This time it wasn't the Los Angeles Chargers' defense that let up. It did its job by creating three takeaways in a matter of minutes in the second half of the Chargers' 27-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
But it was the offense that couldn't capitalize. Not that it was the fault of running back Austin Ekeler, who looked good in his return from a hamstring injury suffered Oct. 4.
Down by seven in the fourth quarter, the Chargers defense came up big when Michael Davis picked off a Josh Allen pass intended for Stefon Diggs at the Chargers 44 with 7:00 left in the fourth quarter. It was the third takeaway for the Chargers in the second half, as they also recovered two Bills fumbles.
But Chargers rookie QB Justin Herbert, who has been very good at taking care of the football this season, launched an errant pass intended for Hunter Henry that was intercepted by Tre'Davious White at the Buffalo 35 with 5:17 left, resulting in an insurance field goal. Herbert got the ball again and moved the team to Buffalo's 1 thanks to a 55-yard, jump-ball pass to Tyron Johnson on fourth-and-27, but couldn’t get in the end zone before time expired.
Ekeler, for what its worth, provided some hope. He was the lone bright spot by carrying the ball 14 times for 44 yards, and catching 11 balls on 16 targets for 85 yards. It's clear how much he was missed, sitting out since Week 4 with a serious hamstring injury. Still, the lack of ability to manage the game and deficient clock management stood out as the Chargers lost by more than one score for the first time this season.
Deceptive advertising: According to Chargers coach Anthony Lynn's pregame comments, Ekeler was going to be used sparingly. But either Ekeler was fitter and better able to participate, or Lynn changed his mind, as Ekeler had 25 touches.
QB Breakdown: Except for the interception, Herbert was good. He completed 31 of 52 passes for 316 yards and a 5-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen. The touchdown pass was Herbert's 23rd of the season and Allen caught a TD pass for the fifth straight game. However, the interception was costly (when are they not?) and the timing couldn't have been worse.
(Not so) Special teams: Kicker Michael Badgley missed his eight kick of the season (a PAT on the Chargers' first TD) and the special teams coach, George Steward, was demoted before the game. Assistants Keith Burns and Chris Caminiti took over Steward's duties.