Defense paving the way

The Chargers are wary of the Buffalo defense. It is one of the reasons the Bills have managed a 4-5 record.

"I have been impressed with their defense," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "I think our football teams plays as hard as any in the league. Buffalo plays to that level – they play hard every snap. They are eighth in the league in points allowed."

Victory would not have been achieved - and Losman wouldn't be on the verge of getting his starting job back heading into Sunday's game at San Diego - if not for the play of the Bills defense in their win over Kansas City.

"They are a lot better than what their record says," said quarterback Drew Brees. "They do a great job of getting turnovers."

Buffalo registered a season-high six sacks while intercepting three passes in a game for the third time this year and limiting the NFL's eighth-highest scoring team (24.5 points per game) to a mere field goal.

"It's about as high-effort a game as I've seen," coach Mike Mularkey said. "It was a credit to our guys. Talk about flying around. It was all positions, too, everybody, starter or not a starter. They just went in there and were relentless."

They had to be. The Bills offense, despite Losman's heroics on two series, was stagnant for most of the afternoon, gaining just 209 yards and nine first downs. Buffalo failed to score a point after drives started the Kansas City 12-, 15- and 30-yard lines after turnovers. Running back Willis McGahee was held to 66 yards rushing and the Bills converted just 3 of 13 on third down.

In other words, the defense needed to toss a lifeline, and it did, gaining back some of the swagger it had lost after ranking No. 2 in the NFL the past two seasons.

Despite the Chiefs rolling up 316 yards in total offense and crossing into Buffalo territory seven times, the Bills turned back every threat with big play upon big play. Kansas City quarterback Trent Green hadn't thrown interception in 145 pass attempts, but the floodgates opened against the Bills. Green finished with a 41.7 rating.

"They had some success moving the football against us," said Bills linebacker London Fletcher, who finished with a game-high 20 tackles, a sack and forced fumble. "The thing that was great about us defensively is we held them out from getting a touchdown. We came up with interceptions, fumbles and sacks that stopped their momentum."

The question for this week is can the Bills defense take this show on the road and into Qualcomm Stadium?

Buffalo is winless in four road games this year, and a big reason is that its defense has developed a reputation for being tough at home and soft on the road.

Buffalo has 25 sacks, but only seven have come on the road.
Buffalo has 12 interceptions, none on the road.
Buffalo has 19 takeaways overall, but only three on the road.

The Chargers' offense ranks third in scoring (28.0 points), ninth in total yards (350.6), 10th in rushing (125.1) and second in rushing TDs (13).

With the likes of quarterback Drew Brees (seventh in passer rating at 93.1), versatile running back LaDainian Tomlinson (sixth in rushing with 835 yards to go with 18 TDs rushing, receiving and passing) and dynamic tight end Antonio Gates (51 catches, 707 yards, six TDs), defensive coordinator Jerry Gray says it is all about attitude and effort.

"The way you beat teams, you have to have great effort and we've been kind of a little bit lacking in that area," he said. "We've been licking our wounds because we don't have Takeo and Sam, but the guys rose up (last Sunday) and the important thing is that we won the football game."

"We may have lost some talent, but the guys in there played hard," said defensive end Aaron Schobel, who had two sacks last week. "Sometimes, effort makes up for a lack of talent."

The Bills remain 31st in stopping the run and have allowed a league-high 13 runs of 20 yards or longer. So how can they possibly hope to contain Tomlinson?

With maximum effort from every player on defense.

"You should have 11 guys do that every week," Mularkey admitted of the team effort. "But there's not many teams that can do that because it's easier said than done. I don't think you wait until you get to 4-5 to do that. But it's constantly talked about since Day 1, where we have said, 'If you play smart football, you play physical football, regardless of what you have talent-wise or scheme-wise across from you, you have a chance to win every Sunday if you do that.'"

While one game separates the team, it appears a mismatch in the Chargers favor – that is why they play the games.

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