Chargers report card week 14: Tampa Bay

The San Diego Chargers got one step closer to living the dream on Sunday with a 31-24 victory over Tampa. It was the defense that came up with two huge turnovers late in the game to give the Bolts the win.

QUARTERBACKS:

Drew Brees threw two interceptions in a game for the first time since his game against the Jets earlier this year. Otherwise, Brees was stellar leading the offense, going 17-for-23 for 220 yards against the number one pass defense in the league. The biggest blow was the short arm he threw into the end zone for Justin Peelle that was picked off by Ronde Barber in the first quarter.

Grade: B

RUNNING BACKS:

LaDainian Tomlinson is back at 100 percent, although he did get leg whipped on Sunday which may have bruised a shin. His 35 yard run in the third quarter was his second longest run of the year and first run of 30 plus yards since he had a 42 yard run against Tennessee – the game he injured his groin in.

Grade: A

WIDE RECEIVERS:

Keenan McCardell goes down and you wonder if the Chargers could generate any offense. Kassim Osgood then makes a nice touchdown grab in the end zone, coming back for a ball that Brees lofted off his back foot. Eric Parker also stepped up in a big way. His 79 yard catch came with McCardell still around but he sure looked like a solid number one.

Grade: B

TIGHT ENDS:

Antonio Gates was blanketed for much of the day, snaring one catch but it was a beauty. The confidence Brees has in Gates is huge and he came through with a great catch. The Bucs did a fantastic job limiting the rest of his opportunities and Brees looked elsewhere with success. What it says is Gates may not have had the stats but he still opened things up for the rest of the group. Justin Peelle added one catch and performed well as a blocker.

Grade: B

OFFENSIVE LINE:

The Bucs speed forced the line into making adjustments. Several blitz pickups were picture perfect – especially from rookie Nick Hardwick on the inside. There were breakdowns in pass protection, however, as Roman Oben was bested by his former mate Simeon Rice. Toniu Fonoti continues to be the best lineman and is increasing his repertoire by pulling right and opening up holes. As a unit, they did a nice job in the running game and creating holes. They sometimes closed quickly but that was the Bucs team speed compensating.

Grade: B+

DEFENSIVE LINE:

There were several times that the line got a push up the middle and Brian Griese was firing off three-step drops. There were other times when Griese setup shop and had ages to throw. Fifty passes should have netted a few more sacks. They remained focused when the Bucs shifted their formation to and fro – tougher to do then you would think. The run defense again held serve, allowing 3.5 per carry.

Grade: C

LINEBACKERS:

Donnie Edwards isn't a playmaker – definition of sarcasm. He intercepted two passes, returned one of those for a touchdown, had a game-high 16 tackles and came away with four passes defensed, including a beauty on a pass Ken Dilger had in his mitts. Steve Foley continues to make a game-changing play every game. Ben Leber got in on the action with a sack. They were a tad soft in the middle of the field, not getting enough depth to help out a secondary that was running on every play.

Grade: B+

SECONDARY:

Quentin Jammer was burned for two touchdowns. It is the first time I recall saying that this season. Drayton Florence let up some receptions but is as sure a tackler in the secondary as the team has ever had. Jamar Fletcher got confused on one route, leaving his man when he thought there was help over top. Jerry Wilson played slow and was not in position to make many plays other safeties can. Eighteen passes were caught by wide receivers – not good- although there were times when the lack of a rush put the secondary in coverage for far too long.

Grade: C-

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Lorenzo Neal as the up-blocker for Jesse Chatman wasn't as dominating as the Bolts had hoped. With the whole field a playground, Neal didn't make his customary blocks. It was simple to run around the talented fullback. Chatman did have one big return and pumped up the crowd when he would not go down and gained an extra eight yards. Edwards, fittingly, recovered the onsides kick. Mike Scifres continues his run for a Pro Bowl berth. Nate Kaeding missed a 51 yarder wide right and hit dead-center from 40 yards out. Kaeding was much better on kickoffs on Sunday but did boot another one out of bounds while trying to squib kick it. Eric Parker dropped a punt but fell on it for the recovery.

Grade: B-

COACHING:

This was one of those letdown games against a good team outside of their conference. Marty Schottenheimer kept his team focused and although three turnovers are not his trademark, the players realize they can overcome deficiencies. That is a big step. The Chargers defense knew they would see a lot of movement and a lot of screens. They did just enough preparation to make that a factor in the outcome. Paying attention to special teams paid off as the coverage unit was more disciplined.

Grade: B


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