Week 13: Bills Can't Overcome Chargers 24-21
Team builds too big a hole in the first half to win the game.
by Steve Saslow
The Bills welcomed the Chargers to snowy and cold Western New York and gave them a scare in the second half before succumbing to a 24-21 loss to the high powered team from Sunny San Diego. The Chargers opened up a 17-0 halftime lead before the Bills roared back with two quick touchdowns early in the third quarter to make a game of it but some emotional play and tough calls seemed to give the momentum back to the Chargers as they drove down for a game clinching score late in the game.
The first half was as advertised, LaDanian Tomlinson played as expected rumbling 51 yards for a touchdown when he wasn't even touched to the four yard line to give the Chargers a 10-0 lead. Tomlinson wasn't stopped in this game but he was contained for a good, long stretch in the 2nd half. He finished with a whopping 178 yards and the game clinching touchdown from three yards out late in the fourth quarter.
A big play that may be overlooked was the late touchdown in the first half to Antonio Gates who appeared dominant in his one on one matchup with Donte Whitner. The 11 yard score was setup by a 26 yard reception and made the lead a fairly large one as halftime hit. Gates had 90 yards on seven receptions and always made the big plays to keep the Bills from taking over the game.
The game really turned in the Bills favor early in the third quarter as the team came out of the tunnel like a bolt of lightning (pun intended). The defense forced a big turnover when Chris Kelsay recovered a fumble, it setup a 5 yard touchdown pass from J.P. Losman to Robert Royal to make it 17-7.
As has been in recent weeks, the defense really tightened up for most of the second half. They went back on the field after the score fired up and forced a three and out thanks to a nice sack by Ryan Denney. The special teams made a play there when Jim Leonhard returned a short punt 32 yards to the Chargers 13 yard line. That set up a Willis McGahee two yard touchdown run to pull the Bills within a field goal at 17-14.
It was a stalemate from that point but the Bills appeared to unravel and give the momentum back to the Chargers thanks to the officiating. There were several questionable calls in the game and they all seemed to go against the Bills. It appeared many of the calls were right ones but the Bills unraveled after they used two timeouts on a challenge of an apparent Peerless Price sideline catch. The play was ruled right, his heel came down out of bounds despite his toes coming down inbounds. Price said afterwards it changed the whole complexion of the game and he was right.
The Bills ended up punting and the Chargers went 80 yards as the Bills letdown defensively after a solid quarter and a half. Gates had a big 19 yard reception on third down to keep the drive going. Tomlinson then scored his second touchdown of the game to make it a 10 point game.
The Bills did drive down and score with :30 left after an interception by Losman was fumbled back to the Bills for the second week in a row. Price made a nice catch in the back of the end zone to give the Bills "the cover" of the point spread but still a three point loss when the ensuing onside kick was touched by Sam Aiken before it went 10 yards.
It was a tough loss for the Bills against one of the league's best. That is the third time this year that they have lost to an elite team in a game when they could have won. That is definitely something to build on. Some may say the officiating was out to get the Bills in this loss since calls went against them. That isn't the case, they wouldn't have won anyway, they made a few big plays early in the 2nd half but were just beaten by a better team. Good teams get the calls and the bounces. The Chargers are a great team, the Bills are improving but they are just not there yet.
Here are our exclusive gameballs and goats from the Bills game against the Chargers:Gameballs