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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Discharged

Two years after leaving San Diego as Super Bowl champs, the Bucs were sent away with fractured playoff dreams after a 31-24 loss to the Chargers that turned on two fourth-quarter giveaways

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WR Joey Galloway scored two touchdowns on five receptions

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will still have warm memories of San Diego. They just won't look back very fondly on their visit of December, 2004.

Almost two years after winning Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego, the Buccaneers returned to Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday with their 2004 playoff dreams needing a new charge. Instead, the hometown Chargers drained some energy from the Bucs' late-season surge with a 31-24 defeat keyed by LB Donnie Edwards' 30-yard touchdown return of an interception late in the fourth quarter.

Before Edwards's play, the Bucs had to appeared to seize the momentum from the first-place Chargers, as rookie WR Michael Clayton made a dazzling one-handed touchdown catch to tie the game at 21-21. The Buccaneer defense then forced a quick three-and-out, thanks to a sack by DE Simeon Rice, and got the ball back at their own 15 with six minutes to play.

But Edwards got the lead back for the Chargers with his second interception of the game and the Chargers tacked on a game-clinching field goal at the two-minute warning after San Diego's fourth takeaway of the game. The Bucs drove 38 yards for their own field goal in the closing seconds but failed on the ensuing onside kick attempt.

Griese threw for a season-high 392 yards and three touchdowns but also tossed three interceptions, though one was a harmless turnover on a 'Hail Mary' pass at the end of the first half. He went to receivers Clayton and Joey Galloway repeatedly, as the two combined for 15 catches for 223 yards and three scores. Clayton set career highs with nine receptions for 145 yards and Galloway, who had found the end zone for the first time as a Buccaneer a week ago, scored twice more on five catches before being forced out of the game in the fourth quarter with cramps.

The Bucs lost their sixth road game in seven tries in 2004 despite racking up a season-best 436 yards of offense and out-gaining San Diego by exactly 100 yards. The Bucs trailed by seven points three times through the first three-and-a-half quarters and were able to tie the game each time, but were never in the lead.

The Bucs intercepted QB Drew Brees twice but the MVP candidate was otherwise efficient, completing 17 of 23 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns. RB LaDainian Tomlinson did the rest, rushing for 131 yards and a third-quarter touchdown that put San Diego up 21-14.

In the early going, the Chargers moved the ball well but had difficulty sustaining drives in the Bucs' half of the field. After their first three possessions ended in a punt from the Bucs' 41, an interception in the end zone and a missed, 51-yard field goal try, San Diego took care of that problem by scoring from the edge of their own red zone.

On the first play of their fourth possession, the Chargers scored on a 79-yard pass from Brees to WR Eric Parker. Parker got open on a deep post over the middle and side-stepped a Dwight Smith tackle to go the distance, recording the longest touchdown play for San Diego in four years.

Fortunately, the Bucs answered that play in impressive fashion, driving 81 yards in five plays to tie the score at 7-7. Facing a third-and-six at his own 23, Griese got the Bucs into the end zone with three consecutive long passes. An 18-yard strike to rookie Clayton over the middle was followed by a low laser of a seam pass to RB Michael Pittman for 23 yards. On first down from San Diego's 36, Griese lofted a high, pretty pass that dropped into Galloway's hands as he crossed the end zone on a post-corner.

The Bucs built on that momentum quickly thanks to a play by another rookie. S Will Allen had to come into the game to replace starting free safety John Howell, who was injured on a kickoff return. On his first play on defense, Allen cut in front of WR Keenan McCardell, the former Buccaneer, to intercept the pass at the Bucs' 49.

Unfortunately, the ensuing drive ended up in a missed opportunity for the Bucs. Two catches by Clayton got Tampa Bay into a first-and-goal from the seven, but they couldn't punch it into the end zone. Worse, a 20-yard field goal was taken off the board by a tripping penalty on TE Ken Dilger and K Jay Taylor shot his second try, a 30-yarder, right into the left upright.

Having seized the momentum back, San Diego promptly drove 80 yards on 10 plays, aided by a sliding, 18-yard catch by McCardell, who was hurt on the play. Three snaps later, on third-and-three, Brees barely got a throw off out of a collapsing pocket and second-year WR Kassim Osgood wrestled the lobbed ball away from CB Brian Kelly for a 19-yard touchdown.

