San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers looked like a 10-year veteran in the first quarter.
Come to think of it, Rivers is almost like a 10-year veteran, even though he's just about halfway through his fifth NFL season. Rivers set an NCAA record with 51 starts in college at North Carolina State. He's third in NCAA history in passing yards, with 13,484.
So the first quarter was business as usual for the NFL's highest-rated passer. Rivers was 10 of 11 for 98 yards and a touchdown, as the Chargers took a 7-3 lead after the first 15 minutes.
Key plays: The Bills had the Chargers in a third-and-12 bind from the Buffalo 14. But Rivers made a pinpoint throw to Malcom Floyd at the goal line. The 6-foot-5 Floyd got inside position on Bills rookie Leodis McKelvin. ... The Bills benefited just three plays before when a TD pass from Rivers to Floyd was wiped out by offensive pass interference.
Second guess: Both teams were called for delay of game despite the fact the quarterback had no view of a play clock. Rivers was livid that he did not get a heads-up from the officials that the clock was winding down. We don't blame him.
Using his head
Lee Evans did his best David Tyree impersonation to put the Bills in the lead at halftime.
The Bills' star wideout made a great one-handed catch along the right side of the end zone with 5:20 left in the second quarter to put Buffalo ahead, 10-7.
Actually, it was a one-hand, one-head catch, reminiscent of the grab made by the New York Giants' Tyree in the Super Bowl in February. It was a first-and-goal play from the 2. Bills quarterback Trent Edwards made a quick throw that Evans clawed with his right hand. Evans pressed the ball to his helmet for control as he got his second foot in bounds.
"I think my helmet came into play a little bit," Evans said. "You try to get both hands on it all the time. Once every blue moon in practice I'll try a one-handed catch. It just happens sometimes."
Key play: Philip Rivers saw the ball slip out of his hands before a pass attempt. The Bills recovered at the Chargers' 38.
Tight end power: The Bills completed four passes to tight ends in the quarter. On the drive to a field goal with 16 seconds left, Edwards hit Derek Schouman for 18 yards and Robert Royal for 15.
The exclamation point of the third quarter came with 40 seconds to play, when Marshawn Lynch ran 9 yards around right end for a touchdown to put the Bills ahead, 20-14.
Bills running back Fred Jackson was the lead blocker on the play, and he pancaked Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer to pave the way for Lynch.
When the Bills put both Jackson and Lynch on the field at the same time, one usually is a decoy for the other. Rarely is Jackson a lead fullback. But Jackson made a play that would have made Sam Gash, Jamie Mueller or Jim Braxton proud. Jammer was knocked flat on his back, and Jackson was so excited he leaped in the air after Lynch crossed the goal line.
Key play: San Diego scored with 6:28 left in the quarter on a 12-yard pass from Philip Rivers to Vincent Jackson. Jackson ran a fake flag route toward the outside, but stopped at the goal line and boxed out Leodis McKelvin.
Second guess: In hindsight, the Chargers should have played more man-to-man coverage and less zone. The Bills were too good at hitting the seams in the Chargers' coverage.
The Mitchell report
For a change, the Bills entered the fourth quarter with a lead.
Could the defense hold it? The answer was a resounding yes.
Linebacker Kawika Mitchell made the play of the game with an end-zone interception to thwart the Chargers, who were threatening to score a go-ahead touchdown.
On the next Chargers possession, Mitchell blitzed and forced a fumble by Rivers, which Copeland Bryan recovered to seal the Buffalo win.
On the rebound: Brian Moorman boomed a 50-yard punt with the Bills backed up in their own territory early in the quarter. However, it was wiped out by a false start penalty on Derek Schouman. Moorman went to the ground due to a cramp in his calf muscle. Fortunately, he rubbed it out in time to boot the next kick. Good coverage by Blake Costanzo held Darren Sproles to a 7-yard return.
Second guess: San Diego faced fourth-and-1 from the Bills' 40 but opted to punt. The Chargers pinned the Bills down at the 1. You have to wonder if they would have gone for it if LaDainian Tomlinson was 100 percent.