Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Series History: Buccaneers-Chargers

The Bucs have fond memories of this weekend's destination city, not only because of Super Bowl XXXVII but also due to a 1996 franchise turning point.

A look back at all of the match-ups between the Buccaneers and the Chargers.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers do not have an extensive history with the Chargers. They do, however, have every reason to be fond of San Diego, and not just because of the weather.

The most important victory in Buccaneers history was secured in San Diego, as Qualcomm Stadium was the home to Super Bowl XXXVII. It was the Oakland Raiders and not San Diego's own team that Tampa Bay defeated, 48-21, to hoist the Lombardi Trophy on Jan. 26, 2003; however, the Chargers did play a supporting role in the franchise turnaround that eventually culminated in that league championship.

Overall, the Chargers own an 8-2 lead in the all-time series with the Buccaneers, although the two teams have split their last four meetings. Tampa Bay has played four road games in San Diego, not including that thrilling Super Bowl, and won just one of them. That single victory, however, is the franchise milestone mentioned above.

In 1996, one year after purchasing the team, Malcolm Glazer and the Glazer family gave Tony Dungy his first head coaching job. Dungy, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this past summer, inherited a team that hadn't enjoyed a winning record in nearly a decade and a half, and his first season did not start well from a wins and losses standpoint. The '96 Buccaneers lost their first five games and eight of their first nine. After an overtime win over Oakland at old Tampa Stadium in Week 11, the Buccaneers headed to San Diego to face a Chargers team that had a 6-4 record and was seeking its third straight playoff berth.

Pictures of the Chargers' starting offense and defense, according to the team's depth chart.

The evening before the game, in a San Diego hotel room, Buccaneer defenders Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and John Lynch heard their team referred to as "The Yucks" on a sports broadcast and took offense. Those three, who would eventually form the cornerstone of one of the best defenses in NFL history, vowed that night to turn the franchise around and erase that "Yucks" perception.

The next day, the Bucs quickly fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter, thanks in part to a fumbled punt, but were able to rebound and control much of the rest of the game on the way to a 25-17 victory. Trent Dilfer completed 30 of his 40 passes for 327 yards, while Errict Rhett and rookie fullback Mike Alstott scored on short touchdown runs. The Buccaneers' defense gave up a 63-yard touchdown pass from Stan Humphries to Charlie Jones on the third play of the game but then intercepted him three times in the second half. With the Bucs still down by one point in the fourth quarter, Lynch made one of his signature late-game plays, intercepting Humphries deep in San Diego territory to set up Rhett's go-ahead touchdown.

That was actually the Buccaneers' first win in the head-to-head series with the Chargers, who had won the first six, beginning in 1976. In fact, San Diego was the very first regular-season visitor to Tampa Stadium, in Week Two of that inaugural Buccaneer stadium. The game went much as the entire season did for the fledgling Bucs, as they could muster only 125 yards of offense in a 23-0 shutout loss. Steve Spurrier started for Tampa Bay but three different quarterback played and combined for three completions in 18 attempts and a net passing total of -3 yards. A young Dan Fouts hadn't yet emerged as one of the most prolific passers in the game (the Don Coryell Era was still a few year away) but the Chargers didn't need him as running backs Don Woods and Rickey Young combined for 149 yards and a touchdown.

The Buccaneers were on their way to their second playoff appearance in three years the next time the Chargers visited in December of 1981. That proved to be the only game Tampa Bay lost in the last five weeks of that season, and it was a one-point decision won in the last minute on a Rolf Benirschke 29-yard field goal. This time Fouts had a prolific outing, throwing nearly 50 times for 351 yards, but Doug Williams matched him with 321 passing yards of his own. Running back James Wilder scored on two fourth-quarter runs but Bill Capece missed the extra point after the first one and that would prove critical in the end. The Bucs were threatening to add to their six-point lead with six minutes to play when tight end Jimmie Giles was hit as a pass arrived, causing a deflection that was intercepted by linebacker Woodrow Lowe, setting up the game-winning drive.

The third game of the series was also played in Tampa six years later, but even long-time Buccaneer fans won't recognize most of the participants' names. The 1987 season was interrupted early on by a player's strike, and the NFL ended up playing three weeks with replacement players. For the Bucs, one of those games was a home contest against the Chargers, which featured a quarterback matchup of Mike Kelley and John Reaves. Reaves ended up splitting the game with Mike Hold, and the two Buc passers combined to complete six of 17 passes for 88 yards. The less written about this game the better; suffice it to note that the winning touchdown pass in a 17-13 Chargers victory was thrown by Rick Neuheisel, who would go on to be the head coach at the University of Colorado.

