Final

Buccaneers 24

(5-8, 1-6 away)

Chargers 31

(10-3, 6-1 home)

4:15 PM ET, December 12, 2004

Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA 

1 2 3 4 T
TB 0 7 7 1024
SD 0 14 7 1031

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.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Scoring Summary

SECOND QUARTERTBSD
sdTD12:01Touchdown
Drive info: 1 plays, 79 yds, 0:00
06
FOURTH QUARTERTBSD
sdTD4:18Touchdown
Drive info: 1 plays, 0 yds, 0:09
2127
SECOND QUARTERTBSD
sd12:01
Drive info: 1 plays, 79 yds, 0:00
07
FOURTH QUARTERTBSD
tbTD7:42Touchdown
Drive info: 2 plays, 37 yds, 1:08
2021
sd4:09
Drive info: 1 plays, 0 yds, 0:09
2128
tb7:42
Drive info: 2 plays, 37 yds, 1:08
2121
SECOND QUARTERTBSD
tbTD9:19Touchdown
Drive info: 5 plays, 81 yds, 2:25
67
tb9:19
Drive info: 5 plays, 81 yds, 2:25
77
FOURTH QUARTERTBSD
sdFG2:11Nate Kaeding 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 4 plays, 6 yds, 1:08
2131
THIRD QUARTERTBSD
sdTD0:45LaDainian Tomlinson, 7 yd run
Drive info: 7 plays, 81 yds, 4:06
1420
sd0:45
Drive info: 7 plays, 81 yds, 4:06
1421
FOURTH QUARTERTBSD
tbFG0:20Jay Taylor 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 8 plays, 38 yds, 1:46
2431
SECOND QUARTERTBSD
sdTD0:55Touchdown
Drive info: 10 plays, 88 yds, 2:44
713
sd0:55
Drive info: 10 plays, 88 yds, 2:44
714
THIRD QUARTERTBSD
tbTD5:01Touchdown
Drive info: 12 plays, 68 yds, 6:03
1314
tb5:01
Drive info: 12 plays, 68 yds, 6:03
1414