I’ll bet many of you expected the Buffalo Bills to beat the Los Angeles Chargers. I’ll bet few of you thought the Bills’ running game and their defense would be the two main reasons why they recorded their eighth win in 11 games.
Powered by their passing game this season, the Bills seemed to make a concerted effort to run the ball from the get-go.
As for the play of the defense, when the offense turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions in the second half, the defense came up with key stops and a takeaway.
Perhaps the running game was buoyed by the return of starting center Mitch Morse, and the fact that Morse and guard Jon Feliciano played their first full game together this season. The pair had numerous key blocks as the line opened up some sizable holes for both Devin Singletary and Zack Moss.
The Bills, who had 30 runs and 25 passes, ended the game with 172 yards rushing, their second highest single game total of the year. That included three runs that went for 20-plus yards. The Bills had managed just three 20-plus-yard runs in their first 10 games. Singletary had runs of 21 and 24 yards, while Moss added a 31-yard run.
It gave balance to the offense on a day when the passing attack couldn’t find any consistency.
John Brown’s absence was one factor, as he missed the first of at least three games due to a high ankle sprain.
There was an inability to get the ball to the best receiver on the team, Stefon Diggs. He had no catches in the first half, and technically no targets. The two balls thrown his way didn’t count as they were wiped out by penalties. Although Josh Allen’s first throw of the day to Diggs did produce a 47-yard pass interference penalty call on the Chargers and set up the first touchdown, which was a five-yard pass to tight end Dawson Knox.
Diggs finished the game with nine targets and seven catches, but only for 39 yards.
The offense did manage to build a 24-6 lead for the Bills after a touchdown drive to open the third quarter. Yes, the Bills scored points in the third quarter, and have actually done that now for five straight games.
Then the offense got into the holiday spirit and did plenty of giving. Buffalo turned the ball over on three straight possessions and in a span covering just seven plays.
That’s when Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier’s defense came to the rescue.
With the Bills leading 24-14, Singletary fumbled at the end of a nice run, giving the Chargers the ball at the Bills’ 46-yard line. Linebacker A.J. Klein, who continues to look much better than he did in the first half of season, made a key run stop for loss on a third-and1 play from the Bills’ seven-yard line and Los Angeles opted for a short field goal to pull within seven points.
On the next drive, rookie receiver Gabriel Davis made a fantastic catch on a deep ball from Allen. The 44-yard play set the Bills up at the Chargers’ 22-yard line, but Allen lost a fumble on the very next play. The defense eventually forced a Chargers punt.
Still holding on to the seven point lead, Allen made a bad decision on the next Bills drive. While under pressure, Allen threw a wobbler for Diggs that was picked off. Los Angeles started from their own 44-yard line, but Tre’Davious White returned the favor by intercepting Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert around the Bills’ 35-yard line.
The three Bills giveaways were only turned into three points by the Chargers.
Herbert ended up with 316 yards passing, but the Bills did a pretty good job against him, getting pressure and making him feel uncomfortable in the pocket. Herbert was just 5-of-12 on third down passes, had the interception and was sacked twice.
The Bills didn’t get killed by his main target, wide receiver Keenan Allen. He was targeted 10 times, but recorded just four catches for 40 yards. Although Allen had a couple of drops and Herbert was off target on some throws to him, the Bills defense held Los Angeles to its lowest point total since Week 3.
Other items of note from this game:
– Andre Roberts had a good game returning kicks, averaging 27 yards on four returns.
– The Bills pulled off another successful trick play as wide receiver Cole Beasley threw a touchdown pass to Davis.
– There was a rare challenge win for McDermott
– The Bills have now won 30 straight games when leading by 10-plus points at halftime
– Allen’s 157 passing yards was his third-lowest of the season (154 yards against the New England Patriots and 122 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs).
With the victory, the Bills maintained their one-game lead over the Miami Dolphins (7-4), who, not surprisingly, beat the winless New York Jets.
Next up for the Bills is a Monday night game against the San Francisco 49ers, which apparently won’t be played in San Francisco due to new COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Clara county.
Miami will be favored in their next game against the Joe Burrow-less Cincinnati Bengals.