the 23rd-overall pick in this year's draft, has stepped right into a big role in the L.A. defense and he leads the team with 23 tackles so far. Murray was not heavily used in coverage at Oklahoma, which led to questions about that skill on his scouting report, but most believed he had the skills to excel in that area when given the chance. He does already have a pass defensed this season. Last week in Denver, Gronkowski won a handful of route matchups with Broncos linebackers Anthony Johnson and Josey Jewell to get open for six catches and 48 yards on seven targets. Concerns about Gronkowski's movement after he returned from a one-year retirement didn't seem warranted after he showed quick cuts and enough speed to beat those linebackers in Denver. If Godwin is out and Evans is drawing extra attention, the Buccaneers may need more of the same from their "blocking tight end" against the Chargers. As the weakside linebacker, Murray is sure to be involved in the efforts to limit the Bucs' big pass-catcher. In addition to his pass break-up, Murray has nine tackles on pass plays this season. Will he begin to prove that he is a good NFL coverage linebacker on Sunday?

3. Chargers RB Austin Ekeler vs. Buccaneers ILB Devin White

When the Buccaneers were preparing to play the Panthers in Week Two, White said that it would be his responsibility to keep Christian McCaffrey in check when McCaffrey left the backfield and lined up along the line of scrimmage to run a route. White said he relished the challenge. McCaffrey had four catches for 29 yards in that game. The week before, the Saints' Alvin Kamara had five catches for 41 yards against White and the Bucs' defense but 38 of those came on a trick-play double-pass involving Taysom Hill. McCaffrey and Hill may be the two best pass-catching running backs in the NFL, but Ekeler is not far behind. In fact, Ekeler currently ranks second only to Kamara in receiving yards among NFL backs, and last year he nearly recorded a 1,000-yard receiving season. Ekeler lines up mostly in the backfield with the occasional snap in the slot or out wide, so White and Lavonte David will have to be aware when the Chargers' back leaks out to an open space to catch a pass. White and Ekeler might also be matched up when Ekeler stays in to block and White comes at the quarterback, as he has to good effect several times this season.

4. Buccaneers T Tristan Wirfs vs. Chargers DE Joey Bosa

The Chargers' best pass-rusher sometimes lines up over the left tackle, but he most often comes from the other side of the Los Angeles front, which means he will often be the responsibility of the Buccaneers' rookie tackle. The 13th-overall pick in this year's draft, Wirfs has stepped immediately into the starting lineup and has not given announcers much occasion to say his name yet. That's a good thing for a rookie offensive tackle, but Wirfs will be in the spotlight this week as he tries to keep Bosa away from Tom Brady. None of L.A.'s opponents has shut the fifth-year edge rusher down yet; he has one sack in all three games so far. Bosa will test Wirfs' feet with his quick pass rushes, and he's good at twisting and bending to avoid giving the blocker much to block when he's turning the corner towards the quarterback. Bosa is also quite good against the run and Wirfs will need to keep him engaged with his blocks. Bosa is adept at standing up an opposing lineman and then shedding the block as he sees the running back approaching a lane on either side of that blocker.

INJURY REPORT

Key:

DNP: Did not participate in practice

LP: Limited participation in practice

FP: Full participation in practice

NL: Not listed

Buccaneers:

• RB Leonard Fournette (ankle) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.

• WR Chris Godwin (hamstring) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.

• WR Scotty Miller (hip/groin) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Questionable.

• CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (groin) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

• OLB Jason Pierre-Paul (knee) – WEDS: LP; THURS: DNP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

• DL Ndamukong Suh (not injury related) – WEDS: NL; THURS: NL; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Not listed.

• WR Justin Watson (shoulder) – WEDS: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

Chargers:

• DE Joey Bosa (triceps/ankle) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

• T Bryan Bulaga (back) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.

• RB Justin Jackson (quadriceps) – WEDS: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

• S Rayshawn Jenkins (groin) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Questionable.

• T Storm Norton (knee) – WEDS: NL; THURS: LP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Questionable.

• G Tyree St. Louis (concussion) – WEDS: LP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Questionable.

• QB Tyrod Taylor (ribs/chest) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.

• G Trai Turner (groin) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.

• LB Nick Vigil (groin) – WEDS: LP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Questionable.

• WR Mike Williams (hamstring) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.

WEATHER FORECAST

Scattered thunderstorms, high of 77, low of 69, 90% chance of rain, 88% humidity, winds out of the NE at 8 mph.

GAME REFEREE

Head referee: Brad Allen (seventh season, seventh as referee)

BETTING LINE

• Favorite: Buccaneers (-6.5)

• Over/Under: 42.5

INDIVIDUAL STAT LEADERS

Buccaneers-

Points Scored: WR Mike Evans, 24

Touchdowns: WR Mike Evans, 4

Passing Yards: QB Tom Brady, 753

Passer Rating: QB Tom Brady, 92.0

Rushing Yards: RB Ronald Jones, 142

Receptions: WR Chris Godwin, 11

Receiving Yards: WR Scotty Miller, 167

Interceptions: LB Lavonte David/CB Carlton Davis/S Mike Edwards/S Jordan Whitehead, 1

Sacks: OLB Jason Pierre-Paul, 3.0

Tackles: ILB Devin White, 33

Chargers-

Points Scored: K Michael Badgley, 22

Touchdowns: WR Keenan Allen/RB Austin Ekeler/WR Jalen Guyton/QB Justin Herbert/RB Joshua Kelly, 1

