Bucs down Chargers for third straight win
Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - Josh Freeman threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the San Diego Chargers, 34-24, on Sunday.
Doug Martin rushed for 68 yards on 19 carries and also caught three passes for 51 yards for the Buccaneers (5-4), who have won three straight and four of their last five. Tiquan Underwood and Dallas Clark each caught a touchdown pass in the win.
"Today we played team football. We held each other up, and it is critical against a good football team," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "We ran into Philip Rivers, he's been as hot as a fire cracker the last two games. We did just enough to find a win. It's a good feeling."
San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers completed 29-of-37 passes for 337 yards and three touchdowns, but also threw a pair of costly second-half interceptions. Danario Alexander had five catches for 134 yards and a touchdown and Malcom Floyd had six catches for 63 yards and a score for the Chargers (4-5), losers in four of their last five.
"We were in the game, but we unfortunately had the conversation that if you give up a punt return for a touchdown and an interception returned for a touchdown you're not going to put yourself in jeopardy in terms of winning the game," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "I thought we played hard in terms of when we had adversity we fought back. We have a group of guys that are mentally and physically tough."
The Chargers held a 21-17 lead at halftime, but the Bucs went on top for good with 4:07 left in the third when Freeman found Underwood with a 15-yard TD pass.
Rivers had the Chargers in scoring position on the ensuing series, but he was picked off by Leonard Johnson. The cornerback returned the interception 83 yards for a touchdown and a 31-21 advantage with 13:22 remaining in the game.
The Chargers drew within a score on Nick Novak's 34-yard field goal with just over seven minutes left, but it would be as close they would get.
Rivers was picked off again near midfield on San Diego's next possession with just over three minutes to play, leading to Connor Barth's 45-yard field goal with 1:12 remaining for the final margin.
San Diego scored on its first touch when Rivers found Alexander for an 80-yard catch-and-run. On 3rd-and-long, Rivers tossed it to Alexander over the middle and the receiver broke a tackle and used his hand to avoid falling to the ground, then galloped all the way to the end zone.
Tampa Bay answered right back with a touchdown of its own as Freeman found Clark all alone in the end zone to tie the game. After a 45-yard pass to Martin got the Bucs inside the San Diego five, Freeman faked the handoff to Martin and tossed it to Clark for a 3-yard touchdown.
The Chargers kept things going on their second possession as Rivers hooked up with Antonio Gates for a 13-yard touchdown pass to go up 14-7. Earlier, Rivers found Floyd down the left sideline with a 22-yard pass before turning to Gates for a 33-yard gain to set up the score.
The teams traded punts before Barth's 40-yard field goal made it 14-10. A deep 54-yard pass to Mike Williams got the ball in San Diego territory, but the Bucs were unable to get into the end zone and settled for the field goal.
Dekoda Watson blocked the Chargers' punt on the ensuing possession and Adam Hayward scooped it up and ran it in from 29 yards away to put Tampa Bay ahead 17-14.
San Diego answered with a touchdown and went back in front when Rivers found Floyd for a 3-yard score to cap a 14-play, 80-yard trek.
Tampa Bay linebacker Quincy Black left the game in the third quarter with a head and neck injury and did not return. He suffered the injury on a helmet- to-helmet collision with San Diego running back Ryan Mathews. He was carted off the field but flashed a "thumbs up" to crowd from the cart ... Chargers head coach Norv Turner is 5-5 all-time against the Bucs ... Gates recorded his 80th career touchdown.
11/11 20:06:41 ET