Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 11/12/12
Amidst all the hype surrounding divisional foes Atlanta and New Orleans, many have completely forgotten about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.That's just how they'd prefer it.Tampa Bay dispatched of the San Diego Chargers 34-24 on Sunday, winning their third straight after starting the season 2-4.Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman tossed a pair of touchdowns while the defense & special teams chipped in with touchdowns of their own. Adam Hayward returned a blocked punt 29 yards to the endzone in the second quarter, while Leonard Johnson took a Philip Rivers' interception 83 yards the other way in the fourth.For the Chargers, this game was just another missed opportunity in a season full of them thus far. San Diego outgained the Bucs 426 yards to 279, had 11 more first downs (23-12) & had possession of the ball for a little over 13 minutes more than Tampa Bay. River's biggest mistake came in the fourth when he threw his first of two interceptions in the quarter right to Johnson as he was scrambling out of bounds.Tampa Bay (5-4) remains one game ahead of New Orleans (4-5) and barring a monumental collapse by the Atlanta Falcons (8-1), it looks like the Bucs & Saints will be fighting among several other teams for a wild card spot.Meanwhile, the Chargers drop to 4-5 and are now two games behind the streaking Denver Broncos (6-3), led by MVP & Comeback Player of the Year candidate Peyton Manning. Today was San Diego's first meeting against former wide receiver Vincent Jackson since signing with the Buccaneers in March.There were a lot of positives & negatives to take away from both teams, but there can only be one Hero and one Zero of the game:Hero: QB Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay BuccaneersI was tempted to go with the Bucs' defense/special teams here, but they did allow the Chargers' offense to record 400+ yards so Josh Freeman gets the nod. Freeman completed 14 of his 20 passes for 210 yards, two touchdowns & no interceptions, posting an impressive 137.5 quarterback rating for the day. More importantly, Freeman was crisp & decisive with his decision making today, committing no turnovers in the process. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for his offensive counterpart.Zero: QB Philip Rivers, San Diego ChargersWill the real Philip Rivers please stand up? Rivers' has been flat out mind-boggling lately, throwing seven touchdowns & interceptions in his last four games, including two costly fourth quarter interceptions against the Bucs today. Before tragedy struck in the fourth quarter, Rivers was having a near flawless game. He has to make smarter decisions in the home stretch if the Chargers are to have any postseason hopes. Next up for Rivers is a rematch with Peyton Manning & the Broncos in Denver. The Chargers lost 35-24 in their first meeting this season, where San Diego blew a 24-0 lead in the second half.
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