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Power restored during Chargers-Bills game

Three helium balloons almost derailed an NFL game, and knocked out a television feed for nearly three quarters.

That was the cause of a power outage that affected the Buffalo Bills' 23-14 win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. The teams played about 45 minutes without power inside Ralph Wilson Stadium during the first half, and the electricity went out again for another 19 minutes before it was finally restored for good throughout the facility midway through the third quarter.

The problem began at 12:29 p.m., a half-hour before game time when the balloons became entangled in the power line just outside the west end of the stadium, where emergency officials and work crews cordoned off part of the area in an attempt to remove the balloons.

Power was restored just prior to game time, but it went out again at 1:10, causing the game to be delayed for 15 minutes.

With the power still off, the teams played without a game or play clock, and with on-field officials keeping time.

Randy Edwards, spokesman for New York State Electric and Gas, said the balloons' metallic tails caused the power outage. Work crews switched the electricity to a second line, but it was also affected by the balloons.

The problems were compounded further when an electrical pole caught fire about a mile from the stadium, Edwards said.

``Currently, NYSEG is in the process of investigating the incident thoroughly, and we will continue to do so,'' Edwards said.

So don't blame the Bills for this.

Some guy with a beer said 'Why don't you pay your electricity bills?''' Bills owner Ralph Wilson said with a laugh.I said: 'I knew it would be my fault.'''

Chargers linebacker Marques Harris did wonder whether the Bills might have pulled the plug.

``I've never personally been involved in something like that. Maybe they planned it,'' Harris said.

The outage particularly affected CBS, which failed to broadcast most of the first half, and also part of the third quarter.

TV has not said anything to us at all,'' NFL officiating observer Art McNally said of resuming the game with no TV coverage.New York (the NFL) told us, 'It's your game. It's your call. They (network) will have to do what they can to get their commercials in.'''

The network was able to air all the commercials that were promised to advertisers, a CBS spokesman said. The game was being shown in 37 percent of the country.

Both teams were affected during the outage.

Coaches on the sideline had no communication with their counterparts upstairs, as the headsets were not working. Bills defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, who normally calls the game from the coach's booth, left for the sideline in the first quarter.

The audio receivers in the quarterbacks' helmets also weren't working.

Bills quarterback Trent Edwards said he got the plays from the sideline using hand signals from quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt.

With no power, though, the atmosphere was a little surreal. The crowd would cheer without prompting and there was none of the loud music being pumped in through the expensive sound system. Also missing were the commercials being broadcast during breaks in the action.

The back judge took care of the play clock, putting up his hands to indicate 10 seconds remaining. That led to McNally to yell out in the press box, ``That's how we used to do it!''

It didn't help much, as both teams were penalized once each for delay of game.

At the time of the initial delay, on-field officials addressed both teams at the line of scrimmage. Players from both teams then went to their sidelines. Some stretched, while others stood around talking with their helmets off. Lynch rode a stationary bike, while Edwards played catch with backup J.P. Losman.

Referee Jeff Triplette was on the Bills sideline talking to an NFL official and Marc Honan, Bills vice president of marketing and broadcasting.

Numerous fans inside the sold-out stadium stood up to stretch or headed to concession stands, some of which were operating by gas-powered generators.

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