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Smooth operator Bills' efficiency expert carves up Chargers Week Seven: Air-tight pocket protection helps Edwards spread the ball around in a masterful performance.

Everyone in the NFL knows you need to contain Lee Evans and Marshawn Lynch in order to beat the Buffalo Bills.

Memo to the rest of the Bills' opponents: You'd better start figuring out how to stop Trent Edwards.

The Bills' young quarterback carved up the San Diego Chargers on Sunday with the most accurate passing performance in team history.

"Very average, very average," deadpanned Bills offensive coordinator Turk Schonert when asked to assess his 24-year-old passer.

The days of average Buffalo quarterbacking look like they are long gone after the Bills' 23-14 victory.

Edwards completed 25 of 30 passes for 261 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. His 83.3 percent completion rate surpassed Jim Kelly's single-game record of 82.8, set in 1994.

The Bills improved to 5-1 for the first time since 1995, and Edwards made his record 10-5 as a starter.

"Obviously he had a great day," Schonert said. "He saw the field well. He was accurate. He made great check-downs. He delivered it to open guys."

On a day when a power outage at Ralph Wilson Stadium blacked out much of the first-half television coverage, the Bills proved they have an offense that can go toe to toe with one of the most explosive attacks in the league.

San Diego, averaging a league-best 29.7 points per game, was kept in check by a Bills defense that forced three turnovers and held LaDainian Tomlinson to 41 rushing yards and a 2.9-yard average.

The best defense, however, often is a ball-control offense. With Edwards' short-to-intermediate passing game moving the chains, the Bills kept the Chargers' weapons on the sideline. Buffalo held the ball for 35:29.

"With Trent out there I don't have any worries," Bills safety Donte Whitner said. "I sit on the bench and drink a little water, a little Gatorade, and I listen for the crowd to cheer a first down."

The defensive scheme of the Chargers put the game in Edwards' hands. San Diego's defense was intent on stopping Lynch and not letting Evans get behind it for a deep ball. Lynch managed 70 hard-earned yards on 19 carries, and the Bills' longest completion went for 22 yards.

Edwards worked the ball around, finding the seams in the Chargers' zone coverages and connecting with seven different receivers.

"Trent has a nice feel for finding soft spots in the middle of coverages and looking defenders off," said tight end Robert Royal, who had four catches for 53 yards. "It shows how much he has matured over the past year."

"I expected a little more man coverage because they have two well-respected cornerbacks," receiver Josh Reed said. "There was just a lot of going out there and finding the open holes."

Edwards completed 19 of his first 20 passes. He was so hot, quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt did not want (or need) to say anything to him.

The Bills blocked up San Diego's occasional blitzes and kept the pocket clean. Edwards was not sacked once.

"That is one of the best defenses in football, and we did a great job all day of neutralizing their pass rush and allowing me to go through my reads," Edwards said. "The most important part was I wasn't taking hits, and as a quarterback you feel more comfortable throughout the game. The game starts to slow down a little bit when you are not getting knocked down."

"We challenged our tight ends and our running backs," Schonert said. "They have very good outside linebackers when they blitz. We handled their blitzes and allowed Trent to go through his progressions and find second, third and sometimes fourth receivers."

Edwards showed no effects from the concussion he suffered two weeks ago in Arizona.

"When you have something happen to him like happened in Arizona, some quarterbacks will have a tendency to get happy feet and he didn't," Schonert said. "He wasn't antsy at all."

Edwards hit Evans on a 2-yard strike for the Bills' first TD midway through the second quarter. It was a nifty, one-handed catch that gave the Bills a 10-7 lead.

"It is a run call to Marshawn to the right side, but if we get single coverage outside I can disregard the run and throw it up to Lee," Edwards said. "I wouldn't say it was one of the best throws of my career, but Lee Evans sure made it look like it was."

A 27-yard Rian Lindell field goal put Buffalo ahead, 13-7, at the half. After San Diego took the lead, 14-13, Edwards marched the Bills 78 yards in nine plays to make it 20-14.

An Edwards scramble for 12 yards, a 15-yard strike to Evans and a 22-yard completion on the left sideline to Roscoe Parrish were the key gains. The Parrish catch put the Bills at the San Diego 14.

"He had a throw early on to Josh Reed on the sideline that got batted down," Bills backup quarterback Gibran Hamdan said of Edwards. "He came back and made the throw to Roscoe on a very similar throw, very similar coverage. Not only is he efficient and tough, but he learns."

The touchdown was a 9-yard toss sweep to Lynch. Reed blocked linebacker Shaun Phillips, and Fred Jackson pummeled cornerback Quentin Jammer to pave the way. The Bills motioned the tight end over to a bunch-type formation on the right.

"Any time you've got motion like that, it's going to make the defense shift," Reed said. "It was a case where they shifted late and we caught them."

The win was sealed with two huge plays by linebacker Kawika Mitchell. With the Chargers threatening at the Bills' 9-yard line, Mitchell intercepted a Philip Rivers pass over the middle in the end zone with 6:05 left. A sack by Mitchell with three minutes left forced a fumble that the Bills recovered to snuff out the last Chargers hope.

"We're happy to be sitting 5-1," Whitner said. "We'll celebrate this one for a day or two, put it behind us and move onto the next team. And to show you that we don't look past anyone, I don't even know who we play next week."

It's on to Miami, Donte. And the Dolphins had better be ready for Edwards & Co.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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