Mitchell, defense rebound against San Diego (Associated Press)
This was a weird game, folks. Playing nearly an entire half of football in what can only be described as "pre-historic" conditions, the Buffalo Bills defeated the San Diego Chargers 23-14 to improve their record to 5-1 on the season.
Ralph Wilson Stadium was without power for the majority of the first half, causing issues for both teams. The Bills hung tough and took a 13-7 lead into the (completely lightless) locker room. Surviving that bit of adversity, with severely cramped communications, can't be underestimated. I've been to a lot of Bills games; this one was the weirdest.
Trent Edwards and Kawika Mitchell were the stars, but this was a total team effort. This was a huge test for the Bills coming off of their bye week and a tough loss in Arizona; the Bills passed that test with near-flying colors.
Offense dominant through the air
Do y'all remember when, earlier this week, I laid out the blueprint to beating the Chargers? Ball control passing game, taking advantage of the Chargers' awful pass defense? Well, either the Bills were listening, or they were already on it. Edwards completed 25 of his 30 passes, the running game was more complementary than primary, and the Bills held the ball for over 35 minutes in a dominant performance.
It was a sound game plan, and Edwards - in his first appearance after sustaining a concussion - executed it to perfection. (I'd like to posit a new nickname for Buffalo's star quarterback: "The Executor".) Edwards threw for 261 yards and notched a beautiful two-yard touchdown toss to Lee Evans, who used his helmet in lieu of a second hand on the reception. Evans finished the day with 8 grabs for 89 yards and the score; Edwards' passer rating on the day was a stupendous 114.
Buffalo's rushing attack suffered through some of its usual problems - mostly finding any room to run between the tackles - but the duo of Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson were effective in this one. The Bills ran for 109 yards on the day; Lynch amassed 70 of those and scored on a 9-yard jaunt to take the lead for good, with Jackson serving as his lead blocker on the play. The unspectacular efficiency of the ground game led to the Bills' most balanced game of the season offensively.
Defense makes plays when it needs to
Mitchell gets the credit for swinging the momentum for the Bills. Philip Rivers had been doing a good job carving the Bills' defense up underneath, but it was a Mitchell interception a yard deep in Buffalo's end zone that thwarted the Chargers' go-ahead scoring attempt mid-way through the fourth quarter. Mitchell then added a forced fumble - recovered by Copeland Bryan - that put the game on ice for the Bills.
Buffalo's pass rush, which was non-existent for most of the game, showed up when it had to. Playing without Aaron Schobel, Buffalo's defensive line was once again disruptive; this was especially true in the run game, as the Bills held LaDainian Tomlinson to just 41 yards rushing. It was the secondary, however, that played well. With Terrence McGee out and Ashton Youboty's playing time severely limited with an injury of his own, the Bills gave up some big plays, but also kept the Chargers' lethal passing attack largely under control. The lack of big plays by the San Diego offense is what ultimately did them in.
Three game balls to give out today, and I'm pretty sure you know where two of them are going right off the bat...
Trent Edwards: Let's not underestimate this kid anymore. He's arrived. When you complete 83% of your passes two weeks after a concussion is, quite frankly, ridiculous. His QB rating is 98.8 this season, and the Bills are 5-0 in which he's taken the majority of snaps. He's the real deal, and he played like it against a pretty good pass rush today.
The O-Line: The Chargers came into this game ranked fifth in the league with 17 sacks. The Bills started a reserve center (Duke Preston) and played with a reserve at right guard (Jason Whittle) for a while. The Chargers didn't record a sack; in fact, Edwards didn't even take any hits. This was a spectacular performance for Buffalo's pass blockers.
Kawika Mitchell: He struggled mightily in Arizona; that's not true of his performance today. 7 tackles, a sack, an interception and a forced fumble made Mitchell the engine of an impressive defensive effort.
Roll call and "Image of the Day"
Mad props to the 30 folks who toughed it out through the power outages in today's game thread. Bigger props to Kurupt for running the blog while I was getting my face burned at the stadium, and also for pacing the threads with a whopping 242 comments (WABillsfan, for the record, wasn't far behind with 203). Thanks to these 30 folks:
StuckInNJ, karovda, Kurupt, thefourwinds, MonStarr_716, BuffCrunch, MARVelous, Scoe221, tomsbills, WABillsfan, chaosthepitbull, NJBillsfan, Thronsen, Memphisbillsfan, kaisertown, Ron From NM, keuka121, MattRichWarren, DodgerBlueBalls, The Buffalonian, patamunzo, SebastianPruiti, TheK-GunNeedsReloaded, Cinga, Black84GTI, Joe P., fletcherjd, BearsNecessity, GhostDogg47, Northern1
And now, fellow Rumblers, your image of the day: