Pictures from the Buccaneers' Week 13 match-up with the Chargers.
Game Ball:** Lavonte David is one of the cornerstones of the Buccaneers' defense and one of the NFL's best linebackers. However, thanks to David's lower-than-usual tackle totals in the team's new defensive scheme and a relatively low (compared to his past seasons) number of big plays, Buccaneer coaches Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith have had to answer frequent questions about his play. Koetter and Smith have steadfastly maintained that David is just as much of an impact player as ever, and that certainly showed on Sunday in San Diego. In the third quarter, with the Bucs trailing, 17-13, David made a scintillating dive of a pass break-up on a pass that appeared likely to convert a third-and-16 for the Chargers. That led to an exchange of punts that put San Diego back at its own eight-yard line. David took advantage of that, intercepting a pass that was deflected by rookie CB Vernon Hargreaves and returning it 15 yards for a go-ahead touchdown.
Play of the Game:** As critical as David's pick-six was, it didn't permanently give the Bucs the lead. San Diego answered with a touchdown of their own but the Buccaneers went back on top with nine minutes to play. QB Philip Rivers, with his team down 28-21, guided the Chargers into Buccaneer territory and then scrambled for nine yards to make it second-and-one at the 31-yard line. San Diego chose to take that opportunity for a shot down the field, but Tandy was ready. The fifth-year safety, starting in place of the injured Chris Conte, kept good coverage down the left sideline on WR Dontrelle Inman and ended up in a jump-ball situation. Tandy had position and was able to get his hands on it in front of the receiver before tumbling back over Inman and into the end zone. Tandy held onto the ball on impact, resulting in a touchback, and San Diego never got the ball back.
Turning Point:** In terms of game flow, it was almost certainly David's pick-six. However, the contest may have actually swung to the Bucs' favor during halftime. The visitors trailed, 14-7, at the intermission and the Bucs' defense had trouble stopping running back Melvin Gordon throughout the first two quarters. Tampa Bay put consistently good pressure on Rivers but rarely got him on the ground because the veteran passer was able to get out of trouble with quick and accurate passes to Gordon in the flat. Gordon had four receptions for 54 yards in the first half…and then zero catches in the second half. David said the Buccaneers' defense adjusted at halftime in a specific effort to take away Rivers' frequent underneath plays. It worked; Rivers did hit one deep touchdown pass after halftime but that was the Chargers' only score of the second half and the home team had just 130 yards in the final two quarters.
It Was Over When: RB Jacquizz Rodgers ran for three yards on third-and-one right as the two-minute warning arrived in the fourth quarter. After Tandy's takeaway, the Bucs offense knew they needed to get just one first down to erase San Diego's last timeout and the remaining time on the clock. Rodgers burst up the middle for seven yards on first down – the key play of that possession – and was thus able to move the chains with two more carries. Jameis Winston got to finish the game with three repetitions of his favorite play: the victory kneel-down.