BUFFALO -- Donald Brown said he hadn't carried the ball that many times during a game since his days as a star running back in college at the University of Connecticut.
Well, he better get used to it. With Ryan Mathews out for at least four more weeks with an MCL sprain in his right knee and Danny Woodhead suffering an ankle injury that could potentially end his 2014 season, Brown is the last man standing in the San Diego Chargers' three-headed monster rotation the team touted during training camp.
Brown earned every one of 62 yards on an NFL-high 31 carries. His longest run was 14 yards, but there were a whole lot more 1- and 2-yard runs. The 31 carries were the most for a San Diego running back since LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 131 yards on 31 carries in San Diego's 27-0 win over Oakland on Sept. 11, 2006.
It was just another day at the office for Brown.
"I feel good," Brown said. "I'll probably be sore, but whatever it takes to get a win. We knew it was going to be a grind, and it was."
The 31 carries by Brown was the most he carried the ball in a football game since Dec. 6, 2008, when he rushed 34 times for 189 yards in UConn's loss to Pittsburgh.
Brown also finished with a team-high five receptions for 27 yards. He touched the ball on 36 of San Diego's 63 plays.
"He stepped up big," Chargers receiver Eddie Royal said. "Donald was huge for us, just the way he runs the ball. I mean, he's a physical runner. He can get those tough yards, and you need a running back like that.
"We kind of missed that with Ryan [Mathews]; he's our physical back, but Donald stepped in there and got those tough yards."
Some NFL observers questioned Chargers general manager Tom Telesco's thinking for signing Brown to a three-year, $10.4 million deal as the team's top free-agent acquisition during the offseason. But fast forward to September, and the move appears prophetic for Telesco, with Brown ready to step in as the team's every-down back until others can get healthy.
"You look at the offseason and I didn't wonder -- but some people wondered -- why we went out and got another back," Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. "They got a couple backs, and thank goodness we did. That's already shown to be a good move here early in the season."
Along with Brown, the Chargers have undrafted rookie free agent Branden Oliver on the active roster and sixth-round selection Marion Grice on the practice squad. San Diego is a team that will lean on the run, so this group will now be pressed into duty moving forward.
However, the next step for San Diego's offense will be creating wider rushing lanes for the hard-running Brown and the rest of the running back group. The Chargers are still averaging a league-worst 2.43 yards per carry. San Diego needs to get back to the way they consistently ran the football last season.
"We have a lot of confidence in Donald," Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "Obviously, we didn't run the ball as well as we wanted to today. The goal was to be patient with it, and you feel like we're going to break through. We'll just keep working at it, and try and get better."
Added San Diego offensive lineman Chad Rinehart: "Obviously, bringing him in as a free agent was a great call. You don't expect to use your third running back that much. And to see that he can carry the load and we can keep carrying on with the run game is great to see. But it's frustrating that the running game is not where it needs to be, or even close to that. Fortunately we got the win, but it definitely needs to improve."