Chargers play inspired, but Bills rally to win  

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – There’s one truth about sports that’s universal: competitive people have pride. The Los Angeles Chargers showed the Buffalo Bills during a Saturday night football game what those competitive juices and pride looked like. 

No Justin Herbert. No Keenan Allen. No problem. With Herbert out for the season and Allen placed on the game’s inactive list the, Chargers could have folded up their tent and allowed the Bills to do whatever they wanted to do. Chargers interim head coach Giff Smith was not having any of that. 

Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Eric Kendricks (6) looks to make the tackle on Buffalo Bills running back James Cook (4) on Dec. 25, 2023. Photo credit: Melinda Meijer/News4usonline.com

A week after their debacle against the Las Vegas Raiders that eventually led to the termination of Brandon Staley (head coach) and general manager Tom Telesco, the Chargers put the scare into the Bills by playing Buffalo all the way down to the wire. 

The Bills escaped with a 24-22 win at SoFi Stadium. A 29-yard field goal by Tyler Bass with 28 seconds left in the game proved to be the game-winner for the Bills. Smith had one clear message for his team before the Chargers played the Bills.    

 “Going into the game, we wanted to keep it close and have a chance to win it at the end,” Smith said during his postgame press conference. “But, we wanted every play to fight for each other, no matter what. If there was ever a guy that wasn’t going to do it, we were going to pull them out. But, we didn’t have any of that. They fought, they fought every play.”  

Leading the charge was backup quarterback Easton Stick. Stick looked a lot better than he did in the Chargers’ 63-21 loss to the Raiders. In his second start of the season, Stick completed 23 of 33 passes for 210 yards. More importantly, Stick positioned the Chargers with an opportunity to pull off the upset by managing the game well, Smith said. 

“I’ll tell you, he really battled,” remarked Smith. “He’s a tough guy. I wish that he would’ve slid on the one. Although, it did create a little energy for the team. He definitely showed that he’s an NFL quarterback. We were proud of the way he played and we’ll continue to move forward with him.”

Stick led the Chargers on scoring drives in the first and second quarters and had Los Angeles on top of the Bills 10-0 at one point in the game. The Bills responded with a couple of touchdowns in the second quarter to lead at halftime, 14-10. 

This could have been a time when the Bills separated themselves from the Chargers. But under the guidance of Stick and the remarkable marksmanship of placekicker Cameron Dicker who booted five field goals in the game, the Chargers held serve against Buffalo. 

Four of those field goals that Dicker made were 40 yards and beyond. 

“Him and [P] JK Scott, we have two of the best,” Smith said. “We rode them today, fellas. We really did. That was the plan going in, that we were going to use him. Dicker, he’s a cool cat. Kickers are different, but we sure are glad that we have him.”

For his part, Stick said his second start was an improvement over the first opportunity. 

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Easton Stick (2) rushed for 25 yards on seven carries in a 24-22 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 23, 2023. Photo credit: Melinda Meijer/News4usonline.com

“The more that you play, hopefully, the better you get. Definitely felt comfortable,” said Stick. “I felt comfortable with the plan. [Offensive Coordinator] Kellen [Moore] did a really good job, and [Interim Head Coach] Giff [Smith], too, just getting this thing going in the right direction this week. I thought that we prepared well, just the execution in some critical situations, obviously, is why we’re sitting here feeling the way that we’re feeling.”

Aside from the improved play of Stick, the Chargers defense gets kudos for keeping Allen and Buffalo’s offense neutralized for a good portion of the game. The Chargers held Allen to just 237 yards passing in the game. After surrendering 63 points to the Raiders, the Chargers defense played with renewed defensive energy against the Bills. 

“I thought that they played well,” Smith said about the team’s defensive unit. “Josh Allen is good. He can extend plays with his feet. He was able to hit the one early, and then the one down the sideline. That’s what he does. We [cover] zero’d him at the end of the game, which I think was a great call. He lobbed one up and had a little confusion off the stack and left the guy uncovered. More times than not, that’s a pick and it’s a walk-off win.”

Lead image caption: Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Easton Stick (2) is chased out of bounds by several Buffalo Bills defenders during an NFL game played at SoFi Stadium on Dec. 23, 2023. The Bills defeated the Chargers, 24-22. Photo credit: Melinda Meijer for News4usonline.com

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