Chargers vs. Bills matchups: Running game has a chance to get going

Chargers running back Kalen Ballage carries the ball against the New York Jets on Nov. 22, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif.
Chargers running back Kalen Ballage carries the ball in last Sunday’s 34-28 win over the Jets. The Chargers have struggled in the running game, but stopping the run is a weakness for Buffalo’s defense.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Breaking down how the Chargers (3-7) and the Buffalo Bills (7-3) match up heading into their game at 10 a.m. Pacific time Sunday at Bills Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y.

When Chargers have the ball: The Chargers went to an uptempo, no-huddle attack early last week against the New York Jets and Justin Herbert responded by, among other things, completing 17 of his first 18 attempts. Whether it was that kick-start, the offense started humming. After turning the ball over on a Keenan Allen fumble at New York’s one-yard line late in the first quarter, the Chargers scored on six of their next seven possessions to open a pair of 18-point leads. Herbert ran a similar scheme at Oregon and, he said, even at times in high school. “I feel like I have a pretty good feel for it,” he said. All of this suggests the Chargers could go back to the no-huddle against a Buffalo defense that has surrendered 66 points in its last two games. The Bills rank near the bottom of the NFL in stopping the run, which is particularly notable given the Chargers’ recent struggles on the ground. They’ve rushed for only 128 yards over the last two games, that total including an intentional 28-yard loss by punter Ty Long to kill clock. Still, the Chargers would love to establish some sense of a running game to maintain offensive balance.

Chargers QB Justin Herbert is on pace to set multiple rookie records, but it’s coming during a season in which losses are mounting and changes could be next.

Nov. 28, 2020

When Bills have the ball: The Chargers have given up at least 28 points in each of their last seven games and, since Week 4, are surrendering an average of 31 per game. Bills quarterback Josh Allen has two 400-yard passing games and multiple touchdown throws in eight of 10, but he was intercepted twice in Buffalo’s most recent game, a 32-30 last-second loss at Arizona. Similar to the Chargers, the Bills have been more productive throwing this season. They are averaging fewer than 100 yards on the ground. Their leading rusher, Devin Singletary, is at 40.1 yards per game. Allen likely will have to throw his team past the Chargers, something that is quite probable since the Chargers have had such a difficult time stopping teams, especially in the second half. After the third quarter, they’ve been outscored 86-51. Defensive end Joey Bosa set a single-game career high with five quarterback hits last weekend. Allen has been sacked 20 times, but seven came in one game, a Week 9 victory against the Seattle Seahawks.

Chargers by the numbers
(Los Angeles Times)

When they kick: The Chargers made a special-teams change Wednesday when they demoted coordinator George Stewart. Coach Anthony Lynn announced that assistants Keith Burns and Chris Caminiti will oversee special teams for the final six games. Long has had three punts blocked over the last five games, and a fourth block Sunday is not entirely out of the question given how poorly the Chargers have been in this area. Buffalo’s kicker, Tyler Bass, is 19 for 25 on field-goal tries and 29 of 30 on extra-point attempts.

Jeff Miller’s prediction: The Chargers haven’t lost by more than one possession all season, otherwise picking them to get blown out would be reasonable. The Bills are coming off a difficult loss, return home and certainly have a better roster and more at stake. But the Chargers seem to have a way of making every game — regardless of the quality of the opposition — tight.



Against the potent Buffalo Bills on Sunday, the Chargers will attempt to avoid giving up at least 28 points for the eighth game in a row.

Nov. 27, 2020