Bills: LT is "Michael Jordan of our league"

Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Perry Fewell hasn't been sleeping well lately. And given the challenge he and his unit face this Sunday, he may not sleep at all and may have nightmares afterwards.

The Bills (5-6), riding their first two-game winning streak under coach Dick Jauron, host the red-hot San Diego Chargers (9-2) and NFL Most Valuable Player candidate LaDainian Tomlinson at Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday needing a win to keep their slim wild-card playoff hopes alive.

Buffalo's run defense, a sore subject all season, has actually gotten worse lately.

Buffalo is coming off games against Houston and Jacksonville when it allowed 188 then 207 yards rushing, back-to-back season highs. The Bills have yielded an average of 172 yards per game over the past four games.

Meanwhile, Tomlinson, who is third in the NFL in rushing with 1,146 yards, is averaging 134.6 yards over his last five games with a whopping 14 touchdowns. He leads the league in all-purpose yards with 1,602 and has scored 24 touchdowns overall. That's just five shy of breaking Shaun Alexander's single-season record of 28 established just one year ago.

Imagine preparing for a player who has scored touchdowns running (21), receiving (three) and passing (two). What can't this guy do?

"I've been saying it all along, he's really the Michael Jordan of our league," Fewell said. "He can run the ball, he can throw the ball, he's a blocker, he catches it. You can't put 12 guys out there on the field so I don't know how we stop him. He's going to get his. We just need to keep him out of the end zone. He may get 100 yards. He may get 125. We just can't let him get in the end zone."

For all of their problems on the ground, the Bills have been good lately at doing what it takes to win defensively. During their 3-1 mini-turnaround, they have eight sacks, nine takeaways and have given up an average of just 18 points.

The Bills -- who lost to the Chargers 48-10 last season -- aren't in awe of San Diego's No. 5 ranked offense, not after facing No. 3 Indianapolis and holding Peyton Manning to 17 points.

But the Chargers actually present more mismatches because there is only one Tomlinson and only one tight end like Antonio Gates.

The athletic Gates leads San Diego in receptions with 50 to go with five scores. Tomlinson is second with 48. Last year against the Bills, Gates finished with five catches for 77 yards and a 27-yard touchdown.

Quarterback Phillip Rivers, in his third season but just his first as a starter, has tossed 15 touchdown passes and just six interceptions while being sacked 18 times behind one of the better lines in the league. His completion percentage of 65 percent is fourth best in the NFL.

The Chargers are out-scoring their opponents by 137 points and lead the league in red zone scoring with 31 touchdowns in 44 trips (including 13 for 13 in their last three games).

Kicker Nate Kaeding is stealing money.

"Each week it's a challenge but probably because of the running back, he's so versatile, this is a huge challenge," Fewell said. "They've got all the weapons. It's a complete football team. So yeah, it's going to be helluva deal for us. We've got to keep them out of the end zone."

And get into their end zone, Jauron said, which is no easy feat.

San Diego, whose coordinator is former Bills head coach Wade Phillips, ranks ninth in total defense, seventh against the run, and leads the league in sacks with 41. As Buffalo's luck would have it, star linebacker Shawne Merriman (8.5 sacks) returns this week after serving a four-game league suspension.

"They're going to be tough. They're a great team," said Bills quarterback J.P. Losman, who is riding high after leading consecutive wins on the game's final drive. "They're big up front, fast, they have good corners and athletic safeties. They do pretty much the same thing with coverage, but they're really good at it. That means we need to know where to go with the ball, knowing when they're giving us the outside one-on-one. We've got to run the ball against a 3-4 defense, that was big when we played teams like New England, it helped us. It's that, getting the ball out on time, taking pressure off our protection and when we've got a chance to make a play, we've got to make it when we take our shots."

Sounds so simple.

Said Jauron of Tomlinson and Co.: "He's really good and they're really good. It's not just him alone out there. They're talented and well coached and they know what they're doing. We'll have to play our best game just to hang in there."

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