Catching the Bucs at the Right Time?

Might the Chargers be catching the Buccaneers at the right time? Hoping to keep their slim playoff hopes alive with a win Sunday at Tampa Bay, the Chargers see a Bucs team that is reeling.

It is coming off its second straight loss, has been hit by injuries to defensive players, doesn't know if Jeff Garcia or Brian Griese will start at quarterback and is soon losing its defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin, to the University of Tennessee.

Or, do you look at Sunday's matchup as the Chargers having to travel across country for an early game against a team that is wounded and backed into a corner?

Either way, if the Broncos defeat the visiting Bills later on Sunday, it won't matter what the Chargers do.

What that can't do is lose, which would automatically eliminate them from the playoff chase. So while there are numerous story lines come Sunday, the Chargers' main concern is taking care of their business.

"Obviously it's not in our hands," coach Norv Turner said of the Broncos being able to clinch regardless of the Chargers' outcome in Tampa. "The only thing that's in our hands is finding a way to play our best this week and then see what happens."

The Chargers got into this mess by losing five of six games near the middle of the season. But while the disappointing campaign is near its end, the Chargers at least still have a pulse after their dramatic one-point win Sunday in Kansas City.

But to make that rally worthwhile, they have to win again this Sunday.

Then if the Broncos lose again, the Chargers would have to win yet again in the regular-season finale against visiting Denver.

There's a lot on the Chargers' plate, but else nothing matters unless they keeping winning.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES


RB LaDainian Tomlinson
Harry How/Getty

--QB Philip Rivers passed for 346 yards and two scores, the touchdowns coming in the last 73 seconds when the Chargers pulled out the win. Rivers also had three turnovers -- two fumbles -- but kept his poise to lead the rally. His third-quarter interception snapped a 110-pass streak without a pick. Rivers, who remains the NFL's highest-rated passer, threw for 199 yards in the fourth quarter.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson found the running tough all day in Kansas City as his mediocre season -- by his standards -- continues. Tomlinson had little running room as he gained but 39 yards on 15 carries, although he did have a scoring run. But Tomlinson was met too often in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage to thwart most of his runs. Tomlinson has rushed for 100 yards in just two of 14 games.

--RB Darren Sproles didn't get a carry Sunday but was involved in the passing game -- although his production wasn't much. He had four catches for 11 yards, as he was the victim of some shoddy blocking. He did contribute a 40-yard kick return, nearly breaking it for a touchdown. He finished with 113 kickoff return yards.

--TE Antonio Gates was rediscovered one game after getting no receptions. In Kansas City, Gates was a big part of the offense with a team-high seven catches for 78 yards. Gates had only eight catches in the four previous games with no touchdowns before being found again in Kansas City. Gates had 15 catches against the Chiefs this year.

--WR Malcom Floyd was clutch down the stretch Sunday, but his performance came with a cost. He suffered a collapsed lung at some point and remained in Kansas City overnight in a hospital. He has returned to San Diego, but his availability for Sunday is in doubt. Floyd had five catches for 67 yards and a key touchdown.

--WR Vincent Jackson had the day's biggest catches when he snagged a 42-yard pass from Philip Rivers on the game-winning drive. After that reception, he was the recipient of a 10-yard pass that gave the Chargers the lead. He ended with a team-high 89 yards on six catches. It was one of the better games of his career.

--C Nick Hardwick suffered a concussion late in the game and had to be removed on a cart. He said he was feeling better Monday, but his status will be closely monitored during the week. There is a chance he could be down this week.

--RG Kris Dielman was ejected from the game for throwing a punch, although it didn't land on anyone and few people saw it.

--DT Jamal Williams continued his stellar play with a thunderous hit of QB Tyler Thigpen for his 10th tackle for a loss this season. He was a stud in the middle, blowing up blocking schemes and collecting four tackles.

--SS Clinton Hart (neck) has missed the past two games, but coach Norv Turner revealed that Hart is expected to play Sunday in Tampa Bay. Hart's experience is needed in the deepest part of the Chargers secondary.

--ILB Stephen Cooper continues to play his best as the season winds down. He had a key interception in the end zone in Kansas City. It was his third interception of the month, and he now leads the Chargers in that category. He also had a game-high 11 tackles.

--WR Kassim Osgood showed Sunday why he has represented the AFC as its special teams player in two Pro Bowls. He wrestled away an onside kick in the final minutes to set up the Chargers' last touchdown. Osgood is always productive on special teams with his tenacious approach. He was not selected to the Pro Bowl this year.


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