Disappointment was rampant in the aftermath of the Bucs' 17-13 upset loss to Dallas Sunday, but Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Chandler threw out a word or two of caution to his frustrated teammates: Forget it. Quickly. "It's not good, but you just forget it. It's over," said Chandler, who took over for injured Vinny Testaverde late in the final quarter and almost engineered a victory. "It's like golf _ dump it into the water? Forget it and tee up another one. (We can't) get caught up in the fact that we lost to these guys twice, and let it eat away at us. There's such close parity in this league, that it's really the attitude of a team and mental ability on game day that separates the winners and losers.
"Any bit of energy we spend on trying to make this a win, it's going to hurt us next week. It's over."
Bucs coach Ray Perkins did not second-guess the type of coverage his defense was in on Sunday's pivotal play _ Troy Aikman's last-minute 28-yard touchdown pass to Dallas receiver Michael Irvin.
A lack of execution rather than faulty philosophy resulted in the score that gave the Cowboys a 17-13 lead with 23 seconds remaining, Perkins said.
"Both corner(backs) had the wide receivers man-to-man in trail coverage, back there by the safeties," Perkins said. "(Dallas) had been running in-cuts, and (safety) Mark (Robinson) just hesitated a little too much. He anticipated an in-cut and it wasn't an in-cut. That's all. It's one of the few mistakes he's made all year. But the coverage we were in was a good coverage."
San Diego here they come
The Bucs will be making their first-ever trip to San Diego this week, and their first foray into the AFC this season.
To no great surprise, Perkins said the Chargers' 2-5 record inaccurately reflects San Diego's potential to create havoc for Tampa Bay.
"San Diego is a good football team," Perkins said. "They're a lot better than (2-5). I know you've heard that before, but all you've got to do is look at the stats, the league stats. They're like third or fourth running the football, and they'll be one of the toughest defenses we'll face all year."
With 947 rushing yards (135.3 per game), the Chargers have the third-best ground game in the NFL (second in the AFC). Former FSU fullback Marion Butts leads the one-back attack with an NFL-leading 581 yards rushing on 121 attempts. Defensively, San Diego ranks eighth in the NFL.
Cross-country treks to the West Coast have not been fruitful for the Bucs. Tampa Bay is 1-11 in California, with its only win coming in a 24-23 decision at San Francisco in 1980.
Odds and ends
Testaverde's quarterback rating has dipped below the century mark for the first time all season, but his 99.4 still ranks him third in the NFL behind Phil Simms (107.5) and Joe Montana (101.6). Despite his limited playing time against Dallas, Bucs running back Gary Anderson remains the NFL leader in total yards from scrimmage with 740 (414 rushing, 326 receiving). Reserve receiver Danny Peebles caught a career-high five passes Sunday for 47 yards. The second-year player from North Carolina State also scored his first NFL touchdown on a 2-yard reception in the second quarter.
_ DON BANKS