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Edwards' interception return helps Chargers win

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Whether it was at UCLA or in the NFL, Donnie
Edwards always heard he'd never make it because he was too small
and too slow.

Somehow he's made it into a ninth NFL season, and somehow he
made two interceptions for his hometown San Diego Chargers on
Sunday.

The biggest came with 4:09 left against Tampa Bay, when he
picked off Brian Griese's pass and returned it 30 yards for the
go-ahead touchdown in the Chargers' 31-24 win, their seventh
straight in what's turned out to be a charmed season.

"I try to pride myself on my durability," Edwards said.
"People said, 'He's too small, he's never going to last.' It's fun
to prove them wrong."

Coach Marty Schottenheimer couldn't resist poking some fun at
Edwards.

"We picked Donnie in the fourth round and he's never forgiven
me for that," said Schottenheimer, who was Kansas City's coach
when Edwards was a rookie in 1996. "He always said he wanted to go
in the first. He's been trying to prove people wrong ever since."

Griese made a desperation attempt to tackle Edwards, but ended
up on his back as the linebacker ran into the end zone and raised
both arms in celebration after his second pickoff of the game.

"That was huge," said Edwards, who ran over to the stands and
gave the ball to an aunt who helped him growing up in a
lower-middle class neighborhood in National City, just south of San
Diego.

The Chargers (10-3) moved closer to their first playoff berth in
nine seasons. They've won 10 games for the first time since their
1994 Super Bowl season, a huge turnaround from their recent misery
of losing at least 10 games five times in the last seven seasons.

"I've been playing nine years and to get 10 wins is awesome,"
Edwards said. "These times don't come around too often, so take
advantage and keep on going."

Edwards said he knew the Buccaneers were going to throw a quick
pass.

"I don't think he ever saw me," Edwards said.

Griese didn't.

"It's a shame, because it kind of wasted a good effort by our
team," Griese said. "I feel bad."

A few minutes after Edwards' interception, the Chargers got the
ball back when linebacker Steve Foley hit Griese while he was
scrambling, forcing a fumble that Shaun Phillips recovered. Rookie
Nate Kaeding sealed it with a 40-yard field goal with 2:06 left.

Tampa Bay's Jay Taylor made a 41-yard field goal with 16 seconds
left. Edwards recovered the ensuing onside kick.

The Chargers' defense has saved the last three games. At Kansas
City, Edwards intercepted Trent Green in the closing minutes to set
up Kaeding's winning field goal.

A week ago, the Chargers intercepted Jake Plummer four times,
including in the end zone with 3:30 left to secure a 20-17 win over
Denver that gave them a two-game lead in the AFC West.

Bucs receiver Tim Brown saw plenty of the Chargers in the
previous 16 seasons as an Oakland Raider. Comparing the Chargers'
Super Bowl team of 1994 with this one, Brown said: "I don't
believe their defense then was as good as this defense."

Griese threw for 392 yards and three TDs -- two to Joey Galloway
-- but was intercepted three times. The Buccaneers (5-8) are
guaranteed their second non-winning season since winning the Super
Bowl here against Oakland on Jan. 26, 2003. Griese was 36-of-50.

Tomlinson gained 131 yards on 25 carries and scored on a 7-yard
run that gave San Diego a 21-14 lead late in the third quarter.

But he also fumbled at the end of a 17-yard run with 8 minutes
left and Tampa Bay's Dewayne White recovered at the San Diego 37.
Griese hit standout rookie Michael Clayton on a 20-yard touchdown
pass with 6:53 left to tie it at 21. Clayton, who appeared to push
off cornerback Quentin Jammer, tipped the ball to himself with his
right hand.

Clayton was the intended receiver on the pass Edwards picked off
for the TD.

Brees, who was 17-of-23 for 220 yards, rebounded from his first
two-interception afternoon in 12 games to throw two touchdown
passes to give the Chargers a 14-7 halftime lead.

He hit Eric Parker on a 79-yarder in the second quarter and
Kassim Osgood on a 19-yarder just before halftime.

Griese threw a 36-yard scoring pass to Galloway midway through
the second quarter.

The Buccaneers tied it at 14 late in the third quarter on
Griese's 4-yard pass to Galloway.

Game notes
Chargers WR Keenan McCardell, obtained from Tampa Bay at the
trading deadline, didn't have the big game he probably hoped he'd
have. He caught three passes for 30 yards, then left with a
hamstring injury. ... Clayton has 70 catches, a Bucs single-season
record for rookies.