TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tom Brady is introducing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a new way of winning.
The six-time Super Bowl champion led a come-from-behind victory for the first time since joining his new team, throwing for 369 yards and five touchdowns to help the Bucs rally from a 17-point deficit to beat the Los Angeles Chargers 38-31 on Sunday.
It's the 46th time Brady has delivered a winning drive in the fourth-quarter or overtime of a regular-season game — fourth on the NFL behind Peyton Manning (54), Drew Brees (50) and Dan Marino (47). The 43-year-old quarterback has overcome a deficit of 10 or more points to win a league-best 34 times, including postseason.
“Tom, he’s never behind in his mind. We can always make plays to win games,” coach Bruce Arians said.
“How can you not believe in him? He’s the greatest to ever do it," receiver Scotty Miller said. "We just go in there and follow his lead.”
With several members of the newly crowned Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning cheering on from a suite at Raymond James Stadium — along with the Cup — Brady shrugged off throwing an early interception returned from a touchdown to keep the Bucs (3-1) in first place in the NFC South.
Five players — Miller, Mike Evans, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate and rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn — caught scoring passes from Brady, who threw four of them after the Bucs fell behind 24-7 in the second quarter.
“We knew we had played poorly. It was just a show of character. I can honestly say that if this had been last year, we would have gotten beat by 20,” Arians said. "This team has a ton of character and playmakers and we started making plays. You can see that when we don’t beat ourselves, we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”
Brady completed 30 of 46 passes with one interception and zero sacks. It was the seventh five-TD performance of his career, first since Sept. 24, 2017 for New England against Houston.
“We’ve got to keep building on the confidence in one another because there’s nothing we’re doing out there that’s perfect," Brady said. “But we’re going to have to keep building on the good things and learn from the bad things.”
Rookie Justin Herbert completed 20 of 25 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns for the Chargers (1-3), who've lost three straight with the sixth overall pick in this year's draft playing earlier than expected because of injuries to Tyrod Taylor.
Michael Davis intercepted Brady's sideline throw intended for Justin Watson and returned the ball 73 yards for a first-quarter score and a 14-7 lead. LA extended the advantage to 17 with a 19-yard TD pass to Donald Parham Jr. and Michael Badgley's 53-yard field goal.
“We have to get over the hump,” Herbert said, noting the Chargers came close in all three losses. “We have to learn to close big games. When we are up 17 points, we can’t shoot ourselves in the foot.”
The game swung dramatically in the final minute of the opening half.
Ndamukong Suh forced a fumble inside the Los Angeles 10 with the Chargers attempting to run out at the clock. Linebacker Devin White recovered, setting up Brady's 6-yard TD to Evans, who finished with seven catches for 122 yards.
“I was a bit surprised they didn’t just take a knee,” Evans said. "It was 24-7. They’d had a great first half. They made a mistake. We capitalized on it, got a touchdown and had momentum going into the second half and ran with it.”
The Bucs drew closer on Brady’s 28-yard scoring throw to O.J. Howard, then took took a short-lived 28-24 lead when the three-time league MVP hit Miller on consecutive plays for 44 yards and 19 yards to get the ball into the end zone again.
Herbert, who threw a 51-yard TD pass to Tyron Johnson in the first half, put the Chargers up 31-28 with a scintillating 73-yard strike to Jalen Guyton, releasing the ball under heavy pressure.
Brady's 9-yard scoring pass to Vaughn finished a seven-play, 75-yard drive that put Tampa Bay ahead for good with 11 minutes remaining.
“We all know his track record. His resume speaks for itself.," Evans said. "We need him to play like that week in and week out if we want to be the special team we’re capable of being. We have the upmost confidence in Tom. He had a hell of a game today.”
Chargers: RB Austin Ekeler left late in the first quarter with a hamstring injury and did not return. ... In addition to Taylor remaining sidelined, WR Mike Williams (hamstring) and starting offensive linemen Bryan Bulaga (back) and Trai Turner (groin) did not play.
Buccaneers: Played without WR Chris Goodwin (hamstring) and RB Leonard Fournette (ankle). RB LeSean McCoy departed with an ankle injury in the first half. ... RB Kejon Barner suffered a concussion in the second quarter. ... Howard was carted off late in the fourth quarter with what the Bucs described as an Achilles tendon injury.
Chargers: third straight game vs. NFC South opponent, at New Orleans next Monday night, Oct 12.
Buccaneers: short week of preparation before playing at Chicago on Thursday night.
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