2020 Turning Points: Bucs Force Fumble Against Chargers

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The 2020 Buccaneers season, like any other, was a roller coaster of highs and lows. Hot and cold streaks. Sometimes we get so focused on the results that we lose sight of the key plays that helped shape the season. For the Bucs, the first truly impactful, game-changing play happened in Week 4 against the LA Chargers.

That’s what this series will focus on: The plays that helped shape the Bucs’ 2020 championship run.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the first turning point of the 2020 season.

The Situation

The first three games played out the way Vegas had it going. The Bucs entered their Week 4 tilt with the Chargers at 2-1. Tampa Bay was handled at New Orleans, but bounced back with convincing wins over Carolina and Denver. Now, at home against a rookie quarterback in Justin Herbert making his third career start, it seemed the Bucs were facing a very favorable matchup before a short-trip week to Chicago for a Thursday night road game.

That couldn’t have been more wrong. After spotting Tampa Bay seven points on the game’s opening drive, the Chargers ripped off 24 straight points. LA capped off 75- and 97-yard drives with touchdown passes to Tyron Johnson and Donald Parham, Jr. It was Herbert who looked every bit of the game’s long-tenured star quarterback, rather than his counterpart. His calm composure and steady hand led the Chargers to a 24-7 lead after Michael Badgley banged through a 53-yard field goal with 1:37 remaining in the first half.

The Bucs fizzled out on their next drive, and they were forced to punt with 55 seconds left. Bradley Pinion pinned the Chargers inside the ten. It seemed as if the Bucs were going to head to the locker room down 17 points with not a shred of life in them.

The Play

But then the Chargers reminded everyone why you ALWAYS take a knee if you’re able to. The Chargers could have, as the Bucs only had one timeout remaining. With 47 seconds left and on 1st and 10 and their nine-yard line, Herbert handed the ball to running back Joshua Kelley. Ndamukong Suh almost met him at the football. Suh blasted Kelley, who coughed the ball up, and Devin White recovered it.

On 3rd and goal, Tom Brady and the Bucs offense made the Chargers pay. Brady stepped up and found a leaping Mike Evans in the back of the end zone for the score. Now it was 24-14, with the Bucs having seven points and a world of momentum in their favor going into the locker room.

The Aftermath

The Buccaneer offense came to life in the second half. They score on all four possessions (three touchdowns and one field goal) before picking up a first down and kneeling out the clock on their fifth possession. The defense also came to play after halftime. The Chargers lone score came on a 72-yard touchdown to Jalen Guyton to end the third quarter. It accounted for more than half of their 128 second-half yards. The defense forced a punt, a missed field goal, allowed the touchdown, forced another punt, and picked off Herbert on the Chargers’ final drive.

It was a tale of two halves type of performance for the Buccaneers. But it might not have been what it was without the tone-changing play from Suh and White to end the first half. The Bucs defense thrived on forcing turnovers and big plays in 2020. This was an early example of how they were able to change the course of a game with one play.

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