October 25, 2020
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Despite the third straight loss, Bolts quarterback Justin Herbert was on fire all game, much like the meat on this fan’s grill. Photo by Glenn Marshall


By Jeremy Gonzalez, Sports Editor

Tampa, Fla. 

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady put together a vintage performance against the Los Angeles Chargers (1-3) in their Week 4 matchup, racking up a season-high five touchdowns to outlast rising star Justin Herbert and the Bolts as Tampa Bay (3-1) came away with a 38-31 victory at Raymond James Stadium. 

    Herbert went throw-for-throw with his legendary counterpart and childhood hero, completing 80% of his passes for 290 yards (11.6 yards per attempt) and three touchdown passes, including a 53-yard strike to wide receiver Tyron Johnson and a 72-yard score to wideout Jalen Guyton

    The Chargers trailed early in the first quarter thanks to an opening drive touchdown by the Bucs but responded by scoring 24 unanswered points to jump ahead 24-7 late in the second quarter. Los Angeles got help from their defense as cornerback Michael Davis intercepted Brady and took it all the way back for a 78-yard score.

Los Angeles’ offense sputtered in the second half while Brady and Tampa Bay’s offense found a rhythm and caught fire, producing 24 second-half points to earn the comeback victory. Brady finished the day 30-for-46 for 369 passing yards to go with his five TD performance, completing passes to 10 different receivers. 

    All four Bolts touchdowns were scored by an unlikely group of undrafted players. Herbert found Johnson on a 53-yard dime with 8:14 left in the first quarter to tie the game 7-7 after Johnson used his speed to fly past two Bucs defenders and created separation to chase the ball down. Johnson had just been elevated off the practice squad this past week leading up to the game. 

Davis scored the 78-yard pick-six of Brady with 4:08 left in the first quarter to give the Bolts a 14-7 lead after jumping the route on a pass that was intended for wide receiver Justin Watson

Tight end Donald Parham Jr. muscled a 50/50 ball from Herbert with 8:50 left in the second quarter to score a 19-yard touchdown, giving Los Angeles a 21-7 lead. 

    The fourth and final Bolts touchdown went to Guyton, who ran a go route to beat cornerback Sean Murphy-Banting to nab the 72-yard score at the end of the third quarter, giving the Bolts a 31-28 lead they would eventually give up in the final quarter of play. 

    “All those guys stepped up huge today,” Herbert said in the Chargers post-game conference. “Whenever you’re missing Mike Williams it’s always going to be tough out there, but those guys filled a huge void. Guyton and all those guys played exceptionally today.”

    Herbert threw his lone interception late in the fourth quarter as he was trying to guide the Chargers downfield on a potential game-tying drive. He finished the game completing passes to nine different Bolts players, but his connection with star wide receiver Keenan Allen is growing. Allen was Herbert’s favorite target in the matchup, grabbing a game-high eight catches for 62 yards. 

    20-plus years separate the two quarterbacks who are at very different points in their NFL careers. Herbert is still searching for his first career win, while Brady enjoyed his 222nd regular-season victory. 

    During the post-game press conference, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said the team is not ready to name Herbert as the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season despite a third strong outing from the rookie quarterback. 

    The Chargers have now lost three straight games after winning their season opener over the Cincinnati Bengals. Los Angeles drops to the last place in the AFC West. Tampa Bay are winners of three straight games and continue to hold a firm grip of first place in the NFC South.

INJURIES

    Injuries continue to plague Los Angeles. Star running back Austin Ekeler left the game in the first quarter with an apparent hamstring injury. 

    “The way that young man left off the field, I’m not sure how bad it is, but it looked pretty bad,” Lynn said

    In Ekeler’s absence, the Chargers became predictable and could not run the ball well. Rookie running back Joshua Kelley coughed up an untimely fumble that led to a Bucs touchdown at the end of the first half. 

    Ekeler joins the long list of players who are on the injury list, which includes starting offensive players like Williams, quarterback Tyrod Taylor, right guard Trai Turner and right tackle Bryan Bulaga

UPDATE: ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Monday that Ekeler is expected to be sidelined for four to six weeks with a hamstring injury as well as a hyperextended knee.

UP NEXT

Chargers: Los Angeles will be traveling to Louisiana for a primetime matchup against the New Orleans Saints (2-2) on Monday Night Football. The Saints defeated the Detroit Lions on the road 35-29. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is widely considered a tough environment for visiting teams. The Saints are averaging 32 points per game through two home games this season. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. on ESPN.

Buccaneers: Tampa Bay will be traveling to Illinois in a short week as they will face the Chicago Bears (3-1) in their own primetime matchup on Thursday Night Football. The Bears started quarterback Nick Foles over Mitchell Trubisky in their Week 4 matchup but lost 19-11 to the Indianapolis Colts at home. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:20 p.m. on NFL Network.

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