Kawika Mitchell didn't need power to charge the Bills' defense to a 24-13 win over perennial AFC contender San Diego Sunday.
The Bills linebacker wouldn't let the 45-minute first half power outage that stopped the game for about 15 minutes affect the Bills' second half performance. Mitchell bounced back from what he called the worst first quarter of his career to intercept Philip Rivers' potential game-tying touchdown pass and force a fumble that set up Rian Lindell's 44-yard field goal to put the game out of reach.
Mitchell said his interception came as a result of intense film study throughout the week and the exact situation being created in practice.
"(Brandon Manumaleuna) ran a crossing route and I knew to look to #85 (Antonio Gates), the number one receiver… and that's just the play that we worked on," Mitchell said. "They didn't run it all game, and we finally got it, and I was the guy that was supposed to make the play on it so I did."
Mitchell's acrobatic leap came while he was backpedaling at a 45-degree angle. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said Mitchell's athleticism turned what would normally be a touchdown into a San Diego turnover.
"If we ran the play 10 more times, I'd throw 10 more interceptions," Rivers said. "He was the backside middle linebacker and usually you don't have to worry about him, but he flew over there and made the play."
Bills safety Donte Whitner said the play was more than a simple snatch and grab and gave the Bills an emotional lift not seen in every game.
"Oh man, they were huge," Whitner said. "It was huge for the stadium, for all our fans… You don't get that all the time. That's huge. We needed that."
Whitner said Mitchell bases his leadership less on being vocal and more on being a hard worker.
"He brings that calm, man," Whitner said. "You're never going to hear him yell, you're never going to hear him scream, but he's going to work like hell during the week and that's what he can do, he works like hell, he gets the job done, and he is our emotional leader on our defense."
That leadership was never needed more than during Sunday's power outage. Whitner said the Bills linebacker calmly assured the defense during a situation that probably would have distracted many teams.
"He didn't say too much," Whitner said. "He said 'We know what we've got to do. We don't care if it's power or no power, whatever. We're going to come out here and play our game, we're going to win this game,' and that's what we did."
Mitchell said it felt good to beat a team of San Diego's caliber. Whitner's image of Mitchell forcing the fumble on Rivers said it all.
Whitner said, "He got to the quarterback, you know, hair flopping in the back, look at the Jumbotron… That's what we like, man. I can't wait to get with him tonight, man. We'll have some fun and celebrate this win."