CARSON — They called him “Chief,” in homage to his Native American roots, but for Keenan Allen and his family back in Greensboro, N.C., no one was more central than Chief. He was the patriarch, known for his unending charisma, and when Allen was growing up, long before football became his life, Chief often stayed with his family. Grandfather and grandson grew close. Together, they watched NASCAR, always rooting for Jeff Gordon. He had a way of making everyone around him smile. “He was always in a good mood,” Allen said.
Billy Ransom, known to his family as “Chief”, died on Saturday, a day before the Chargers took the field against the Bills. Fifteen minutes before kickoff, Allen dedicated Sunday’s game to his grandfather.
“This for Chief!” he tweeted.
What Allen proceeded to do in the Chargers’ 54-24 blowout victory of the Bills would prove quite the tribute. As Allen reeled in a season-high 12 receptions for a career-high 159 yards, zooming past defensive backs as if he were in the final stretch at Daytona, Allen thought often of his grandfather.
From the start, Allen’s career game seemed almost preordained. The reeling Bills defense, which had been hemorrhaging yards through the air in recent weeks, opted to play man coverage for most of the afternoon. For a dynamite route-runner like Allen, it was almost too good to be true. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn locked onto his matchup, and Philip Rivers obliged, targeting him 13 times.
“We all knew (Allen) was going to eat that up,” rookie wideout Mike Williams said.
And eat, he did. Before going back for seconds. And thirds. By halftime, Allen accounted for 123 of the Chargers’ 197 passing yards and two touchdowns, and if it weren’t for the lopsided scoreboard, there’s no doubt he would’ve had a few more helpings. But for two quarters, with the Chargers offense firing on all cylinders, Allen feasted.
“It was kind of funny,” Allen said. “I told their defensive coordinator they couldn’t cover me.”
That much was obvious early on. Of his 13 targets, only the first pass that came Allen’s way didn’t connect. But even on that route, he found himself wide open. It was Rivers, hoping to miss the defender who undercut his corner route, who missed with his throw.
From there, Bills defenders were barely in his vicinity, as he often beat them instantly off the line. Two drives later, Allen strung together receptions of 10 yards, 5 yards, 11 yards, and 21 yards, with only…