The Bucs tied the game late in the third quarter on an impressive 68-yard drive keyed by a third down play in which Griese barely evaded a sack, scrambled right and improvised a 24-yard pass to WR Joe Jurevicius. Griese converted four third downs on the march, including the final play, a four-yard touchdown pass to Galloway.

A problem from the first half of the season resurfaced in San Diego, as the Bucs were penalized 12 times for 111 yards, including the flag that took Taylor's field goal off the board. Early in the Bucs' third-quarter touchdown drive, the Bucs neared midfield only to back up 25 yards on holding and hands-to-the-face calls. The Bucs managed to keep the drive on Jurevicius's third-down catch, and went on to score the game-tying points, but Griese had to throw for 86 yards on a 68-yard drive.

On the Chargers' next drive, a roughing-the-passer penalty was instrumental in an 81-yard touchdown drive. Tomlinson ran for 35 yards on the next play and put it into the end zone on a seven-yard run to give San Diego a 21-14 lead with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Bucs tied it on Clayton's remarkable catch, capping a two-play, 37-yard drive that followed a fumble by Tomlinson, forced by Smith and recovered by DT Dewayne White. However, Edwards picked off another pass intended for Clayton on the Bucs' next drive and scored the game-winning points. Edwards had another interception in the first quarter on a screen pass that sailed over Pittman's head.

The loss, yet another road game that went down to the wire before ending in unsatisfying fashion, dropped Tampa Bay to 5-8 and put them on the very fringes of the NFC playoff race. Carolina, which plays in Tampa the day after Christmas, may have taken the lead in the hunt for the final wild card spot by defeating St. Louis and moving to 6-7.

The Chargers improved to 10-3 with their seventh straight victory.

CB Ronde Barber led the defense with 10 tackles, all solos, plus his third interception of the season and one pass defensed. DE Simeon Rice added three tackles and a sack, the 102nd QB takedown of his career.

Notes: The Buccaneers faced an AFC opponent for the last time in the regular season. The Bucs finished the season 1-3 against the other conference, losing to San Diego, Denver and Oakland but beating Kansas City … TE Will Heller made his third career start when the Buccaneers opened the game in a two-tight end set. Heller replaced WR Joey Galloway as the Bucs tried to get away from their own end zone. He finished the game with three receptions for 19 yards. … Both teams performed well on third downs all day, leading to the high yardage totals. The Bucs converted seven of 16 third-down tries while San Diego was good on five of 11 tries. … San Diego took a 21-14 lead in the third quarter on a seven-yard touchdown run by RB LaDainian Tomlinson. That marked the 10th straight game in which Tomlinson had scored, setting a new Charger record. … WR Michael Clayton's fifth catch, a 17-yarder just before halftime, was his 66th of the season, making him the new Buc record holder among rookies. FB Mike Alstott set the previous record at 65 in 1996. After catching four more passes in the second half, Clayton pushed his season total to 70. … The Bucs are now 0-6 in 2004 when they have a negative turnover ratio. They have won just twice in 22 tries under that condition since the 2000 season.

Injuries: S John Howell sustained a right ankle sprain in the second quarter and did not return to the defense, though he did play again on special teams. WR Joey Galloway left the game in the fourth quarter with cramps and did not return.

Inactives: The Buccaneers named eight players inactive for Sunday night's game: S Jermaine Phillips, CB Torrie Cox, S Dexter Jackson, T Anthony Davis, G Jeb Terry, WR Charles Lee, DE Corey Smith and designated third quarterback Brad Johnson.

Quarter-by-Quarter Reports: During the game, Buccaneers.com provided updates of the action after each quarter. Those reviews of each period are below, providing a closer look at how the game unfolded.

First Quarter Review

Neither team scored in the first quarter, but most of the period was spent in Tampa Bay's end of the field. The Bucs turned away San Diego's first two marches into their territory, including one on an interception in the end zone. However, the Chargers had the ball at the Bucs' 32 when the quarter ended.

