Rivers, Gates lead Chargers to 37-10 win vs Bills

By Bernie Wilson

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Dec. 11 2011 5:47 p.m. MST

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) falls on the field after his fumble is picked up by Buffalo Bills defensive back Bryan Scott (43) for a touchdown in the end zone during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011, in San Diego.

Lenny Ignelzi , Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Chargers kept their faint playoff hopes alive while snuffing out what little chance the Buffalo Bills had of reaching the postseason.

Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes, two to Antonio Gates, and the Chargers beat the Bills 37-10 Sunday.

The Chargers (6-7) have won two straight following their six-game losing streak. Minutes after the Chargers game ended, Denver beat Chicago in overtime to improve to 8-5 atop the AFC West.

Buffalo (5-8) lost its sixth straight game and was eliminated from playoff contention for the 12th straight year.

The Bills, like the Chargers, started the season 4-1. They were 5-2 after a 23-0 victory against Washington on Oct. 30 and haven't won since.

In this matchup of desperate teams, the Chargers took control early and never let up.

Rivers was 24 of 33 for 240 yards. Ryan Mathews gained 114 yards on 20 carries, the first time he's had three straight 100-yard games.

The Bills made it a game when Rivers fumbled while going back to pass early in the third quarter. The ball rolled into the end zone and Bryan Scott shoved aside the QB to recover for a touchdown that pulled the Bills to 16-10.

San Diego regained the momentum with the fake punt on the next drive. With the Chargers in punt formation at their 32, safety Eric Weddle, the up-back, took the snap and ran 10 yards for a first down. Vincent Jackson had consecutive catches of 16, 17 and 13 yards. Rivers scrambled for 9 yards and an apparent TD, but it came back on a holding call against right tackle Jeromey Clary. Three plays later, Gates broke free in the end zone for a 2-yard scoring catch.

On Buffalo's first play from scrimmage, Steve Gregory intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick and returned it 26 yards for a 30-10 lead.

Rivers also threw a 26-yard scoring pass to Patrick Crayton.

Fitzpatrick was 13 of 34 for 176 and two interceptions.

The Chargers scored on their first three drives. Rivers was 6 for 6 for 63 yards on the opening possession, including a 9-yard TD pass to Gates.

Weddle intercepted Fitzpatrick and returned it 26 yards to the San Diego 45, Rivers completed two more passes for 20 yards and Mike Tolbert finished the drive with a 1-yard run. The PAT was blocked and San Diego lead 13-0.

Mathews' 37-yard bust up the middle on the next drive set up Nick Novak's 47-yard field goal for a 16-0 lead that held up at halftime.

The Bills had an impressive drive to open the second half, including Stevie Johnson's 53-yard catch-and-run, to reach the Chargers' 9-yard line. But two incompletions by Fitzpatrick and a sack by Antwan Barnes forced the Bills to settle for Dave Rayner's 37-yard field goal.

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