Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers lose to San Diego Chargers 41-24

Phillip Buchanon can’t stop Antonio Gates from catching a 5-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter that put the Chargers ahead for good at 27-24.


Phillip Buchanon can’t stop Antonio Gates from catching a 5-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter that put the Chargers ahead for good at 27-24.


It's true, the Bucs are still alive in the playoff race. But with the way things are going, they feel a lot like the guy who jumps out of a skyscraper and each time he falls past another floor has a recurring thought. So far, so good. The 41-24 loss Sunday to the Chargers did not mathematically end the Bucs' season. Tampa Bay (9-6) can still earn the No. 6 seed in the NFC on Sunday with a win at home over Oakland and a loss by Dallas (9-6) at Philadelphia (8-6-1). But after sustaining their third straight defeat — while yielding the most points in a game in nine years — scoreboard watching is not what the Bucs planned on doing. "It (stinks)," linebacker Barrett Ruud said. "It's one of those things that when you have things in your hands, you've got to take advantage of it. So now we've got to wait and watch and hope that other teams don't play well down the stretch.

"Hopefully, it works out our way, but it's tough. It's tough to sit there and watch and wait."

Just 20 days ago, the Bucs were 9-3, matching their best 12-game start, with an NFC South Division title, first-round bye and homefield advantage in play.

But the defensive collapse, which began when it was first reported that coordinator Monte Kiffin would join son Lane at the University of Tennessee, has haunted the Bucs at Carolina, at Atlanta and Sunday against San Diego.

Philip Rivers threw for 287 yards and four touchdowns, two to tight end Antonio Gates.

The Bucs fought to stay in the game. Quarterback Jeff Garcia ran for a third-quarter touchdown and soon after hit Antonio Bryant for a 71-yard touchdown to give Tampa Bay a 24-20 lead.

But Rivers took over after that, throwing two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and Antoine Cason returned an interception 59 yards for another. The 41 points allowed were the most since a 45-0 loss to the Raiders on Dec. 19, 1999.

So what happened? How has one of the biggest collapses in franchise history occurred?

It starts with the defense.

Tampa Bay ran into a buzz saw at Carolina as DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart helped the Panthers rush for 299 yards and four touchdowns.

Injuries to defensive tackles Chris Hovan, who did not play at Atlanta, and Jovan Haye, who was limited to a handful of snaps against the Falcons, contributed.

Sunday, Rivers was rarely under pressure and picked apart a secondary missing safety Jermaine Phillips, who is out for the season with a broken right arm.

"Can I harness my inner Jim Mora? We've got to win a game. Period," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "The hell with the playoffs. We've got to win a game. We've got Oakland next week. That's all we can worry about. I don't know our scenarios. I have no idea at this point. We just have to win a football game.

"If enough guys are like me, then they're (ticked) off. I'm (ticked) off."

It's the second straight season the Bucs have saved their worst for December. Tampa Bay, which essentially locked up the NFC South before the final month last season, dropped four of its final five games, including the wild-card game to the Giants.

Four hours after losing to the Chargers (7-8), who earned a showdown for the AFC West title with the Broncos, the Bucs got some help.

The Redskins held on to defeat the Eagles 10-3 when receiver Reggie Brown was tackled 1 yard shy of the tying touchdown on the final play of the game.

Even if the Bucs slipped into the playoffs this season, what kind of run can they make?

"We've got to play better to get in the tournament and to do anything in the tournament," said coach Jon Gruden, whose teams are 10-19 in December and January since winning the Super Bowl after the 2002 season. "We've got to play better. We've got to coach better, and certainly I'm responsible for that. I'm disappointed for our players and our fans. We'll leave it at that.

"I told the team we're a 9-6 football team. I want them to learn from this. I'm proud of them for the effort. But we've got to learn from this, and when you have an opportunity to be in these big games down the stretch, we've got to play better."

Rick Stroud can be reached at

Tampa Bay Buccaneers lose to San Diego Chargers 41-24 12/21/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 4:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    Rookie RHP Jake Faria had his lucky rubber duck — OG, which he has had since high school — with him, and the Rays had nothing to worry about as he put his rocky Wednesday outing well behind him, working into the eighth while scattering seven hits.

  2. Rays journal: Alex Cobb trying to erase sting of last outing

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The sting of Friday's ninth-inning letdown was still felt four days later by RHP Alex Cobb, who faces the Orioles this afternoon in the homestand finale.

    Tim Tebow is an example of the many college athletes who have won the Sullivan Award, earning the honor in 2007 as the  Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for the Gators. [Associated Press)]
  3. Rays vs. Orioles, 12:10 p.m. Wednesday, Tropicana Field


    Today: vs. Orioles

    12:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM

    Tickets: $15-$275; available at Tropicana Field box office,, surcharge of up to $5 within 5 hours of game time.

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  4. Bruce Arena blends intense demands with humor to lead U.S. soccer


    SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Bruce Arena bites his fingernails religiously, a habit he has had since age 10.

    Among some other unmentionables.

    Bruce Arena
  5. Red state: Yes, Bill O'Reilly is a Bucs fan


    TAMPA -- The question was simple enough for Bucs fans: Why is former Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly wearing a red Bucs polo?

    O'Reilly was wearing the polo during a few video clips from his "No Spin News" podcast posted on his website Monday, which was exciting news for some Bucs fans and not-so-exciting …

    Former Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly was sporting a red Bucs polo during his "No Spin News" video podcast Monday. An assistant said the shirt was given to him by former Bucs tight end Dave Moore.