By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
Coming into Week 4 of this NFL season, both the Los Angeles Chargers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have be able to avoid any positive test. Unlike the Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings who have had players test positive for COVID19 this week; it appears both teams will have their schedules adjusted accordingly to minimize contact with other teams. Fortunately, this is not the case for either the Chargers or Buccaneers!
These teams come into their Week 4 matchup with opposite records, the Buccaneers are 2-1 while the Chargers come into the season with a 1-2 record. The Buccaneers Tom Brady threw for 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions last week, which gives him 59 games in his career with 3 TDs and 0 Ints. Whereas the Chargers rookie QB comes into this game after passing for his second consecutive 300-yard passing game making him only the second QB to do so in the NFL since 1970.
Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn says, “More games are lost than won in the NFL.” You lose games with turnovers, as of Week 3, the Chargers are ranked 24th in takeaways opposed to the Buccaneers who are tied for 3rd in the league. Both Anthony and the Defensive Coordinator have talked about the need to increase turnovers in their upcoming games.
Earlier in the week, I had the opportunity to ask each Coach Lynn and their defensive coordinator Gus Bradley about the process of their preparation for their matchup this week;
Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn said. In regards to the new look of Bruce Arians’ offense with Tom Brady behind center, “Well, you can see some of Brady’s plays from New England mixed in with Bruce’s offense. Looks like it’s trying to come together, it’s clicking right now. It’s going to be a challenge…”
When asked about how much time is devoted to creating more turnovers in practice and the techniques they coach the players on to improve on this Chargers Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley had this to say, “we devote periods of time to our unit meeting, we look at players tendencies, on how they handle the ball and how they carry the ball and the decision they make. The emphasis has been so much on tackling, and strike zone and tackling well. That we’ve got to make sure that we’re still preaching tackling, but not at the expense of going for the ball.”
Here’s what Defensive Nose Tackle Damion Square had to say about the lack of takeaways the Chargers have had this season, “turnovers are a big stat in this game! It’s one of those that determine who’s standing at the end of the year. It’s hard to get them, kind of like a sack, It’s hard to accomplish that stat. We got to play faster; Teams that play with a lot of confidence creates turnovers. That’s one of the things we have to build on, we have to build on being a more confident defense, understanding what (the scheme) we’re in, believing in the things that we see. I think once gels together, you’ll see play faster and fast defenses create turnovers.”
With all the talk this week about getting turnovers the Chargers Michael Davis was able to give them a go-ahead score when he returned a Tom Brady interception to the end zone midway through the first quarter. This oddly was Tom Brady’s 4th pick-sixes in his last 6 games (incl. playoffs). In contrast to throwing only 2 pick-sixes in his previous 74 games combined. However, this early advantage in turnovers would not hold up for the Chargers.
Without their offensive spark plug Austin Ekeler, who went down with leg injury early in the first half of the game, the Chargers took a 24-7 lead. Late on the first half of the game, Justin Herbert and Joshua Kelley mishandled a snap which gave the Buccaneers the ball inside the Chargers 20-yard line, leading to a touchdown pass from the 43-year-old Tom Brady, who has set the all-time NFL record as the oldest player with 3+ pass TD in back-to-back games. Additionally, Brady has tied Peyton Manning (93) for the 2nd-most games with 300+ pass yards since 1950.
Justin Herbert wasn’t to be outdone this week, as he was 10 yards shy of throwing for another 300-yard passing game. He also joined Cam Newton as the only players with 900+ pass yards in their first 3 career games since 1970. However, by allowing the Buccaneers to come back in this game the Chargers are now 3-12 in games decided by 8-or-fewer points since 2019 (which is most such losses in NFL in that span).
Head Coach Anthony Lynn was frustrated with the turnovers as you have come to understand, had this to say about their fumble late in the first half, in his post-game press conference, “those two guys have to make that exchange!; it’s something that we work every day! If you can’t hand the ball off cleanly then something is wrong… it’s inexcusable!”
For many years, there has been an unwritten rule, that you don’t lose your role due to injury, well by all accounts rookie Justin Herbert has made such a great showing in his first few starts that he has earned the starting quarterback position regardless of when Tyrod Taylor is healthy. When asked about how comfortable in the role he said this, “I feel pretty comfortable. I don’t think I’ve mastered anything yet… I still have a lot of room to improve! Especially through a game like that, I’ve got plenty to learn from?
Overlooking the rookie mistakes, which you would expect, I’m fairly confident they have found their quarterback of the future in Justin Herbert. From what you’ve seen from him in recent weeks, kindly share your thoughts and feedback on Herbert by reaching out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or forwarding your thoughts to email@example.com. Additionally, be sure to subscribe to our weekly “Voice of the Fans Podcast” which is available for you on most podcasting platforms; Apple and Google Podcasts including Spotify, TuneIn, and iHeart Radio. As always, thank you for making our voice, your choice!