Pictures of the Top 10 Chargers in Week 12, according to their Pro Football Focus player grade.

The Bucs' first trip to San Diego came in 1990, and it wasn't particularly pleasant (other than, again, the weather). Chris Chandler made his first start as a Buccaneer, replacing Vinny Testaverde, and it wasn't his best day, as San Diego picked him off four times in a 41-10 rout. Two of those picks belonged to Gill Byrd, who would later serve as a defensive backs coach for the Buccaneers. Marion Butts powered the Chargers' offense with three rushing touchdowns.

The 1992 Chargers memorably lost their first four games before winning 11 of the last 12 to take the AFC West title. Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, their trip to California wasn't scheduled for September. The Bucs went to San Diego in November and ran into Butts again, as the big Chargers back ran for 104 of the home team's 181 yards in a 29-14 laugher. Testaverde got the start this time and threw a touchdown pass to tight end Ron Hall but also absorbed six sacks before being relieved by Craig Erickson. San Diego returned the favor by visiting Tampa the next year on the final day of the season. It didn't go any better for the Buccaneers, although they did take a one-point lead early in the fourth quarter on an Erickson touchdown pass to Courtney Hawkins. Unfortunately, Erickson was also intercepted three times and San Diego scored the last 16 points in a 32-17 decision.

The 1996 game described above was the last Bucs-Chargers meeting before the NFL's 2002 realignment led to a more regular scheduling rotation. The NFC South and AFC West were first matched up in 2004, with the Bucs heading across the country for a Week 14 contest. After a rough 0-4 start, the '04 Bucs had won five of eight before that trip. However, a 31-24 San Diego win that turned in the fourth quarter sent Tampa Bay on another four-game losing skid to end the campaign. Brian Griese threw 50 times for nearly 400 yards but his three touchdowns were balanced by three interceptions. The most telling example of that give-and-take was in the fourth quarter when Griese tied the game with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Michael Clayton and, just three minutes later, tossed a pick-six to Donnie Edwards.

The most recent two games were both played in Tampa as the league made a few alterations to the divisional-matchup rotation to avoid giving teams too many coast-to-coast trips in the same season. When they met in 2008, the two teams were headed in opposite directions. The Buccaneers took a 9-3 record into the season's final month but lost its last four to miss the playoffs and bring an end to the Jon Gruden Era. The Chargers were 4-8 after 12 games but won their last four and ended up taking the AFC West title on a tiebreaker over Denver. Their paths intersected in Week 16, as San Diego scored 21 fourth-quarter points to turn a 24-20 deficit into a 41-24 win. Philip Rivers threw two of his four touchdown passes in the final period, one each to Antonio Gates and Darren Sproles, and Antoine Cason sealed the win with a 59-yard pick-six off Jeff Garcia. Antonio Bryant had 127 yards and a touchdown in a losing effort for Tampa Bay.

The Bucs took the most recent contest in 2012 by a score of 34-24. Rivers threw another three touchdown passes but Tampa Bay also picked him off twice, with Leonard Johnson returning one of those for an 83-yard touchdown. That came shortly after Josh Freeman hit Tiquan Underwood with a 15-yard scoring pass in the second half to give the Bucs a 24-21 lead. The leading pass-catcher for the winning team in each of the last two Bucs-Chargers games was Vincent Jackson, first for San Diego in 2008 and then for Tampa Bay in 2012.

Series Notes (regular-season only):

  • Overall Series: Chargers lead, 2-8
  • Bucs' Home Record: 1-5
  • Bucs' Road Record: 1-3
  • Current Streak: Win 1 (2012)
  • Buccaneers' Longest Winning Streak: 1 (1996 and 2012)
  • Chargers' Longest Winning Streak: 6 (1976-93)
  • Regular Season Point Total: Buccaneers 184, Broncos 279
  • Most Points in a Game, Tampa Bay: Buccaneers 34-24 (2012)
  • Most Points in a Game, San Diego: Chargers 41-10 (1990) and Chargers 41-24 (2008)
  • Most Points, both teams: 65, Chargers 41-24 (2008)
  • Fewest Points in a Game, Buccaneers: Chargers 23-0 (1976)
  • Fewest Points in a Game, Chargers: Chargers 17-13 (1987) and Buccaneers 25-17 (1996)
  • Fewest Points in a Game, both teams: 23, Chargers 23-0 (1976)

Bucs-Chargers Regular-Season Game-by-Game Record:

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