By Dave Thomas
Not long after the San Diego Chargers upset the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks at home a weekend ago (30-21), the game plan quickly turned to how to unseat the 2-0 Buffalo Bills from the ranks of the unbeaten. After this weekend, mission accomplished.
San Diego (2-1), which was already missing starting running back Ryan Mathews to a knee injury, withstood an early right ankle injury to running back Danny Woodhead and left Buffalo Sunday afternoon with a 22-10 victory. With the win, the Bolts raised their record to 2-1, heading home to face winless Jacksonville (0-3) next Sunday afternoon.
Going into their meeting with the Bills, the Chargers certainly had momentum on their side, but could they carry that across the country and win in one of the tougher environs in the NFL?
San Diego Defense Rises To Occasion
The Bills (2-1), meantime, were feeling pretty good about themselves following an overtime win in Chicago and a home thumping of rival Miami. On this day, however, Buffalo quarterback EJ Manuel and his teammates got a taste of just how good San Diego can be, especially on the defensive side of the ball, when the Chargers pick up the pace.
While the Chargers had a minimal at best running game given the injuries to Mathews and Woodhead, Buffalo was certainly no better. San Diego’s defense held the Bills to a mere 87 net yards rushing on the afternoon on just 22 carries.
With Buffalo threatened to get back in the game in the second half, San Diego kept the Bills out of the end zone except for a late third quarter TD pass of 11 yards from Manuel to Fred Jackson. That pulled the Bills to within 20-10 entering the final quarter, but they would get no closer.
Yes, not the prettiest San Diego game by far, but getting enough big plays when they counted to leave western New York with the win, now looking at two straight home games (Jacksonville, New York Jets) to enter into early October.
As for the Chargers grades on the day:
This certainly was not the offensive performance from a week ago against the Seahawks. That said it was enough to beat a Buffalo team that may have been a tad overrated going into Sunday’s game. Philip Rivers had a good day directing the offense (256 yards passing, 2 TD’s). His best attribute once again was being the general on the field, not letting his teammates get frazzled when things were not always going well. The offensive line, a line over the years that has received its fair share of criticism (though the numbers and names of course change over time), did enough to keep Rivers upright and avoid any turnovers (just one sack). Donald Brown and Brandon Oliver filled in admirably at the running back position with Woodhead out early in the game. Brown got the bulk of the work, finishing with 62 yards on 31 carries.
While EJ Manuel did throw for 238 yards on 39 attempts, the Chargers also recorded three sacks (Dwight Freeney, Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes) on the day. Manuel never truly seemed comfortable in the pocket for much of the day, something you can credit to San Diego’s pass rush and the defensive secondary. The Chargers also kept the Buffalo ground game in check, with Fred Jackson being held to a meager 34 yards on six carries. With Jacksonville and the New York Jets on the immediate horizon (neither of which will totally scare opposing defensive coordinators out of their minds), the Bolts have a chance to put the clamps on two more wins over the next two Sundays at home.
For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.