Linebacker Lavonte David and safety Keith Tandy turned in the two biggest defensive plays of the game in the Buccaneers 28-21 victory over the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday.
It’s likely that neither would have been made were it not for the assistance David and Tandy received from rookie cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.
Hargreaves literally tipped the Philip Rivers pass that David picked off and returned 14 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter and figuratively, “tipped off” Tandy on the game-saving pick he made late in the fourth.
“That was just a great play by Vernon, great coverage by him, getting his hands on the football and tipping it up for me’’ David said of his pick, which gave the Bucs a 17-14 lead with 4:25 to play in the third.
“All I did was run to the ball, because coaches tell us to run to the ball whenever the ball is thrown. Great things happen when you run to the ball but that play started with Vernon tipping the pass.’’
Tandy’s interception started with a tip as well, this one a verbal one form Hargreaves, who knew from his film study that a certain route was coming based on the way the Chargers lined up.
“They came out in a formation we saw on film and (Hargreaves) said ‘Hey, watch this route,’ and just like he said they ran that route against us and we were ready for it,’’ said Tandy, who picked off Rivers in the end zone with 3:04 left in the game.
“He told me to watch for the 87 route, where the outside guy runs a post and the inside guy runs a corner route. They ran that corner route and so I just made sure I got good eyes on it.’’
The two tips were a big part of what was one of the biggest games Hargreaves has had since he came to the Bucs as their first selection (11th overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Hargreaves, who started at slot corner but moved back outside after Alterraun Verner was benched in favor or Javien Elliott, led the Bucs with seven tackles, including a team-high six solo tackles.
His busy day was due in part to the fact the Bucs spent the first half struggling to prevent Rivers from hitting his check downs, but a halftime adjustment eliminated that issue.
Hargreaves even handled a pair of punts on Sunday, gaining a total of 14 yards as a replacement for Adam Humphries, who was knocked out of the game with a concussion in the first half.
As for his work on defense and in particular the aid he gave David and Tandy on their picks, Hargreaves said it was just a matter of playing complementary football and reading his keys.
“That’s what we do during the week with our film study,’’ he said. “We’re just trying to get a jump on what they’re about to do and I noticed it (before Tandy’s pick) and Keith made a great play.
“As for the tip on Lavonte’s play, I just figured it would be a quick throw and I was just trying to get my eyes on it and when I saw the ball I just tried to make a play on it.’’