Coming off last weekend's bye and the last-second loss to the Arizona Cardinals two weeks ago, the Buffalo Bills returned to game action Sunday afternoon, defeating the Los Angeles Chargers 27-17 to improve to 8-3 and hold on to the one-game lead in the AFC East Division over the Miami Dolphins (7-4).
Most eyes were on the quarterback matchup between Buffalo's Josh Allen and Los Angeles rookie, and sixth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Justin Herbert, but the contest didn't end up being the shootout many expected.
Allen had a relatively quiet day, completing 18-of-24 passes for only 157 yards, along with a touchdown, an interception, and also running for a score.
As for his counterpart, Herbert finished the day throwing 31-of-52, while throwing for 316 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.
Los Angeles went three-and-out on its first possession to open the game, with rookie quarterback Justin Herbert throwing three consecutive incompletions.
The Bills quickly capitalized on the Chargers' slow start. A pass interference call on Chargers safety Rayshawn Jenkins, who interfered with Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs while attempting to break-up a pass in the end zone, set up a two-yard touchdown pass from Allen to tight end Dawson Knox, giving Buffalo a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game. The tight end's first touchdown catch of the season capped a four-play, 63-yard drive, that took just 1:59 off the clock.
Los Angeles answered Buffalo's quick touchdown with a long, double-digit play scoring drive. The Chargers found the end zone on a five-yard pass from Herbert to Keenan Allen, but a missed extra point from Michael Badgley left the score at 7-6 in the Bills' favor.
After a couple drives from both teams that ended in punts, the Bills stretched the lead to 14-6 early in the second quarter. Running back Devin Singletary broke-off his longest run of the season to that point, a 21-yard dash to the Chargers' 22-yard line.
Two plays after Singletary's big gain, the Bills pulled off a trick play to score a touchdown for a second consecutive game. Cole Beasley took a lateral from Allen and then found a wide-open Gabriel Davis in the end zone with a 20-yard pass.
Despite not having John Brown, who was placed on Injured Reserve on Saturday, the Bills' wide receiver group performed well. Diggs led the team with seven catches for 39 yards. Davis led the Bills in receiving yards with 79 on three catches. Singletary caught three balls for 20 yards, with Beasley and Zack Moss each getting two catches each as well.
The Bills got a bit of a scare late in the second quarter when Allen's ankles rolled awkwardly while he was being tackled by Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa. Allen went off for just one play before returning to the field, appearing to be in good shape.
A 45-yard field goal from Tyler Bass extended the Bills' lead to 17-6 before halftime.
Buffalo added to its lead with a six-minute scoring drive to open the third quarter. After catching zero passes in the first half, Stefon Diggs registered four receptions on the first series of the second half. The 12-play drive ended with Allen keeping the ball and running for a three-yard touchdown, making the score 24-6 in favor of Buffalo.
After punting on four consecutive drives to end the first half, the Chargers answered Buffalo's score with a long touchdown drive of their own.
On fourth-and-goal, with just inches to the goal line, Joshua Kelley leaped above the pack at the line of scrimmage to cross the plane and pull Los Angeles within two scores. The Chargers then cut the deficit to 10 points with a successful two-point conversion, as Herbert made a nice throw to Allen in the corner of the end zone to make it 24-14.
Buffalo's defense came up with a big stop on fourth-down at the Bills' 25-yard line to force a turnover on downs early in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for Buffalo, a Devin Singletary fumble quickly gave the ball back to Los Angeles.
The Chargers had to settle for just a field goal following the turnover. The Bills' defense, once again, came up with a big stop, this time on third down at the Buffalo 10-yard line. Michael Badgley's 27-yard field goal made it a one-score game, 24-17, with 10:16 to go in regulation.
The Bills coughed the ball up two more times in the fourth quarter, but the Chargers were unable to capitalize. Just three plays after Allen was intercepted by Chargers cornerback Michael Davis, Tre'Davious White picked-off Herbert to get Buffalo the ball back.
Buffalo's rushing attack of Zack Moss and Devin Singletary really began to come alive in the second half. Both backs broke off big runs on the drive following White's interception. The Bills took advantage of the turnover and regained a two-score lead with 3:26 to go thanks to a 43-yard field goal from Bass.
Los Angeles made things a little interesting (and frustrating for Bills fans) in the final minute. Herbert connected with wide receiver Tyron Johnson on a 55-yard pass, very similarly to DeAndre Hopkins' touchdown catch two weeks ago, but this one was just outside the end zone. The play still put the Chargers at the Buffalo two-yard line with 1:00 to go.
However, a crucial error by Los Angeles cost them as they ran the ball on the very next play with no timeouts left. That took a lot of time off the clock and the Chargers ran out of time to make a comeback.
The biggest positive from the win for the Bills could, arguably, be the run game.
After taking a "deep dive" during the bye week into a part of Buffalo's offense that's struggled this season, the Bills rushed for 172 total yards as a team. Singletary led the way with 82 yards on 11 carries. Moss added 59 yards on nine attempts, with Allen running for 32 yards on nine rushes as well.
- 7-0 BILLS - Bills touchdown (12:26) – Josh Allen passes to Dawson Knox for a two-yard touchdown (Tyler Bass’ extra point attempt is good)
Drive info: 4 plays, 63 yards, 1:59
- 7-6 BILLS - Chargers touchdown (6:31) – Justin Herbert passes to Keenan Allen for a two-yard touchdown (Michael Badgley’s extra point attempt is no good)
Drive info: 13 plays, 79 yards, 5:55
- 14-6 BILLS - Bills touchdown (9:44) – Cole Beasley passes to Gabriel Davis for a 20-yard touchdown (Tyler Bass’ extra point attempt is good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 76 yards, 4:21
- 17-6 BILLS - Bills field goal (2:16) – Tyler Bass’ 45-yard field goal attempt is good
Drive info: 12 plays, 60 yards, 5:15
- 24-6 BILLS - Bills touchdown (9:02) – Josh Allen rushes for a three-yard touchdown (Tyler Bass’ extra point attempt is good)
Drive info: 12 plays, 57 yards, 5:58
- 24-14 BILLS - Chargers touchdown (4:51) – Joshua Kelley rushes for a one-yard touchdown (Justin Herbert’s pass to Keenan Allen is caught for a successful two-point conversion)
Drive info: 10 plays, 67 yards, 4:11
- 24-17 BILLS - Chargers field goal (10:16) – Michael Badgley’s 27-yard field goal attempt is good
Drive info: 7 plays, 36 yards, 3:50
- 27-17 BILLS - Bills field goal (3:26) – Tyler Bass’ 43-yard field goal attempt is good
Drive info: 6 plays, 40 yards, 1:51
The Bills are scheduled to take on the San Fransisco 49ers on Monday, Dec. 7 at 8:15 p.m. EST on ESPN's Monday Night Football. However, with new COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Clara, California, the home of Levi's Stadium, the game will need to be moved to a different location. No alternative sites have been announced yet.
Be sure to hear all the action on WGR with John Murphy, Steve Tasker and Sal Capaccio on the call.