What we learned from the Chargers’ 31-20 road win over the Bills
Chargers safety Adrian Phillips celebrates an interception with teammates Derwin James and Jatavis Brown at New Era Field on Sunday.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler runs through an attempted tackle of Buffalo Bills linebacker Tremaine Edwards during third quarter action at New Era Field.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers safety Jahleel Addae dives over Buffalo Bills receiver Robert Foster after a fourth quarter completion from quarterback Josh Allen at New Era Field.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram III congratulates teammate Mike Williams after the receiver caught a first quarter touchdown pass from Philip Rivers against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers shows a clenched fist to a handful of fans as the end of a 31-20 LA win over the Buffalo Bills approaches at New Era Field.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers special teams player Michael Davis knocks the ball loose from Buffalo Bills punt receiver Marcus Murphy at New Era Field. A penalty on the Chargers nullified the fumble.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Buffalo Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander strips the ball from Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, but the play was called dead by officials a split second before during a second half drive at New Era Field on Sunday.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers tight end Virgil Green reaches out to catch a deflected pass from quarterback Philip Rivers during a second half drive against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Buffalo Bills receiver Kelvin Benjamin absorbs a hard hit from Chargers safety Adrian Phillips, 31, and cornerback Trevor Williams, 24, on a fourth quarter touchdown pass from Bills quarterback Josh Allen at New Era Field.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen struggles to get off a pass as Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram tries to drag him down during second half action at New Era Field. Allen threw an interception to safety Adrian Phillips on the play.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers safety Derwin James sacks Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen during first half action at New Era Field on Sunday.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers defensive backs celebrate after safety Adrian Phillips (31) intercepted a second half pass from Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen at New Era Field on Sunday.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
The Chargers defensive backfield team strike a pose for photographers on their way to the field in a game against the the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on Sunday.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
What we learned during the Chargers’ 31-20 victory over Buffalo:
THE CHARGERS HAVE WEAPONS
Six players caught at least two passes, Austin Ekeler rushed for 77 yards on 11 carries and Melvin Gordon scored three touchdowns. The Chargers scored three TDs in four red-zone trips, largely because of their options. “We have some threats,” coach Anthony Lynn said, specifically mentioning the receivers. “When you have to cover those guys, we can run the ball into the end zone, as well. And we have backs that catch the ball real well. I like the targets that we have in the red zone.” Emerging second-year receiver Mike Williams was projected to be a prime threat near the goal line and he was Sunday, catching his first career touchdown on a 10-yard pass from Philip Rivers.
THE YOUNG DEFENDERS ARE PROVING CAPABLE
Rookie linebacker Uchenna Nwosu had his first career sack and rookie linebacker Kyzir White his first career interception in the 31-20 victory over Buffalo. “My coaches gave me the opportunity, and I made the most of it,” Nwosu said. “I have to keep building from there.” Yet neither was the most impressive rookie on the Chargers defense. Derwin James finished with eight tackles, two of which went for losses, and a sack. He also had a pass defensed and a quarterback hurry as the Chargers pressured Bills rookie Josh Allen. “We forced him into some bad reads, some bad throws, some bad decisions,” Nwosu said. “But he’s still a great QB. He was drafted high for a reason.”
Through two games, the Chargers’ leading pass catcher is the player who’s supposed to be their leading ball carrier. Gordon followed his nine-reception opener with six more catches Sunday, two of which went for touchdowns. His 15 receptions are tops on the team, one more than Keenan Allen, though Allen has 35 more yards. Gordon (92 yards) is actually second on the team to Ekeler (116) in rushing. That isn’t likely to remain the case with Gordon figuring to continue to get more opportunities running the ball. But the two of them give the Chargers a dynamic combination in the backfield.
THE DEFENSE CAN CRANK UP THE PRESSURE
Sure, it was against the Bills, who’ve lost their first two games and might not win more than a couple this season, but the defense did manage to make things uncomfortable for Allen. The Chargers finished with five sacks, 1 1/2 of which belonged to Melvin Ingram. They also hurried him eight times, forcing him into some very rookie-looking decisions. The Chargers were effective with the blitz, while moving James all around the field. The pressure was a welcomed sight for a team missing defensive end Joey Bosa (foot), a team that might not have Bosa back until well into October.
THE CHARGERS KNOW THEY’RE IN FOR A FIGHT SUNDAY
This we learned after the game, to be accurate. The Chargers will face the Rams for the first time in the regular season since both teams relocated to Los Angeles. The Rams opened as one-touchdown favorites for the game at the Coliseum. The teams met last year in the preseason, but that hardly offered much of a preview for what could happen when they play for keeps. “I didn’t get a real crosstown rival feel in the preseason,” Rivers said. “But I imagine it will be really cranked up.” As for the challenge the Rams present? “That’s a heck of a defense,” Rivers said. “We know what they have over there, going against Wade’s [Wade Phillips] scheme and all those Pro Bowlers on that defensive side. Looking forward to that, that atmosphere and playing those guys.”
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