Chargers' ball…

San Diego won the toss and elected to receive, with RB Jesse Chatman taking Jay Taylor's kick at the two and getting out to the 30. However, a holding penalty on San Diego pushed the ball back to the 15.

The Chargers pulled some Buccaneer-like formation shifting before first down but then simply handed off to RB LaDainian Tomlinson, who went over right guard for a gain of 14. WR Keenan McCardell made a falling seven-yard catch on the next play and CB Brian Kelly was flagged for pass interference on second down when he apparently arrived too soon on a pass to TE Antonio Gates.

With a first down at the San Diego 42, QB Drew Brees threw a pass down the line to WR Eric Parker, who slipped a tackle to gain five yards. After a four-yard run by Tomlinson, Breese took it over the line on a keeper to move the chains.

The Bucs brought a big blitz on the next play but the Chargers picked it up, giving Brees time to hit Parker on a nine-yard out. Brees then tried to go deep on second-and-one but his pass was thrown too deep for Gates. The third down play worked out nicely for Tampa Bay when Tomlinson slipped after taking the handoff and lost two yards. The Chargers elected to punt from the Bucs' 41 and Mike Scifres was able to bounce it down at Tampa Bay's two.

Bucs' ball…

From that tough starting point, the Bucs got a nice first-down run when Michael Pittman sliced off right guard for a gain of five. Pittman hit a seam hard over right tackle on second down but was stood up at the 11, a yard shy of the first down. QB Brian Griese faked a handoff to Pittman on third-and-one and threw a rollout pass to FB Mike Alstott, but Alstott couldn't hang on and had to punt. Josh Bidwell's short kick was downed at the Bucs' 42, but a holding penalty pushed it back over midfield.

Chargers' ball…

That was still excellent field position for San Diego, which started its next drive with a five-yard run by Tomlinson. After Tomlinson got two more, Brees converted the third down by throwing a strike over the middle for TE Antonio Gates, who slid to the ground at the Bucs' 28.

A three-yard run by Tomlinson preceded a shovel pass to the back that picked up six more. On third-and-one, another Brees keeper again picked up the necessary yardage, giving San Diego a first down at the Bucs' 18.

The Chargers may have tried to get too tricky on the next play. Brees handed off to Tomlinson, but the back stopped and pitched it back to Brees for a flea-flicker. Brees then tried to loft a pass to TE Justin Peelle on the left front edge of the end zone, but alert CB Ronde Barber sprinted to catch up to Peelle, turned at just the right moment and intercepted the pass in the end zone.

Bucs' ball…

After the touchback, the Bucs started with a play-action pass, Griese hitting Alstott on the left sideline for a gain of 11. Alstott also got the ball on the next play, on a draw, and cut right for a gain of seven. A receiver screen to RB Ian Smart on second down gained five yards and moved the sticks.

From the Bucs' 43, Griese fired a hard pass to WR Joey Galloway on the right sideline for a gain of 11. A holding call on C Sean Mahan cost the Bucs 10 yards, however, and on first-and-20 from the Bucs' 44, a toss-sweep to RB Michael Pittman netted just one yard. After a six-yard pass to TE Ken Dilger, Griese tried to throw a screen pass to Pittman, but the ball was overthrown and intercepted by diving LB Donnie Edwards.

Chargers' ball…

Edwards' four-yard return put the ball two yards into Buccaneer territory. From the 49, Tomlinson swept left then cut back to the middle for a gain of four. Brees rolled right and narrowly escaped a Dewayne White sack to complete a wobbly, nine-yard pass to Parker.

After a three-yard pass to Parker, the first-quarter clock expired.

Second Quarter Review

Three touchdowns were scored in the second quarter, two to the home team, giving San Diego a 14-7 halftime lead. The Bucs missed on a golden opportunity to score from first-and-goal at the seven, and San Diego took the ensuing possession 80 yards for the go-ahead score. The yardage totals at halftime were similar: 241 for San Diego and 217 for the Bucs.

Chargers' ball…

The Chargers had a second-and-seven at Tampa Bay's 32 to start the second quarter, but a sweep by RB LaDainian Tomlinson lost two yards thanks to a speeding tackle by LB Shelton Quarles. On third-and-nine, QB Drew Brees settled for an outlet pass to Tomlinson, who was tackled quickly by CB Brian Kelly after a gain of one.

