I’d hate to be the one to jinx things, but damn! This is starting to get a little exciting.
Bucs 28 – Chargers 21
Last week, I decided all on my own and without anything resembling professional analysis that this was a must-have game for Tampa. Ideally, a Bucs victory would be accompanied by losses meted out to division rivals Atlanta and New Orleans, and maybe even Carolina just to add some extra flavor.
Apparently, the Football Gods saw fit to smile upon me and grant my wishes.
If only I could learn to use my supposed powers for good.
The Bucs didn’t make it easy on me though, trailing as they did through almost three quarters of the game before Tampa linebacker Lavonte Davis intercepted San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers and rumbled to the end zone for a touchdown. That was enough to right the ship, with Bucs QB Jameis Winston and the Tampa offense feeding off that energy and scoring eleven unanswered points in the fourth period. A last-chance drive by Rivers and the Chargers was thwarted by another interception, this time by Bucs safety Keith Tandy, to preserve the win.
Winston shook off an early interception and ended up going 20 completions on 30 pass attempts for 280 yards and a TD, spreading the wealth to nine different receivers on the day. Ever-reliable running back Doug Martin lead the Bucs ground game with 45 yards on 17 rushing attempts, including one amazing fight to the end zone where he simply refused to go down after an initial stop/pileup at the line of scrimmage, from which he somehow escaped to punch in the score. Add to that the effort of the Bucs defense to keep the Chargers at bay, and what does it spell? W-I-N.
This latest victory extends the Bucs winning streak to 4 games, improves their record to 7-5, and moves them into a tie with the Falcons for first place in the NFC South, news made even sweeter when you add in the losses suffered by their division rivals. If the season ended today, Tampa would be the sixth seed in the NFC playoff lineup. In many respects, they now control their own destiny so far as any post-season plans are concerned.
Next up for the Bucs? Back home to Tampa to host the aforementioned New Orleans Saints. Being a division game, this one is definitely a “need-to-win,” not just to keep their playoff hopes alive, but also to improve their division and conference standings so far as seeding goes. We’re getting down to the nitty-gritty, folks.
Bucs life, yo!