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Bills vs Chargers: Keys to a Bills Victory

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Buffalo Bills (4-1) vs San Diego Chargers (3-3)
Sunday, October 19, 2008 - 1:00PM EDT
SB Nation's Chargers coverage: Bolts From The Blue

It's only been two weeks since the meltdown in Arizona, but it's felt like months.  Buffalo Bills football is finally back, following a long bye week, with the San Diego Chargers in town for a tough AFC matchup.  It'll be a struggle to beat the Chargers and get to 5-1, but below are my keys to a Bills victory Sunday afternoon:

Pray for Melvin Fowler: If anyone watched the Chargers/Patriots game on Sunday night, they saw NT Jamal Williams absolutely destroy Pats' Pro Bowl C Dan Koppen.  He treated him as if he were a freshman in high school. The Fowler (or Duke Preston, if Fowler can't go) vs Williams battle is going to be one where the Chargers have a significant advantage.  The Bills are going to have to give Fowler help or we're going to see pressure up the middle all afternoon.  If they can double Williams and neutralize him, the potential for run success and a pocket for Trent Edwards will be there.  That's a big if.

Keep Trent upright:  This is twofold.  On one hand, nobody wants to see him take another shot, as I'm sure we'll all be holding our breath every time he hits the turf.  We need him healthy and running the offense if we want to beat the Chargers.  On the other hand, we also need to keep him upright in order to keep the chains moving.  As Brian said, the potential to control the clock via the pass will be there, but that won't happen if Trent is getting hit early and often.  The Chargers have 17 sacks on the season, including 12 in their past 3 games, and our OL has given up 16.  It's time for Jason Peters and Langston Walker to finally come to play. 

Start fast: Other than the Jacksonville game, we haven't played very well in the first half of any game.  A strong start would go a long way towards a victory this week.  We also have to limit San Diego early on.  In their two best performances of the season, against the Jets and Pats, the Chargers have outscored the opponent 48-17 in the first half.  They proceeded to roll after that.  If the Chargers get up early, they are very tough to come back on.  This is definitely not a game we can start slowly in.  After two weeks to prepare, there's no reason the offense shouldn't come out strong, especially if Edwards isn't rusty.  San Diego will obviously be keying on a fast start themselves, so this will be one to watch.

Find a way, any way, to get after Rivers:  I've harped on it enough and we all know the pass rush has been stagnant at best.  With two weeks to prepare and work on some blitzes, Perry Fewell's defense has to come out and get after Philip Rivers.  With Aaron Schobel iffy with his foot injury and an ineffective rush around him, Buffalo's blitzers are going to have to come up huge this week.  We cannot let Rivers sit back there and pick apart our defense underneath like Kurt Warner was allowed to do two weeks ago.  Rivers likes to go deep to his big receivers; we have to disrupt his timing and force him to move around.  With that, Fewell has to let his corners play up on the line of scrimmage to take away the quick stuff that killed us against Arizona. With Terrence McGee out, we definitely need to force Rivers' hand.

Don't let Tomlinson find his footing: We've all heard about LT's struggles this year, but he's getting healthy and he's still as good a RB as there is in the NFL.  Personally, I don't want to see him return to prominence this week.  Our potentially mediocre run defense (currently 18th in the NFL) has started to regress as the season has progressed.  The Chargers haven't run it all that well yet this year, but have the potential to do so.  Our run D has been mostly stout, but water has started leaking in as we've allowed 145 rushing yards per game the last two after a great start.  Which run D will show up this week?  Hopefully the one we saw in our first three games (94 ypg), not the past two.

More Marshawn: With the Bills continuous struggle to run the ball, Turk Schonert needs to continue finding other ways to get him the ball in space.  It'd be nice to incorporate the screen pass back into the offense this week.  Lynch and Fred Jackson should receive heavy workloads this week.

Win the turnover battle: This has been a sore spot for the Bills thus far this season.  We're near the bottom of the league at a -3, having only forced 6 turnovers in our five games.  The Chargers on the other hand are sitting at +4, which is third in the NFL.  I'm guessing if these trends continue, we're not going to have a happy Sunday.  The Bills D needs to find some ways to get the ball for the offense, while the offense has to take good care of the rock this weekend.  The Chargers and their high-powered offense are not a team you want to turn it over against.

Get Lee Evans the ball:  I say this every week, and I'll probably say it every week going forward.  We need to get Lee Evans the ball more than 3-4 times a game as we have.  The third highest paid WR in the game needs many more touches than that.  I expect Evans to see some of Antonio Cromartie this weekend, which will be an extremely tough matchup for him.  Cromartie is big, physical and fast, not the type of CB Evans is built to beat. Schonert is really going to have to move him around this weekend, including putting him in motion, to prevent jams.  Some quick passes to Lee will be essential to open it up deep for him.  DaBolts believes Quentin Jammer will be matched up with Evans often to take away the deep ball.  If that happens, I like Evans to have deep ball success.  He can beat any CB in the league deep.  Jammer would be no exception.  I think it would be much tougher on him to be matched up exclusively with Cromartie and his physical play.

Win Special Teams:  The Chargers have a dynamic return man in Darren Sproles, assuming he's healthy, so it'll be a challenge for our coverage units this week.  It'd also be a great game for Leodis McKelvin to finally break a big kick return.  He's been solid, but has yet to really showcase the big play we saw in the preseason.  And with Roscoe Parrish back in the mix, our punt return unit should again have that big play element back in it's repertoire.  I just hope the thumb injury and wrap doesn't hinder his ability to hold onto the ball.

Simply put, WIN:  To me, this game is a season definer.  With a tough schedule coming up with 3 straight division games, including a tougher-than-anyone-could-have-expected-in-a-million-years road game in Miami next week, we really could use a victory this week.  With another playoff contender coming into our stadium, the Bills need to prove themselves capable of beating the better teams in the league.  It's been a struggle to do that for as long as we can all remember.  This week is a good time to help change that attitude and prove to the league that the Bills will be there all year.  If we can come out with a big W over the Chargers, we will be in GREAT shape going forward.  A loss and we're close to teetering the wrong way with road games 2 of the next 3 weeks.  A win really sets the stage for a great rest of the season.  A loss and we're really headed in the wrong direction.  This game could really define the rest of the season and how it plays out.


There you have it, keys to a big Bills win.  It's going to be a very, very difficult challenge for the team.  Let's hope they are up to it.  The Ralph hasn't rocked in almost a month, let's hope it is this Sunday.  Go Bills!