San Diego brought Nate Kaeding in to try a 51-yard field goal, but the kick sailed just a little bit right to leave the game scoreless.

Bucs' ball…

QB Brian Griese tried to drop a long seam pass into the hands of TE Ken Dilger on first down from the Bucs' 41, but LB Donnie Edwards arrived just in time to knock the ball loose. After a seven-yard sack of Griese by DT Jason Fisk, the Bucs ran on third-and-17 and RB Michael Pittman got just four yards around left end.

Chargers' ball…

The Chargers' next drive started at their own 21 and lasted just one play. Brees faked a handoff and threw very deep over the middle to WR Eric Parker, who ran under the ball near the Bucs' 25, caught it and shrugged off a hit by S Dwight Smith to stroll into the end zone. The game's first score made it 7-0, San Diego.

Bucs' ball…

The Bucs were quickly in a hole at their own 14 when a false start made it first-and-15. A Pittman run up the middle gained two yards and a pass to WR Joey Galloway over the middle tacked on seven. On third-and-six from the 23, the Bucs' line picked up a blitz, giving Griese time to find WR Michael Clayton over the middle for a gain of 18 yards.

On the next snap, Pittman got open down the right numbers and hauled in a 23-yard strike down to San Diego's 36-yard line. The Bucs scored on the next play, as Galloway ran a post-corner and Griese dropped a pass perfectly into his arms as he reached the left front corner of the end zone. Galloway's second touchdown in as many weeks tied the score at 7-7 with nine minutes to play in the first half.

Chargers' ball…

For the second time in a row, San Diego's drive lasted only one play. This time, however, it ended well for the Bucs, as rookie safety Will Allen intercepted a lofted pass intended for WR Keenan McCardell. Allen got his feet inbounds, barely, at the Bucs' 49.

Bucs' ball…

After a first-down incompletion, Griese shot a hard pass to Clayton over the middle that gained 17 yards down to the Chargers' 34. Pittman then ran up the middle for a gain of 11, followed by a six-yard run by Earnest Graham.

A pitch to FB Mike Alstott on second-and-four would have moved the chains, but a holding call cost the Bucs' 10 yards instead. On second-and-14 from the 27, Griese enjoyed a lot of time to throw and eventually dropped it off to Pittman over the middle for a gain of seven. On third-and-seven, Griese again had to time to operate and he found a wide-open Clayton on a square-in for 13 yards.

On first-and-goal from the seven, Alstott side-stepped one tackle but was dropped at the five. Apparent miscommunication on a second-down pass led to a ball that was nearly intercepted by CB Drayton Florence. The Bucs called a timeout before third down but failed to get the ball into the end zone on a three-yard rollout pass to Clayton.

K Jay Taylor came on to boot a 20-yard field goal, but the Bucs were flagged for tripping. Taylor had to try again from 30 yards, and this time he bounced it off the left upright, no good.

Chargers' ball…

San Diego thus took over at its own 20, with Brees throwing twice to McCardell, once incomplete and once for five yards. The Bucs brought a blitz on third-and-five, but Brees threw quickly to WR Kassim Osgood on an eight-yard slant.

Brees scrambled right on first down from the Chargers' 33 and rocketed a 13-yard pass to Parker. That play brought on the two-minute warning.

After the break, a draw play to Tomlinson proved to be a great call, as the back shot up the middle for a gain of 10 to the Bucs' 44. DE Greg Spires sacked Brees on the next play, but a hands-to-the-face penalty on DE Simeon Rice negated the five yards lost. On the next play, Brees threw a deep out to McCardell, who slid to the ground to make the catch at the Bucs' 26.

San Diego called a timeout, then tried to throw on first down, but Rice chased Brees into a desperation incompletion. Another draw to Tomlinson worked for seven yards, and San Diego called a timeout on third-and-three at the Bucs' 19. The Bucs nearly sacked Brees on the ensuing drop-back, but he was able to get a lob off in the direction of Osgood, who was covered by CB Brian Kelly in the end zone. Unfortunately for the visitors, Osgood was able to out-battle Kelly for the ball and the go-ahead touchdown with 49 seconds to play in the half.

