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Bills can't keep pace with Chargers

Posted Dec 11, 2011

A slow start by Buffalo’s offense was all San Diego needed as they sprinted out to a 16-0 lead that they never relinquished. Bills turnovers only aided the Chargers cause as they led to 14 San Diego points en route to a convincing 37-10 decision over the Bills. The San Diego victory put a halt to their three-game home losing streak and extended the Bills losing skid to six games. With the loss Buffalo was officially eliminated from AFC playoff contention.

It was an outing where Buffalo’s offense could not string enough positive plays together. It was just the second time this season that the offense failed to score a touchdown.

“We’re not doing the things offensively that we were being very consistent with in the first seven weeks of the season,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “I would like to tell you that we’re doing things differently on offense, but we’re not. We’re doing a lot of the same things and we’re trying to get a lot of the same things done. We’re doing with some different people, but we’re trying to do the same types of things. That’s my responsibility to find the answer but I don’t have it today.”

San Diego’s offense however, had little trouble finishing off long sustained drives. They opened the game efficiently driving 80 yards on 12 plays with Philip Rivers 6-for-6 passing for 63 yards including a nine-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates for an early 7-0 lead.

Buffalo in attempting to answer the Chargers’ scoring drive had a costly turnover on a 3rd-and-2 play. Ryan Fitzpatrick in trying to hit David Nelson deep over the middle was intercepted on a deflected pass with Chargers safety Eric Weddle coming up with the errant ball.

Rivers and the Chargers offense would capitalize on the turnover as they handed the ball to Ryan Mathews. The San Diego back rolled up 31 yards on five carries with fellow back Mike Tolbert capping the drive on a one-yard touchdown run. Buffalo’s Alex Carrington however, blocked the extra point making the score 13-0 midway through the second quarter.

The Chargers would add a field goal drive before the first half concluded with Nick Novak connecting from 47 yards out with just over two minutes remaining in the second quarter.

The Bills offense held onto the ball for just over 12 minutes in the first half as they managed just 100 total net yards through the first two quarters of the game.

Buffalo tried to climb back into the game with the first possession of the second half. Ryan Fitzpatrick converted a 3rd-and-5 to Stevie Johnson who went 52 yards to the Chargers 21 before being tackled. After a Tashard Choice carry for 12 yards, the Bills had a 1st-and-goal situation from the San Diego nine-yard line. After two straight incompletions Fitzpatrick was sacked on 3rd-and-goal and had to settle for a 37-yard field goal from Dave Rayner (16-3).

“We moved the ball on offense was pretty good, but once we got into the red zone that’s where we flat lined,” said Johnson, who finished with 116 yards on four receptions. “That’s where we’ve got to be better. We have to go back to the drawing board and get better in that area.”

The Bills made up for the lost points on offense with a big defensive play on the ensuing Chargers possession. Facing a 3rd-and-7 at the Chargers 16-yard line the football slipped out of Rivers’ hand as he pump faked. The loose ball bounced into the end zone where Bryan Scott pounced on it for a touchdown to pull Buffalo to within six (16-10) early in the third.

“It was a blitz and he was dropping back and Philip was in front of me and I saw the ball come out of his hand,” said Scott. “He was kind of loading up and it just kind of slipped out of his hands and I just tried to make a play.”

The Bills appeared to have the Chargers offense stopped again on their next series, but San Diego head coach Norv Turner made a gutsy call running a fake punt at his own 24-yard line. Eric Weddle took the fake 10 yards for a first down to keep the San Diego drive alive. Seven plays later Rivers hit Antonio Gatese with a two-yard touchdown pass to re-establish the Chargers 13-point lead (23-10) with four minutes left in the third.

“We had a small window to make that a game and we didn’t stop that drive when they faked the punt,” said Gailey. “We didn’t stop that drive and we couldn’t get anything going offensively today consistently.”

“Momentum plays a big part in this game, but I didn’t see panic on our guys’ faces on our side of the ball,” said Chris Kelsay. “It would’ve been favorable for us to get right back off the field and get it right back for our offense. It would’ve nullified that part of the game for them, but we didn’t do that.”

Unfortunately an ill-advised decision by Fitzpatrick sealed Buffalo’s chances of cutting back into the deficit on the scoreboard. On 1st-and-10 from the Bills 20, Fitzpatrick rolled out of the pocket and under pressure lofted a pass to lead David Nelson up the field. Chargers safety Steve Gregory anticipated the throw and picked it off and took it the other way 26 yards for a back breaking touchdown to effectively put the game away (30-10) before the third quarter was in the books.

“You have to be able to make those throws, but more than the throw it was the decision,” said Fitzpatrick. “The decision and the correct thing to do is to not throw it there and to just throw it away.”

Fitzpatrick struggled with his accuracy throughout the game going 13-34 passing for 176 yards and a pair of interceptions. Meanwhile C.J. Spiller managed just 46 yards on the ground on 12 carries.

The Chargers offense would add another score midway through the fourth quarter on a 26-yard touchdown hookup from Rivers to Patrick Crayton to make it 37-10.

Buffalo returns home to host Miami for a 1 pm kickoff at Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday.