San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers probably will not go to the Pro Bowl – unless he is a paying customer – but his performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday was definitely Pro Bowl-worthy, as he threw for 4 touchdowns, leading San Diego to a decisive 41-24 win over Tampa Bay. The win keeps San Diego’s paper-thin playoff chances alive with a little help while Tampa Bay’s chances were decreased with their loss.
The first quarter had some scoring as the Chargers drew first blood when Philip Rivers threw an 11-yard TD pass to tight end Brandon Manumaleuna, giving San Diego a 7-0 lead; the Bucs would respond with a 1-yard TD run by running back B.J. Askew, tying the game at 7-all. Business would pick up offensively for both clubs as Rivers threw his second TD pass of the game to Antonio Gates, giving San Diego a 14-7 edge; they would follow that up with a 28-yard field goal by Nate Kaeding with 5:32 to go in the first half, expanding their lead to 17-7. Tampa Bay got a FG of their own with 17 ticks left on the clock as Matt Bryant booted a 49-yard FG, narrowing their deficit to 17-10; however, the Chargers got in a FG just as time expired in the first half, a 57-yarder by Kaeding, giving San Diego a 20-10 lead at halftime.
The third quarter scoring was provided solely by Tampa Bay as quarterback Jeff Garcia ran in from 7 yards, narrowing the gap to 20-17 and also a 71-yard TD pass from Garcia to Antonio Bryant, giving the Buccaneers their first lead of the game at 24-20. The fourth quarter was all San Diego as they would score 3 TD’s – two by air from Rivers to Gates and Darren Sproles and by an interception by Antoine Cason which was returned for a score, rounding out the scoring.
Rivers had arguably his best game of the season as he went 21-of-31 for 287 yards and 4 TDs while Garcia went 21-of-34 for 232 yards with a TD and 2 INTs. LaDanian Tomlinson led the Chargers’ rushing attack with 90 yards on 21 carries while also catching 2 passes for 20 yards; Garcia led the Bucs rushers wth 45 yards on 6 carries and a score. Vincent Jackson led the Chargers receivers with 7 receptions for 111 yards while Sproles caught 3 passes for 46 yards and a TD and Gates caught 4 passes for 43 and 2 scores. Bryant led the Bucs’ receivers with 6 receptions for 127 yards and a TD. San Diego (7-8) closes out their regular season when they return to host the Denver Broncos next Sunday while Tampa Bay (9-6) hopes to go to the postseason when they host the Oakland Raiders – also next Sunday.