Bucs' ball…

The Bucs had 43 seconds to play, starting at their own 27. A draw play to Pittman gained six yards, and Griese had to settle for a short pass to Pittman on second down. The back got out of bounds at the 33, stopping the clock with 17 seconds to play in the half. The Chargers then used their third timeout just before the Bucs snapped on third down. After the break, Griese threw a 17-yard completion to Clayton, giving the Bucs a first down at San Diego's 48 with 10 seconds to play.

After a short pass to Pittman (the Bucs ended up taking an offside penalty instead, there was time for one more play from the 43. Griese tried to find Galloway in the end zone but it was intercepted easily by CB Quentin Jammer as time expired.

Third Quarter Review

Each team found the end zone once in the third quarter, allowing the Chargers to take a 21-14 lead into the fourth period. The Bucs had a slim 314-311 edge in total yardage after three quarters but an 81-yard drive by San Diego followed immediately after the visitors tied the game at 14-14.

Bucs' ball…

The Bucs got the ball first in the second half, starting at their own 26. RB Michael Pittman's first-down run gained two yards, and Griese scrambled around right end for three more. On third-and-five, Griese threw a shallow out to TE Ken Dilger that gained just one yard, and the Bucs had to punt.

Chargers' ball…

A muff on the punt return by Eric Parker pushed San Diego back to its own 20. LaDainian Tomlinson's first-yard run off right tackle was followed by a four-yard loss when QB Drew Brees tripped coming out from under center. The Chargers tried a draw to Tomlinson on third-and-nine and it opened up nicely, but LBs Ian Gold and Derrick Brooks closed in quickly to keep the gain to three yards.

Bucs' ball…

Taking over at their own 32 after the punt, the Bucs got a quick five yards on an out to WR Tim Brown. After a second-down incompletion, Griese had time to throw and eventually zipped a nine-yard pass to TE Ken Dilger.

On first down from their own 46, the Bucs took a step back on a holding call. Another pass to Dilger on first-and-20 got 12 yards back, but a personal-foul hands-to-the-face call on G Matt Stinchcomb cost the Bucs' 15 more. After an eight-yard pass to Pittman, the Bucs faced third-and-15 and converted it when Griese nimbly stepped out of a sack and lofted a 24-yard pass to WR Joe Jurevicius.

The Bucs had to burn a timeout before the next snap, then got one yard on a run off right guard by Pittman. A short pass to TE Will Heller picked up four more yards, and on third-and-five Griese found WR Joey Galloway, who danced around one tackle to get down to the San Diego 10-yard line.

A second-effort run by Pittman on first-and-goal picked up six big yards. A rollout pass to FB Jameel Cook was bobbled and dropped, but Griese calmly threw a touchdown pass to Galloway in the back of the end zone on third-and-goal.

Chargers' ball…

Brees faked a handoff and rolled right on first down, hitting wide-open TE Justin Peelle for a nine-yard gain. FB Lorenzo Neal moved the sticks with a two-yard run out to the Chargers' 30.

Tomlinson got just one yard on his next carry, trapped quickly by Brooks, but a shovel pass to the back was good for 10 more and a first down at the Chargers' 41. A roughing-the-passer penalty pushed the Chargers into Buc territory, and Tomlinson broke off a 35-yard run down to the Bucs' nine.

Tomlinson got the next handoff, too, and gained two yards. He scored on the next play, picking his way over right guard for the seven-yard score, giving San Diego a 21-14 lead.

Bucs' ball…

A 25-yard kickoff return by Ian Smart put the Bucs at their own 33, but a first-down sweep right by Pittman lost two yards. The third quarter expired before the Bucs could get off another play.

Fourth Quarter Review

The Buccaneers moved the ball effectively in the fourth quarter and scored twice, but gave up 10 late points on two turnovers and fell to the San Diego Chargers, 31-24. Despite racking up 436 yards of offense, the Bucs dropped to 1-6 on the road in 2004 and 5-8 overall.

Bucs' ball…

Tampa Bay faced a second-and-12 at their own 31 to start the fourth quarter and failed to gain a first down. Two incompletions led to a punt which WR Eric Parker fair caught at the San Diego 30.

