Chargers nearly flawless

It was hard to find many flaws in the Chargers' play this past Sunday but Marty Schottenheimer found a few and it was clear that special teams is the only area lagging behind.

Chargers Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: A-plus -- Drew Brees was sensational, completing all but five of his 33 passes for 339 yards and four touchdowns; he 17 of his first 18 passes. And of the five incompletes, one was a drop and two were throwaways. Brees showed poise in viewing his receiving options -- and kudos to the line for giving him the time to go through those reads. Four receivers caught touchdown passes and eight receivers caught passes. Very impressive showing.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- With Brees on such a roll, the Chargers didn't have to lean much on LaDainian Tomlinson. Still, the running game spit out 141 yards, with Tomlinson getting a game-high 67 rushing yards. The run-blocking was solid; the return of center Nick Hardwick helped.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- Good showing here. The pass rush had six sacks and many more pressures. Shawne Merriman had two sacks -- he leads the team with seven -- and Shaun Phillips added one. The pass rush is really leaps and bounds better this year, which is helping the secondary. In small steps, the secondary is improving -- it was helped by the return of starting CB Drayton Florence. But more than the improved play on the backend, it's the pass rush that is really standing out.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The run defense didn't quite get the challenge it thought it would with Willis McGahee. When the Chargers got a big lead, the Bills got away from the run.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- The coverage teams continue to stink. If they Chargers didn't have such a good defense, the short fields their rivals are getting would be a killer. The Bills piled up 239 yards on nine kickoffs, including returns of 45 and 42 yards.

COACHING: A -- Marty Schottenheimer threw caution to the wind three times in the first half, and all three times it paid off. Twice he went for it on fourth-and-1 for touchdowns. He declined to sit on a 28-10 lead before half, instead turning Brees loose, and the result was a 35-10 halftime lead. Schottenheimer ditched his conservative ways, and the payoff was a big victory by a wide margin.

Bills Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- The Bills' popgun aerial attack under J.P. Losman was no match for the high-powered Chargers and Drew Brees. The contest was over by halftime when Brees had 265 yards and four touchdowns and Losman had 34 yards and one TD. To his credit, Losman battled hard in his first start since Week 4, he just didn't get much help. The line gave up six sacks and his receivers dropped several balls, including two by Josh Reed. It was Reed's drop on a third-and-9 scramble by Losman that forced Buffalo, already down 7-0, to settle for a field goal when it needed to match the Chargers touchdown for touchdown. With poor pass protection, Losman had little time to attack San Diego's 30th-ranked secondary, and he threw a bad interception. TE Tim Euhus had his first two catches of the season and his first since season-ending knee surgery last season, and while the running backs got involved with five receptions, it was for a whopping 11 yards total. FB Daimon Shelton did make a nice play on a 2-yard TD catch.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- Willis McGahee gained just 39 yards on a season-low 10 carries and also fumbled a handoff that led to San Diego's fourth touchdown. He was a victim of circumstances with Buffalo pretty much scrapping the run down by 25 points at halftime. Backup Shaud Williams had one carry, that for minus-4 yards when he was hit in the backfield by Chargers OLB Shaun Phillips, who beat RT Jason Peters clean. The team's best run was a 30-yard scramble by Losman that set up Buffalo's only TD. Take that away and the Bills had 35 yards on 12 carries, a 2.9 average.

PASS DEFENSE: F -- The Bills allowed a season-high 339 yards passing to Brees, who threw TD passes of 27 yards to Antonio Gates, 23 to Eric Parker, 2 to fullback Lorenzo Neal and 29 to Keenan McCardell. The Bills left a lot of men in single coverage after donating bodies to stop the Chargers' running game, and they paid dearly. CB Nate Clements was beaten on the Parker and McCardell TDs, LB London Fletcher gave up the Neal score and CB Jabari Greer and SS Lawyer Milloy were no match against Gates on his touchdown on a post pattern. On the day, Buffalo had no interceptions, just one sack and was credited with just one pass defended. LB Jeff Posey was hit with a personal-foul penalty after a sack that assisted the Chargers' third score. That's a bad day.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- Buffalo did a decent job overall of containing star Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson (19 carries, 67 yards), but L.T. set the early tone. On San Diego's opening touchdown drive, he ripped off a 12-yard run on the first play, converted a key third down with a 5-yard blast, then scored the touchdown on a leaping dive over the goal line on fourth-and-goal at the 1. As a team, San Diego gained 141 yards on 34 attempts (4.1 average) and sealed the victory by running eight times out of 10 plays during a 64-yard touchdown drive with 4:06 to play. Backup RB Michael Turner gained 44 yards on seven carries in that drive and scored on an 8-yard run to rub salt in Buffalo's wounds.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- K Rian Lindell boomed a 53-yard field goal, second-longest of his career, and Terrence McGee and Roscoe Parrish had long kickoff returns to set up Buffalo's only scores. The Bills set a dubious team record, most kickoff return yardage, 239 on nine attempts.

COACHING: F -- This was a watershed game for Mike Mularkey and his staff, and they got swamped. It was a game in which the Bills were presented with a lot of physical mismatches, and Buffalo's brain trust came up with no answers to help the players. In fact, Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer stole the show by twice going for -- and scoring on -- fourth-down calls at the Bills goal line. Last season, a big win at Seattle sparked a spirited Bills playoff run that fell just short. This loss could send the Bills into a downward spiral and assure their sixth straight year of missing the postseason.


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