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Four Downs: Chargers vs. Bills

Bolts should handle Bills bull rush

By Michael Gehlken
|  Sunday, Dec 11, 2011  |  Updated 3:59 PM PDT
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Four Downs: Chargers vs. Bills

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Spencer Johnson #91 of the Buffalo Bills plays against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Ralph Wilson Stadium on August 27, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo won 35-32 in overtime.

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The storyline doesn't change Sunday for the San Diego Chargers.

At 5-7, they'll try to keep their season afloat another week against a Buffalo Bills (5-7) team riding a five-game losing streak.

Here is a four-down breakdown of the action, which due to an NFL-imposed blackout, will not be televised live in the Southern California area. More on that later.

First down: The Bills and Jaguars are similar beasts.

The Chargers offensive line, given this matchup, should keep quarterback Philip Rivers upright.

The Bills sacked Washington Redskins quarterback John Beck 10 times in Week 8, but they have just seven sacks in their other 11 games, including three in the five since.

"The two teams that give us the biggest problems, the Raiders and Denver, are a little bit more undersized.," coach Norv Turner said. "Great speed guys. These guys (the Bills) are bigger, more physical and similar to what Jacksonville was."

No doubt.

The Bills, who occupy a 4-3 scheme, start Spencer Johnson (6-foot-3, 305 pounds) and Alex Carrington (6-foot-5, 305) at defensive end. They have combined for three sacks.

Last week, as a team, the Bills had one sack (inside linebacker Nick Barnett), no quarterback hits and only two pressures against the Tennessee Titans.

Meanwhile, versus the Jaguars, Rivers went unsacked for the second time of the season.

Second down: Bottle up speedy Spiller.

Bills running back Fred Jackson was as dominant as they come, but he fractured his fibula in Week 11 and is out for the season.

C.J. Spiller, a ninth overall draft pick out of Clemson in 2010, will see the bulk of touches.

He is capable of running between the tackles despite a 5-foot-11, 197-pound frame, but the Chargers are respecting his desire to use his speed on the outside, linebacker Shaun Phillips said.

"Our big thing is definitely to make sure we keep him inside," Phillips said, "because if he gets around the corner, he's going to out-run most of us. It's one of those weeks where you have to make sure you gang tackle him because, again, he can get to that edge."

Third down: Mathews finishes strong.

Ryan Mathews knows how to close out games.

The second-year Chargers running back is playing the best football of his career with back-to-back 100-yard rushing games, but something else stands out: He has averaged 6.6 yards this season on 26 fourth-quarter totes.

The figure was boosted last week when he took his lone carry in the fourth quarter for a 31-yard touchdown through a gaping hole on the left side.

"The line is playing good," Mathews said. "We got some new guys in there, but the line is playing great. They're doing a good job of helping me get to that second level."

Fourth down: Radio? Who Needs a Radio?

Well, probably you.

Aside from online box scores and actually attending the game, there are few other ways to track Sunday's contest, which kicks off at Qualcomm Stadium at 1:15 p.m.

You can listen live on the radio via KIOZ Rock 105.3 FM and XTRA Sports 1360 AM. Also, NBC San Diego's Derek Togerson and I will post updates on Twitter, here and here, respectively.

Prediction: Between a protected Rivers and rolling Mathews, the Bills defense, stretched out by wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd, gets picked apart. Chargers win big, 31-13, as fans turn their attention to the stadium scoreboard for updates on the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders.

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