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Buffalo Bills 27, Los Angeles Chargers 17: Rapid recap and notes

The Bills beat the Chargers for the first time since 2008.

The last time the Buffalo Bills had held a lead against the (now known as the) Los Angeles Chargers was in 2008. Today the Bills took the lead a mere two minutes into the game, and they never relinquished it through the afternoon. It wasn’t always pretty, but the game was also barely in doubt. The Bills comfortably defeated the Chargers 27-17 in Orchard Park.

A ton of credit for this win goes to Buffalo’s defense, who held the Chargers to their lowest point total since Week 3 of the season. The Chargers punted five times out of six drives in the first half, as the Bills built a 17-6 halftime lead. In the second half, the Bills surrendered a touchdown and a field goal, but forced another punt, a turnover on downs, an interception, and ended the game without a final score.

Many eyes were on the Chargers’ rushing attack, featuring the return of Austin Ekeler and a much-maligned Bills’ run defense. But A.J. Klein, Tremaine Edmunds, and the defensive line controlled that matchup beautifully. Los Angeles had 24 carries for 74 yards, a scant 3.1 yards per attempt. Klein was the star attraction, leading the team with 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and three tackles-for-loss. He also defended a pass.

Speaking of pass defense, the Bills did well to handle Justin Herbert, rookie sensation. Herbert had 316 passing yards, but given that he threw the ball a whopping 52 times, that only translated to 6.1 yards per attempt. His 75.5 passer rating was the worst of his season, and with only one touchdown, it was his worst scoring output since the Chargers’ Week 3 loss to the Panthers.

Offensively, the Bills made a surprising tactical shift to focus on their running game out of the bye week. The Bills had 30 carries against only 25 passes, and finished with more rushing yards than passing yards for the second time this season. With John Brown on injured reserve, maybe the Bills wanted to play more conservatively—or maybe they worried about Joey Bosa, who had a monster day. We also have to factor in the Bills maintaining a two-score lead for most of the game.

The Bills only punted three times, but that’s in part because they had a cluster of three turnovers in the fourth quarter when they should’ve been putting the game away. Luckily, the defense limited the damage to three points from those drives.

Facing a much-maligned special teams unit that just changed its coaching staff, the Bills were efficient but not explosive. Tyler Bass was two-for-two on field goals and three-for-three on extra points, with the highlight a no-doubter 45-yard kick to give the Bills an 11-point lead near halftime. The return unit had a good game, including Andre Roberts breaking out a 38-yard kickoff return, but there weren’t any touchdowns or field-flipping moments to celebrate. Corey Bojorquez had three booming punts, but two of them landed in the end zone.

Now 8-3, featuring another conference victory the Bills are still on pace to win the AFC East, and have all but sewn up a playoff spot. Next week they’ll finish off their NFC matchups against the San Francisco 49ers, but a question looms: Where will the game be played? Due to COVID-19 outbreaks, Santa Clara County (where the 49ers play) has banned sporting events. If they can find a home for the game, it’ll be the first of two upcoming Monday Night Football matches for the Bills, who are scheduled to play four more games in primetime before the end of the regular season.

Injury report

Late in the first half, Josh Allen twisted his ankle as a defender tried pulling him to the ground. He missed one play and came back on the field to finish the game.

Levi Wallace took a helmet to the back of the knee in the third quarter. It didn’t leave him off the field for very long.

Miscellaneous

  • Joey Bosa was a hurricane attacking Buffalo’s offense. He had an astonishing six tackles-for-loss, three sacks, and a fumble recovery.
  • Austin Ekeler was mostly contained by the Bills, but still the top threat from the Chargers. He led the team with 25 touches for 129 yards.
  • Keenan Allen, a week after reaching the franchise record for receptions in a game, had a more modest 4/40/1 receiving slash against the Bills’ defense.
  • At one point in the fourth quarter, the Bills had three turnovers in a span of seven plays: a Devin Singletary fumble, a Josh Allen fumble, and a Josh Allen interception.
  • Credit to the defense for expert handling of those bad circumstances. They allowed a field goal, forced a three-and-out, and took an interception on each of those three drives.
  • A.J. Klein deserves a lot of credit for how he’s settled into Buffalo’s defense of late. He led the team in tackles, had 1.5 sacks, and had three tackles-for-loss.
  • Tre’Davious White’s pick was his second of the season. He had six last year as an All-Pro.
  • Gabriel Davis needed to step up with John Brown on Injured Reserve, and the first audition was a success. He led the team in receiving with three catches for 79 yards, and had a touchdown catch in the second quarter.
  • Meanwhile, Cole Beasley showed off his arm as the player throwing that touchdown to Davis. It was the second consecutive game where the Bills had a wide receiver throw a touchdown pass.
  • Between Isaiah McKenzie, John Brown, and Cole Beasley, the Bills have had three receivers throw touchdowns in the last calendar year. Stefon Diggs also attempted a pass with the Minnesota Vikings last year. Something tells me if the Bills had a quarterback emergency, they’d do okay.
  • Not a great day for Josh Allen. He had two boneheaded turnovers from patented “Hero Ball” decisions. The Bills chose not to make him a focal point today, and it... paid off?!
  • Devin Singletary looked like he was on track for a strong day as the team’s leading rusher, before his lost fumble kicked off Buffalo’s chain of turnovers. He still finished with 11 carries for 82 yards (7.5 per carry) and three catches for 20 yards.
  • For those keeping score, it means on a yards-per-attempt basis, Singletary was more effective than Allen today.
  • Zack Moss also turned it up as the game went on. Nine carries for 59 yards (6.6 per carry) went along with two catches for nine yards. Neither player was a game breaker, but they were both efficient.
  • Stefon Diggs was effectively shut down today by the game plan and Josh Allen’s mediocre play. Diggs still led the way with seven catches, but only had 39 yards.
  • The Bills now have a scoring streak that stretches to 14 quarters—spanning four games.
  • Penalties were an ugly and frequent occurrence in this game. The Bills were charged with nine for 85 yards, and the Chargers had five for 91.
  • Time of possession was essentially equal for these two teams, but the pace of play was completely different. The ground-and-pound Bills had 58 plays from scrimmage, while the Chargers ran 79 of them.
  • Can’t let this article close without mentioning Anthony Lynn’s bizarre clock management in this game. He took a timeout with 21 seconds left in the first half, just to decide to punt the ball on 4th-and-2. Why not just run the clock out? Later, he totally botched the final minute of the game with the Chargers trailing by ten. No wonder they have so many close losses.
  • Also can’t let this go: The Bills have now failed on three Hail Mary plays in the last two weeks. Yes, one of them was inconsequential because of penalty, and the other one was held out of the end zone. Still, ouch.