Chargers vs. Buccaneers matchups: Can the defense keep Tom Brady in check?
Breaking down how the Chargers (1-2) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) heading into their game Sunday at 10 a.m. PT at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
When Chargers have the ball: There are 32 teams in the NFL. Through the season’s first three weeks, 28 have outscored the Chargers. That group includes Atlanta, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Houston. What do those five have in common? All are winless. Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert led the Chargers on a 79-yard touchdown drive on his first NFL series. In 19 possessions since, the Chargers have scored three touchdowns. In trying to help Herbert, the offense has been able to run the ball, averaging more than 150 yards per game. But Tampa Bay’s front seven includes Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, Shaquil Barrett and Lavonte David. The Buccaneers have surrendered barely 70 yards on the ground on average. They limited New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara to 16 yards, Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey to a 3.3-yard average and Denver’s Melvin Gordon to 26 yards. As for pressuring quarterbacks, Herbert is no doubt aware that Tampa Bay has twice as many sacks as the Chargers, 12-6. The Chargers had one lead — 7-6 for about six minutes of the second quarter — last weekend in a flustering loss to Carolina. They might not be even that fortunate Sunday. The Buccaneers have allowed zero first-quarter points, outscoring their opponents 31-0 in the opening 15 minutes.
Legendary quarterback Tom Brady, 43, and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammates await the Chargers and their rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, 22.
When Buccaneers have the ball: Tampa Bay has Tom Brady and Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski and Ronald Jones and O.J. Howard ... but their offensive numbers are not great. They are 25th in total offense and 14th in points. Brady is completing 65% of his throws — slightly above his Hall of Fame career standard — but is averaging only 6.8 yards per attempt. He hasn’t finished a season with a mark lower than that since 2006. Brady also has been intercepted three times in 109 attempts. Just four years ago, he was picked off only twice in 432 passes. The Chargers would love to get pressure on Brady and force him into some uncomfortable situations, but he has been sacked just five times and likely won’t give the Chargers many chances to get their hands on him. “He’s going to be flicking the ball, getting it out super fast,” defensive end Joey Bosa said. “It’s always a really tough challenge playing a guy like Tom Brady. I mean, you hardly have two seconds to ever get to him.” After opening the season with a loss to New Orleans, Tampa Bay has wins over Carolina and Denver, scoring seven offensive touchdowns the last two weeks.
When they kick: It has been a quiet start for Michael Badgley. The Chargers kicker is four for four on extra points and six for seven on field goals. Badgley has made two fourth-quarter kicks, but they were from only 23 and 22 yards. Ryan Succop is eight for nine on extra points and four for five on field goals for the Buccaneers.
Jeff Miller’s prediction: These Bucs are not Brady’s old New England Patriots, a team that buried the Chargers in the AFC divisional round of the playoffs following the 2018 season. Still, the Chargers have struggled trying to discover their groove on offense. Matched up against this Tampa Bay defense, those struggles will continue.
BUCCANEERS 23, CHARGERS 13
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