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Problems balloon with power outages

The Buffalo Bills played with plenty of energy on the field. Ralph Wilson Stadium didn't have enough of it.

Several power outages left the Bills and San Diego Chargers sitting in a dark locker room before the game and at halftime. The game had to be stopped for about 15 minutes, and the game clock and scoreboard operation were off and on for most of the contest.

According to New York State Electric & Gas, the problems were caused by helium-filled party balloons that tangled in power lines that serve the stadium. The balloons also affected a second service line. NYSEG had to deal with a pole fire about a mile from the stadium that caused another interruption. Randy Edwards, NYSEG's regional public relations manager, said the company is investigating the incident.

As for the game, the officials decided to play without the play clock after consulting with the NFL office.

"The decision was that once we knew that it was going to be awhile for the power to come back, we would keep the game clock and the play clock on the field and we have procedures for that," referee Jeff Triplette said to a pool reporter. "We notified both coaches and they were both fine and ready to go."

There weren't many power problems in the second half, but it took some time for the players to get adjusted. Quarterbacks Trent Edwards and Philip Rivers were called for delay of game penalties. The back judge, former Bills player Steve Freeman, held up both hands with 10 seconds to go on the play clock. But neither quarterback picked up the signal.

The radio system in the helmets of the quarterback and designated defensive player also went out, which meant getting signals from the sidelines the old fashioned way.

"Alex [Van Pelt, the Bills' quarterbacks coach] calls the play and if they don't come into your helmet, Alex has to signal," Edwards said. "We have gone through signals and some of the signals were pretty bad and I was giving [Van Pelt] a hard time. We then went to two-minute mode, and that was the two-minute wristband. I suddenly had two wristbands on and he gave one signal and I thought it was on the regular game band and it happened to be on the other wristband. I might have mixed up one or two calls, but we did a good job adjusting to it."

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The Bills may have lost backup middle linebacker John DiGiorgio for a significant amount of time with a right knee injury. DiGiorgio was hurt blocking on a punt return late in the first half. He was taken off the field on a cart. He was using crutches after the game.

Coach Dick Jauron did not know the severity of the injury but said he wasn't "overly optimistic."

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Duke Preston made his first start since 2006 and his first at center, replacing the injured Melvin Fowler. Lined up in front of Preston was Jamal Williams, the Chargers' 6-foot-3, 350-pound Pro Bowl nose guard.

"I was excited," Preston said. "A Pro Bowler like Jamal? I really didn't have anything to lose. He's a great player, so I was going to go out and scrap. I don't even remember a whole lot of plays. I just said I was going to put my head down and battle and when it was over look up and see how we fared."

Preston was part of an offensive line that went through several changes during the afternoon. Starting right guard Brad Butler strained his left knee early in the game and returned briefly before he was replaced by Jason Whittle in the second half. Left tackle Jason Peters also missed a few snaps after hurting his right leg early in the second quarter.

Despite the revolving door, the Bills' retooled offensive line did not allow a sack, giving quarterback Trent Edwards a chance to complete a team-record 83.3 percent of his passes for 261 yards and one TD.

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Defensive end Aaron Schobel's run of durability ended as he missed a game for the first time in seven-plus seasons. His 117 consecutive games played tied San Francisco's Justin Smith for the longest active streak among defensive ends.

Also inactive were Fowler, Terrence McGee, wide receiver Stevie Johnson, running back Xavier Omon, offensive tackle Demetrius Bell and tight end Derek Fine.

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

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