The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ much-maligned pass defense intercepted QB Philip Rivers twice to give Tampa Bay a 34-24 win Sunday over the visiting San Diego Chargers (4-5). It was a game of big plays on both sides of the ball, but the Bucs (5-4) made the most of their opportunities.

The game got out to a lightning-paced start with each of the first three drives going for 80 yards and a touchdown.

WR Danario Alexander gave San Diego the initial spark on the game’s opening possession with an 80-yard catch and run for a TD on a third-and-10.

QB Josh Freeman followed a nine-play, 80-yard drive that was capped off by 3-yard TD catch by TE Dallas Clark.

TE Antonio Gates then put the Chargers on his back with a 33-yard reception to the Buccaneers' 16-yard line, followed by a 13-yard TD catch two plays later.

Rivers finished the first quarter with 148 passing yards, the most he has thrown in a first quarter.

Momentum shifted when Bucs’ Dekoda Watson blocked a Mike Scifres punt. LB Adam Hayward picked up the free ball and returned it 29 yards for a TD to give Tampa Bay a 17-14 lead with 9:07 to go in the second quarter.

Rivers then took San Diego on its third 80-yard touchdown drive of the half. WR Malcom Floyd capped off the 14-play, 8:28 possession with a 3-yard TD.

San Diego entered halftime with a 21-17 lead and had controlled the ball for 20:12. However, like most games coached under Norv Turner, the Chargers weren't able to play a complete game.

Midway through the third quarter, Freeman found WR Tiquan Underwood for a 15-yard TD to put the Buccaneers back up 24-21, a lead they would not relinquish.

The Chargers' next drive ended when CB Leonard Johnson intercepted Rivers and returned the pick 83 yards for a touchdown.

K Nick Novak hit a 34-yard field goal for the Chargers' only score of the second half.

The defense held and gave Rivers one shot to tie the game with 3:53 to go.

Rookie CB LeQuan Lewis ended San Diego's hopes by intercepting Rivers.

With two more interceptions, Rivers now has 12 interceptions on the season and is on pace to throw more picks than his career high of 20 last season.

When the game turned: Johnson’s pick-6 for 83 yards changed the momentum. Rivers looked dejected and appeared in disbelief that he had made such a poor play.

Highlight moments: Watson's block of Scifres’ punt was reminiscent of San Diego's special teams’ woes of 2010.

Top-shelf performances:

  • Chargers TE Gates: Caught four passes for 57 yards and a TD. Gates has 80 career TD receptions and needs just two more to match WR Lance Alworth (81) for the franchise record.
  • Chargers WR Danario Alexander: Five catches for 134 yards and a TD. Alexander received the start over WR Robert Meachem, who has struggled all season.
  • Bucs’ QB Freeman: Freeman didn’t put up big numbers, but he proved playing smart is often better than gaudy stats. He completed 14 of 20 passes for 220 yards and two TDs.

Head-scratcher: Rivers was on fire for the Chargers' first two drives. Turner then chose to run the ball to start the Chargers' third drive, and San Diego went three and out.

What they said about Johnson's pick-6:

  • Chargers QB Rivers -- “In hindsight, I probably should have thrown it over his head. I probably shouldn't have thrown the ball, period. Kick a field goal and tie it up. This game is played in quick decisions and I made the wrong one there.”

What they said about San Diego's miscues:

  • San Diego coach Turner -- “If you give up a blocked punt for a touchdown, and if you give up an interception return for a touchdown, you are going to put yourself in jeopardy.”
  • Turner --“Is it acceptable? No it’s not acceptable. You know the answer to that. Was that acceptable having a blocked punt and an interception returned for touchdown? No. OK? That’s not what we are trying to accomplish out there. We are trying to win games and those things are keeping us from winning. It’s not acceptable. It’s not acceptable to play hard and not win, but that’s what happened.”
  • Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano – “Our guys today played team football. That’s what we needed to do.”

What the Buccaneers said about not turning it over:

  • Buccaneers QB Freeman -- “Throughout the entire league, turnovers are the No. 1 factor in wins and losses. You look at every win -- more often than not, you are going to win the game when you win the turnover battle.” It was Freeman's fourth-straight game without an interception.

What they said about the injury to Quincy Black:

  • Coach Schiano -- “I think Quincy is going to be OK. He is at the hospital for observation. I was really impressed with the medical people how they handled the whole situation. 

Injury update: Chiefs -- LB Black (head) was strapped to a board and carted off. He gave a  thumbs-up as he was taken off the field. Chargers -- DT Aubrayo Franklin and OLB Melvin Ingram suffered knee injuries. WR Floyd suffered a jaw injury but returned to the game. P Scifres limped off the field following the blocked punt, but returned to the game.

Going forward: Chargers -- In Week 11, San Diego will travel to take on the Denver Broncos (6-3) in a must-win game. Buccaneers -- They will have a good opportunity to extend their win streak to four games in Carolina against the Panthers (2-7).

For more from Tampa Bay Bucs blogger Patrick Southern, follow @CBSBucs on Twitter.

Follow Chargers reporter Dan McLellan on Twitter @CBSChargers and @sandiegosports.