The Los Angeles Chargers were hoping to have Tom Brady on their side of the field this season.
Instead, they visit the future Hall of Famer in Florida on Sunday.
Brady, a six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, chose to stay on the East Coast and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the offseason after spending 20 seasons with the New England Patriots.
The Chargers get their close up with Brady this week. He has led the Buccaneers (2-1) to two straight victories following a season-opening loss to the New Orleans Saints.
“We built this team on defense,” Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said. “Tom (Brady) was the icing on the cake.”
Brady, 43, threw two interceptions in his debut Sept. 13, including one returned for a touchdown in the 34-23 loss to the Saints.
After the Buccaneers bounced back with a 31-17 win against the visiting Carolina Panthers on Sept. 20, Brady delivered his best game with Tampa Bay in the win against the Broncos.
Brady enters Sunday with a 9-2 all-time record against the Chargers, including a 3-0 mark in the postseason.
The Chargers (1-2) are expected to start 22-year-old rookie Justin Herbert at quarterback, marking the first time since at least 1950 that the starting quarterbacks in an NFL game had an age gap of at least 20 years.
After cutting ties with quarterback Philip Rivers following his 16th season with the Chargers and failing to land Brady, Los Angeles turned to last season’s backup, Tyrod Taylor. Taylor started Week 1 and the Chargers won at Cincinnati, but Taylor sustained a rib injury. And prior to Week 2, he suffered a punctured lung while receiving a pain-killing injection by a team doctor just prior to the overtime loss against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Taylor was inactive for Week 2 and Week 3. His status is week to week, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said.
Herbert has performed well in two starts, passing for more than 300 yards in each game while completing nearly 70 percent of his throws.
“We wouldn’t have taken him at (No.) 6 if we didn’t think he could lead this team and play in this league,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said of Herbert. “I promise you that.”
The main holes on the Chargers lie in their defensive unit, which will be without key players again Sunday.
Four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris Jr. is out 4-6 weeks because of a right foot injury sustained midway through the third quarter of a 21-16 loss to the Panthers on Sunday.
Harris had missed just five games over the previous nine seasons in Denver.
Three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Melvin Ingram (knee) and defensive tackle Justin Jones (shoulder) landed on short-term injured reserve last week, keeping them out the next two games.
The Buccaneers are without one of the league’s top wide receivers this week and possibly beyond.
Chris Godwin, who made his first Pro Bowl last season, left in the third quarter against the Broncos on Sunday because of mild hamstring strain.
Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski could see increased involvement in the passing game with Godwin out.
Gronkowski, a five-time Pro Bowler who came out of retirement to play for Tampa Bay this season, was targeted seven times against the Broncos after combining for four targets the first two weeks.
The Buccaneers shut out the Broncos in the second half after letting Carolina creep back into the game following halftime in Week 2.
“We’ve got to finish stronger than what we’ve been finishing, and I just think that starts with the players,” Tampa Bay linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul said. “I’m pretty sure we’re going to get it right.”
–Field Level Media