ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)—The power was out at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the play clock wasn’t working, leaving Kawika Mitchell so out of sorts that he tripped over himself and fell while dropping back to cover a pass.
That was the first quarter. By the fourth, the Buffalo Bills linebacker had picked himself up to provide all the spark his team needed, helping secure a 23-14 win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
Mitchell had a key interception and also forced a fumble in the final 4 minutes to lift an injury-depleted defense, and allow the AFC East-leading Bills (5-1) to show that they are, in fact, for real.
“We’re building, that’s for sure,” Mitchell said. “It’s definitely a big win to get against a team like that, it means a lot to our team. I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
Buffalo matched its best start since 1995, and came out of its bye week by bouncing back from a dreadful 41-17 loss at Arizona.
The defense—minus defensive end Aaron Schobel (left foot) and cornerback Terrence McGee (left knee)—kept in check Philip Rivers, the league’s most efficient passer. Buffalo quarterback Trent Edwards showed he’s recovered from a concussion he sustained against Arizona, by going 25-of-30 for 261 yards and a touchdown, while directing an offense that put up 370 yards.
And it all happened during a game in which the power was out for most of the first half inside the stadium after three helium balloons became entangled in power lines across the street from the facility
“Some guy with a beer said, `Why don’t you pay your electricity bills?”’ Bills owner Ralph Wilson said with a laugh. “I said, ‘I knew it would be my fault.”’
Mitchell turned the game around by intercepting a pass from Rivers a yard inside the end zone to thwart a potential go-ahead score with 3:17 left. The turnover led to Rian Lindell’s 44-yard field goal, which put the Bills up 23-14.
Then, on the Chargers’ next possession, Mitchell came flying in from the left side and hit Rivers, forcing a fumble, which the Bills recovered to run out the clock.
For San Diego (3-4), the loss was the latest in a string of inconsistent performances for a team that looks nothing like the one that reached the AFC Championship game a year ago. The Chargers have plenty to think about while boarding a trans-Atlantic flight headed for London, where they will play New Orleans at Wembley Stadium next weekend.
Rivers took responsibility after he committed three turnovers, including two fumbles, which directly resulted in Buffalo scoring 10 points.
“Rightfully so, I should shoulder a lot of the blame,” Rivers said. “I was playing pretty good, and then you have three turnovers and it kills you. I hope it never happens again.”
The turning point was the interception, with the Chargers facing first-and-goal at the 9. Upon taking the snap, Rivers never looked away from tight end Antonio Gates, who was cutting into the end zone on the right side, making it easy for Mitchell to jump the route.
Rivers finished 22-of-29 for 208 yards and two touchdowns—a 14-yarder to Malcom Floyd and a 12-yarder to Vincent Jackson. The Chargers were minus No. 1 receiver Chris Chambers, who missed his second game with a sprained ankle.
LaDainian Tomlinson was a non-factor, finishing with 41 yards rushing, and still appearing hesitant while nursing a toe injury.
“The run game comes with opportunities and gaining some momentum,” Tomlinson said. “Obviously, we didn’t have any momentum in the run game. That’s why we’re suffering.”
In a back-and-forth game in which the teams traded the lead four times, Buffalo went ahead for good when Marshawn Lynch scored to cap a nine-play, 78-yard drive late in the third quarter. Edwards kept the drive alive with a 12-yard scamper on third-and-7, and set up the score with a 22-yard pass to Roscoe Parrish.
Lee Evans also scored on a 2-yard touchdown catch.
“We are gaining a lot of confidence,” Edwards said. “This is definitely a statement game for us. We can look back on it and say we played a pretty good opponent and beat them by 9 points.”
After Tomlinson managed a season-best 106 yards rushing in a 28-18 win at Oakland on Sept. 28, he’s been limited to 150 yards and no scores in his past three outings. … The Bills are 3-0 at home for the first time since 1995. They also won their 200th home game, improving their franchise record to 200-162-4. … Bills LB John DiGiorgio did not return after hurting his right knee during a punt return. … Lindell hit three of four field-goal attempts, missing wide right on a 52-yarder.