1. Defense delivers
In a season where many of the headlines have highlighted Buffalo's offense this season, it was the defensive unit that held firm in Sunday's 27-17 victory over the Chargers.
"That's the defense I expect," said head coach Sean McDermott. "I expect that every week. I think it just goes back to fundamentals, technique, spending time in the film room together every week. All those things are a big part of earning the right to win and they did that."
Leslie Frazier's unit had a lot of crooked numbers in a lot of defensive categories with three sacks, seven tackles for loss, eight quarterback hits, eight pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble.
Their effort also morphed and changed as the game unfolded. They began by disrupting L.A. rookie QB Justin Herbert's timing in the pocket in the first half. Though they only had one sack to their credit in the first half, Buffalo's defenders had a handful of quarterback hits and it proved effective. Herbert came into the game with a 68 percent completion rate but completed just 10 of his first 21 passes (47.6%).
Buffalo's defense was also consistent in getting off the field on third down as they held the Chargers to just 3 of 16 conversions, although L.A. did go for it on five of their fourth down opportunities.
But the Bills defensive unit saved their best for the fourth quarter. After L.A. marched down to the Buffalo 25-yard line early in the final stanza, the Bills forced a turnover on downs on a 4th-and-1 as Jerry Hughes and Taron Johnson corralled Josh Kelley behind the line of scrimmage to force a turnover on downs to preserve a 10-point lead (24-14).
Following a lost fumble by Devin Singletary in Bills territory, Buffalo's defense managed to hold the Chargers to a field goal after AJ Klein made a huge tackle for loss on an outside run play by Josh Kelley on a 3rd-and-1 at the Bills seven-yard line.
After Josh Allen fumbled the ball away on the ensuing possession, the Bills defense forced a three-and-out as Ed Oliver forced a fumble on a sack on a 3rd-and-5 at the Chargers 27. Although Herbert recovered the loose ball, L.A. was forced to punt.
On the very next possession Josh Allen committed another turnover with an interception on a pass intended for Stefon Diggs, but the defense didn't blink.
Three plays after Allen's pick, Tre'Davious White delivered one of his own picking off Justin Herbert. White dropped off his route to jump a pass intended for Hunter Henry over the middle at the Bills 35.
"Yeah, I thought that was very impressive," McDermott said of the fourth quarter effort defensively. "I thought Leslie (Frazier) and his staff did a great job during the week, shaping a good game plan with good communication. The players embraced it and we spent a lot of time on it this week. That's a good offense. They've been hot with weapons all over and getting Ekeler back was a big jolt for them. And our guys rose to the challenge."
Frazier's charges even threw in a goal-line stand for good measure at the end of the game. Despite giving up a Hail Mary 55-yard completion to get L.A. down to Buffalo's two-yard line, the Bills would not let the Chargers reach the goal line in the waning seconds to preserve a 10-point victory and hold L.A. to just a field goal in the final frame.
Safety Micah Hyde said when things go wrong on the offensive side of the ball, their approach on defense doesn't waver.
"The mindset never changes once we're out there," said Micah Hyde. "It's all about taking the ball away. Trying to get the ball back to the offense with good field position. We got a fourth down stop. Tre'Davious came up with a huge play. The defense was making plays in the second half and that's what we needed. As you can tell, it was closer than what it needed to be towards the end of the game, but we were able to escape with a win."
Scroll through to see photos of all the action as the Bills take on the Chargers at Bills Stadium, presented by Imagine Staffing.
2. Run game provides balance for offense
It was at the top of Buffalo's bye week to-do list. Take a deep dive into what was ailing their run game. Coach McDermott felt they came up with some concrete solutions and some of them were on display on Sunday.
Whether it was a couple of tweaks in the blocking schemes or better spacing between the linemen and the backs, the Bills leaned on their run game the most since their Week 8 win over New England.
"We just had an extra run drill each this week," said Buffalo's leading rusher Devin Singletary. "It wasn't even full speed. It was kind of like half speed, but just seeing the guys get to their landmarks, that helps us with our landmarks. It just kind of helps the offensive line and the running backs get a feel for each other and it showed."
In a season where Buffalo has thrown the ball more than 61 percent of the time, they chose to run it 54.5 percent of the time with 30 run plays and 25 passes in the win.
"Our guys did a great job," said Josh Allen. "I think we were well over 150 yards. Zack (Moss) and Motor (Singletary) carried the ball extremely well and ran really hard. Our guys did a good job blocking up front. You put the ball in your backs hands and let them do their thing."
Moss averaged 6.6 yards per carry while Singletary managed 7.5 yards per touch. And though Allen rushed nine times himself with mostly designed carries, Buffalo's top two backs carried the load combining for 141 yards on 20 carries (7.0 avg.).
I think we took a step forward as far as in the run game," Singletary said. "I think it was pretty balanced. I think it helped us out a lot."
"That was big," said McDermott of the rushing effort in the second half. "Like all teams you identify the gap of where you are and where you want to be. And then you evolve during the game. We go from 50-some yards in the first half to a total of 172. I'm proud of the offensive line, the backs and coach Daboll and the way he handled it."
3. Gabriel Davis contributes in absence of Brown
With John Brown going on I-R late in the week, his teammates knew his absence would last at least the next three games. They've had to play without the player they affectionately call 'Smoke' before, but coming down the back stretch of the season, his teammates on offense knew they had to pick up the slack.
Enter rookie Gabriel Davis.
Davis caught the team's first touchdown on a fake bubble screen that turned into an option pass from fellow receiver Cole Beasley.
"It was great. I knew it was going to work," Davis said. "We run a lot of those bubble screens, so as soon as I saw 35 shoot upfield I just knew the ball was coming to me and Cole was able to throw a dart. He said he threw it kind of hard to get it in there but, it was a softball. It was an easy catch and I'm glad we could make that connection."
Although Stefon Diggs again saw the most action with seven receptions Sunday, Davis led the team in receiving yards with 79 to go along with his scoring play. The yardage total was thanks mainly to a 44-yard grab that he made down the left sideline in the fourth quarter.
"They jumped offsides so we got a free play," said Davis of his long sideline grab. "I saw Josh rolling to my side, I knew that he was going to throw me the ball and I knew I had to make the play as soon as he put the ball in the air. So, as soon as I saw the ball, I knew I had good leverage. I knew it was me or nobody, and I was able to make the play."
Very quietly Davis has moved into a tie with Diggs for the team lead in receiving touchdowns with four. He would've had two more this season had they not been negated by penalty against the Raiders and Patriots.
Add in that he also contributed in the run game as a capable blocker downfield and Davis' quarterback was pretty happy with his performance.
"He was fantastic," said Allen of Davis. "I don't expect anything less from him. He's a guy who's always willing to put the team first and do whatever it takes. And you saw that. He's just one of those guys who's obviously young but plays a lot older than he is. He does the right things on and off the field. He's going to be really good in this league for a long time."