Chargers' ball…

The Chargers, with a seven-point lead, went to the ground, giving it to Tomlinson on first and second down for a total of six yards. On third-and-four, Parker ran a sideline comebacker but CB Mario Edwards reacted in time to knock it away and force a punt.

Bucs' ball…

The Bucs took over at their own 15 with 13 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. A receiver screen to RB Ian Smart started the drive with a five-yard gain. On second down, QB Brian Griese had a long time to survey the field and he eventually found WR Michael Clayton for a 29-yard gain.

From the Bucs' 49, Griese tossed a pass over the middle to FB Mike Alstott, who cut right to get around two tacklers and gain 12 yards. After a two-yard run by Alstott, the drive fell apart on a play-action fake that didn't fool LB Ben Leber. Leber sacked Griese back at the 47. A slant to WR Tim Brown gained nine yards, and the Bucs elected to punt. Corey Ivy downed the kick at San Diego's five-yard line.

Chargers' ball…

A five-yard run by Tomlinson and a tripping penalty on DT Dewayne White immediately got the ball out to the 20. Tomlinson's next run got nothing, and his second-down run cost San Diego the ball. Tomlinson made two impressive cuts to hit the open field, but S Dwight Smith knocked the ball loose and White recovered for Tampa Bay at the Chargers' 37.

Bucs' ball…

After a two-yard run by RB Michael Pittman, the Bucs got a new set of downs when S Jerry Wilson was flagged for a personal foul for hitting WR Joey Galloway helmet to helmet. From the 20, the Bucs took a crack at the end zone on first down and hit when WR Michael Clayton made a stunning touchdown catch. Well covered on the right sideline, Clayton cut back under the defender and reached up with one hand to deflect a high pass back down to his body. Clayton's touchdown tied the game at 21-21.

Chargers' ball…

RB Jesse Chatman gave San Diego a great start with a tough kickoff return out to the Chargers' 40. However, DE Simeon Rice broke through on first down to sack Brees for a loss of nine. A draw to Tomlinson picked up just two yards, leading to third-and-17. Good coverage forced Brees to dump a third-down pass off to Tomlinson, who could gain only two more yards before Ronde Barber's tackle.

Bucs' ball…

The Bucs started over at their own 15 after the punt and got a quick six yards on a first-down pass to TE Will Heller. Griese then hit Clayton for a five-yard pass to move the chains. On first down, however, Griese tried to hit Clayton again and the pass was intercepted by LB Donnie Edwards and returned 30 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

Bucs' ball…

The Bucs started again at their own 34 but lost four yards on first down when Griese caught his own deflected pass in the backfield. He then threw a pass behind Pittman to make it third-and-14 with 3:19 to play in the game. Desperate to make a play, Griese tried to scramble on third down but was caught from behind by LB Steve Foley, who forced a fumble that was recovered by Shaun Phillips at the Bucs' 28.

Chargers' ball…

The Chargers ran on first down, with Tomlinson gaining two yards and the Bucs calling a timeout with 3:01 to play. Two more runs and two more timeouts made it fourth-and-four at the Bucs' 22 with 2:11 to play. Nate Kaeding came on to try a 40-yard field goal and effectively sealed the game by booting it through for a 10-point lead.

Bucs' ball…

A kickoff out of bounds gave the Bucs possession at their own 40, but an offensive pass interference call backed them up to the 30 as the two-minute warning arrived.

On first-and-20, a quick slant to Pittman picked up six yards, and another slant to Clayton was good for 23 more, to the San Diego 41. A sideline pass to Heller picked up nine more yards and stopped the clock with 1:14 to play. A pass over the middle to WR Joe Jurevicius gave the Bucs nine yards and a first down at the 23 as the clock ticked down below 40 seconds.

A short pass to Pittman failed to gain a yard and the Bucs had to spike the ball with 27 seconds to play. When Clayton was barely unable to make an acrobatic catch at the back of the end zone, the Bucs, needing two scores, elected to try a 41-yard field goal. K Jay Taylor made it to cut the lead back to seven points with 16 seconds to play.

Chargers' ball…

Tampa Bay was forced to try an onside kick, but the try failed and San Diego had only to kneel once to finish the game.

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