Bills blame the officials

Coach Dick Jauron is normally a mild-mannered man. And even though he never lost his cool with referee Ed Hochuli during Sunday's 24-21 loss to the Chargers at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Jauron was more animated than usual.

What was unusual was that the Bills were whistled for a season-low-tying two penalties.

"It seemed like I spent a good team of time talking to Ed (Sunday)," said Jauron after his team saw its two-game winning streak snapped and its wild-card playoff hopes all but dashed. "When you're on the losing end of it, it's hard to keep perspective. You always feel like you're getting the wrong end of the call. My experience has generally been that when you take time and review it, like most games, some of them went your way and some of them didn't. It was a long day."

The Bills' handling of timeouts and their clock management came under scrutiny after the loss, which dropped their record to 5-7 with four games to play.

With 1:04 to play in the first half, Buffalo punted from its own 11-yard line after failing to pick up a third-and-5.

But there was still 20 seconds on the play clock when punter Brian Moorman put his foot into the ball. And after Eric Parker's fair catch at the Buffalo 43-yard line, the Chargers had great field position and 54 seconds to work with. They promptly drove to a touchdown with 24 seconds to play that gave them a commanding 17-0 lead.

Why not run more time off the clock before punting or take a 5-yard delay-of-game penalty in that situation?

Jauron said it was the result of him asking Hochuli why a measurement was taken after Willis McGahee was stopped well short of the first-down marker on the previous play and the coaching staff failing to instruct Buffalo's punt team to use the whole play clock.

"They decided to measure on fourth down, and it stopped the clocked and saved them a timeout," Jauron said. "I was trying to get a reason for that because it wasn't very close. It was close to a full yard. (Meanwhile), our punt team was out there and we couldn't get to them to tell them to run that whole clock down. That's it."

Nothing said the players couldn't use their own heads in that situation.

Meanwhile, the Bills may have set some sort of team record by burning through all three of their second-half timeouts on the same series to start the fourth quarter.

At 13:19, they used one to avoid a delay-of-game call just before the play clock was set to expire.

But at 11:56, after Peerless Price caught a pass along the sidelines that was ruled incomplete because the heel of one foot was on the line, a Buffalo player called a timeout. Knowing he was risking his final timeout, Jauron then asked that the play be reviewed. When it was upheld, Buffalo lost its third and final timeout at 11:49.

Had Buffalo recovered an onside kick with 30 seconds to play, not having any timeouts in a three-point loss would have magnified the above sequence of timeout follies.

"I thought there was doubt that the toe hit and there was a pause, then the heel came down, just enough to take the chance at that point," Jauron said. "The players did it (called the second timeout) on the field and probably should have. The play clock was down to one second. If it's a continuous motion, then it's out of bounds. If the toe hits and there is a slight pause, however you want to judge it, and then the heel comes down, that's a catch."

Hochuli didn't see it that way. The Bills punted and the Chargers took the ensuing possession and drove 80 yards in 13 plays, chewing up 8:06 on what would prove to be the decisive drive.

Despite giving up some big plays to San Diego TE Antonio Gates, Bills rookie SS Donte Whitner said he was "just glad I had the opportunity to play against him." Said Whitner: "It's a tough challenge. He's like a wide receiver out there. There are plenty of other tight ends in this league with the same skills he has, but they utilize him more on that team. He's a great player."

Buffalo's run defense sank a little lower after giving up 178 yards and two TDs on 28 carries to MVP candidate LaDainian Tomlinson. One of his TD runs was good for 51 yards. He also had gains of 22 and 16 yards, passing the 100-yard mark with nine minutes left in the first half. It was Tomlinson's sixth consecutive 100-yard game, and he's just two shy of Shaun Alexander's single-season NFL record of 28 touchdowns. "I can't think of anybody that is playing better than him right now," Bills DT Larry Tripplett said. "He had that one big run. That was kind of the game plan: Don't give him that big run. But he's good and he was able to get it done."

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