The Buccaneers have been getting it done with offense lately, but on Sunday their victory was sealed by the two other phases of play—defense and special teams.
In the second quarter with the Bucs down 14-10, Dakoda Watson blocked a Mike Scifres punt and Adam Hayward picked it up and ran it back 29 yards for a touchdown and a three-point 17-14 lead.
The teams traded touchdown passes until early in the fourth quarter when the Chargers were driving to either tie the game or go ahead with a touchdown. That is until cornerback Leonard Johnson picked off a Philip Rivers pass at the Bucs' 17-yard line and took it all the way back to the house for a touchdown and a 10-point lead.
Josh Freeman threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns, but it was the Bucs touchdowns on special teams and defense that made the difference.
It’s Freeman, however, that’s been the difference in Tampa Bay’s turnaround.
The Buccaneers started the season 1-3, but made the most out of their Week 5 bye.
Head coach Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan decided to take the training wheels off the passing game and give Freeman more chances to attack vertically.
Heading into the bye week, Freeman had thrown five touchdowns and four interceptions. Since then, he’s thrown 13 touchdown passes and only one interception. He’s connecting of 58.4 percent of his passes and has tallied 1,467 yards through the air since the bye.
Rookie running back Doug Martin rushed for 68 yards on Sunday, a seemingly off day after posting 135 yards in Week 8 and 251 last week. Martin’s 615 yards on the ground and six touchdowns since the bye week have been instrumental in Tampa Bay’s success.
With a defense that ranked first against the rush prior to the game (they allowed San Diego 26 yards over their average of 77.3 Sunday) and a quarterback-running back tandem that’s lighting the world on fire, if special teams and the defense is planning on stepping up and helping the Buccaneers in the scoring effort, there’s not much this team can’t do.
Tampa Bay is averaging 35.6 points per game since their bye and has only been held under 30 once. The Bucs have only lost once too, leading to the hypothesis that as long as they score north of 30, the wins will keep flowing.