Passing Yards: QB Justin Herbert, 641

Passer Rating: QB Justin Herbert, 90.5

Rushing Yards: RB Austin Ekeler, 236

Receptions: WR Keenan Allen, 24

Receiving Yards: WR Keenan Allen, 265

Interceptions: DE Melvin Ingram, 1

Sacks: DE Joey Bosa, 3.0

Tackles: LB Kenneth Murray, 23

TEAM STAT RANKINGS

Buccaneers-

Scoring Offense: 14th (27.3 ppg)

Total Offense: 25th (334.0 ypg)

Passing Offense: t-18th (242.0 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 27th (92.0 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: t-25th (20.0)

Third-Down Pct.: 12th (45.0%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: t-9th (4.59%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: t-4th (80.0%)

Scoring Defense: t-7th (20.3 ppg)

Total Defense: 4th (308.0 ypg)

Passing Defense: 14th (237.7 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 5th (84.5 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: 3rd (70.3)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 12th (40.0%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 7th (10.71%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: t-6th (50.0%)

Turnover Margin: t-14th (+1)

Chargers-

Scoring Offense: 29th (17.3 ppg)

Total Offense: 6th (425.7 ypg)

Passing Offense: 8th (274.0 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 6th (151.7 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: t-8th (24.3)

Third-Down Pct.: t-5th (50.0%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 15th (5.36%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: 22nd (55.6%)

Scoring Defense: 4th (19.0 ppg)

Total Defense: 8th (337.0 ypg)

Passing Defense: 9th (227.7 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 11th (109.3 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: t-3rd (18.7)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 11th (39.0%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 20th (5.41%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: 1st (22.2%)

Turnover Margin: t-24th (-3)

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

• WR Mike Evans caught two touchdown passes in Denver and now has four on the season, including at least one in all three games. He also grabbed a scoring pass in the Buccaneers' 2019 season finale against Atlanta, meaning he has a streak of four straight games with at least one TD reception. That ties the team record, which has now been accomplished nine times, including twice by Evans and once by teammate Chris Godwin. If Evans finds paydirt again against the Chargers he will own the longest streak in team history by himself.

• Tight end Rob Gronkowski hauled in six passes for 48 yards in Denver, increasing his career total to 7,872 yards in regular-season play. He is now 37 yards behind Jimmy Graham, now a Chicago Bear, for fifth-place all-time among NFL tight ends. If Gronkowski gets 38 more yards than Graham does in Week Four he would leap-frog the Chicago tight end into that fifth spot.

• A win against the Chargers in Week Four would give the Buccaneers their first 3-1 start to a season since 2011.

• Tom Brady took part in his 221st winning effort on Sunday in Denver. His 221 NFL wins are now tied with former kicker Adam Vinatieri for the most in league history, so Brady's next win will make him the winningest NFL player of all time.

• As a team, the Buccaneers have 12 sacks on the season, including five against Carolina in Week Two and six last Sunday in Denver. Only one time in team history has a Buccaneers defense recorded at least five sacks in three straight games – the 2000 squad against New England, Chicago and Detroit to open the season.

NOTABLY QUOTABLE

• Head Coach Bruce Arians on if the team has put more emphasis on red zone success, leading to their 80% touchdown rate in 2020: "No. I think it's just been better execution. We practice it as much as we ever have and put as much emphasis as we always do because most games come down to four points or less, and that's a touchdown versus a field goal. We put a ton of emphasis in practice and practice it a lot."

• Safety Mike Edwards on the Buccaneers' productive pass rush affecting the players in coverage: "It helps a bunch. The rush complements the coverage and the coverage complements the rush. I just feel like we have one of the best rushes in football. Our pass rushers are crazy. Us in the back end, we know they're going to get to the quarterback real soon, especially when we have a blitz on there. It definitely helps us, so we don't have to cover that long, and the ball is coming out really fast. It definitely helps us and we're trying to complement them, too, so they can get more sacks. If we can get the quarterback to hold the ball, they get a lot of sacks and get a lot of pass rush."

• Safety Antoine Winfield on Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles having a knack for making the right calls at the right time: "I think Coach Bowles is a defensive guru – he dials it up extremely well. For us to be successful, we have to have that play-calling that he provides – which has been amazing so far. Being able to use us in so many different ways because our defense is so versatile – we have pretty much everything in a defense. For him to just dial things up, it's just been a great look for us and it will be our success this year – just making sure that we're making plays out there on the field."

• Cornerback Carlton Davis on what a defense can do to try to keep the ball out of Mike Evans' hands in the red zone: "Mike is one of the most unstoppable receivers in our league right now, in my opinion. There are a couple ways you could play him, but [there] would definitely have to be a double down there on Mike, especially in the red zone area. He's just that much of a threat, obviously. It's pretty hard to stop him because he's one of those receivers that can run any route in the route tree, score and do it easily. You would have to depend on coverage to kind of help you out there."

• Tight end O.J. Howard on how the Buccaneers' offense has improved since Week One: "I think we've had a lot of improvements so far from Week 1 to Week 3. Just little things as far as being on the same page on certain concepts or versus certain coverages. There's still a lot of things out there we can improve on to get it all down pat and make it flow as smooth as we really want it to. There definitely has been improvement and that just comes from film study and just finally playing together. It was our third time, so I think as the season goes on, we're just going to get more comfortable."

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