Buffalo Bills beat Los Angeles Chargers boost playoffs chances

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The Buffalo Bills defeated the Los Angeles Chargers 24-22 to keep their bid for the playoffs alive and well at SoFi Stadium on Saturday.

The Chargers, playing their first game since firing coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco last week, got five field goals from Cameron Dicker and briefly took the lead late in the fourth quarter. But a Tyler Bass field goal with 28 seconds left sealed the win for Buffalo.

The victory moved the Bills to 9-6 on the season with two crucial games to play against the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins. The Chargers dropped to 5-10.


Buffalo Bills

It was far from pretty, and the team that destroyed the Dallas Cowboys six days ago was hard to find in this Bills performance. But, the Bills did just enough to get a needed victory despite a variety of mistakes and the defense allowing Chargers backup quarterback Easton Stick to put together four straight field goal drives in the third and fourth quarters.

The defense, which held the Chargers to just one touchdown, came up big. Additionally, a critical stop at the end of the game — which has been a problem for the defense this year — and the offense converting longer drives into touchdowns were the difference. Though Josh Allen reached single-season milestones with his passing touchdown and two rushing touchdowns in the game, he didn’t put together one of his better performances, completing 15-of-21 passes for 237 yards.

There’s work to be done for a Bills team with sights set beyond making the playoffs, but it was a game they had to win and did.

Describe the game in two words: Underwhelming performance. After a blowout win against the Dallas Cowboys, the Bills put together a less than stellar outing against a Chargers team that has struggled on defense and had a backup quarterback starting.

Sell on a breakout performance: Gabe Davis. This isn’t to say this wasn’t a big game for Davis (four receptions, 130 yards and a touchdown), but there is just not any precedent to him continuing this success over consecutive games. Coming into this game, Davis did not have a reception in three of the last four games (with a six reception, 105-yard performance vs. the Philadelphia Eagles in between). If he can use this as an opportunity to string big games together, that would be significant for the offense, but is something that still needs to be proven.

Troubling trend: James Cook being unreliable with the football. The second-year back had a breakout performance last week against the Cowboys, but he fumbled twice versus the Chargers, losing one of them in the fourth quarter, and has dropped likely touchdown catches twice in the last month. His only other fumbles of the season came against the Broncos, but ball security and consistency with the football are becoming an issue.

Pivotal play: Allen’s 57-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Gabe Davis in the second quarter. While the game remained close, the play was key to get the Bills offense going. The one-play drive came on the fourth drive of the game for Buffalo and more than doubled any net yardage they had accomplished on a single drive prior to that. The pass by Allen traveled 38 air yards downfield, his longest such touchdown of the season.

Next game: vs. New England Patriots (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers looked like a team with their minds set on the offseason when they were blown out by the middling Raiders 63-21 on “Thursday Night Football.” They struggled to score. Their defense couldn’t secure a stop. They turned the ball over a season-high five times.

The loss, so embarrassing, that it resulted in the firings of Staley and Telesco with three games remaining. But on Saturday, the Chargers, a team with nothing to play for, battled with the Bills, whose playoff hopes were on the line in the Chargers first game under interim head coach Giff Smith.

Troubling trend: Derwin James Jr.’s usage. James, who the Chargers signed to a four-year $76.5 million contract in 2022, had established himself as one of the league’s best safeties since being drafted in 2018, earning first team All-Pro honors as a rookie. Under former coach Brandon Staley, the Chargers used James in various places across the defense, from outside linebacker to slot cornerback, but James’ home mainly was at safety. In James’ first game since Staley’s firing, James played his first snap at safety on the Bills’ final offensive drive of the fourth quarter.

Buy on a breakout performance: Dicker. The Chargers’ special teams unit has been this team’s most reliable all season, in large part due to Dicker. Saturday night, he had his best game of the season, nailing a career-high five field goals, including a 53-yarder to give the Chargers a one-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Eye-popping NextGen stat: The Chargers had their first 10-point lead since Week 9. The Chargers jumped out to a 10-point lead in the second quarter, their first lead since Week 13. Playing with a third-string center and a backup quarterback, the Chargers looked like a confident offense against a Bills defense that held one of the league’s best offenses in the Dallas Cowboys to just 10 points a week ago.

Next game: at Denver Broncos (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

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