Bills: Fallout After Meltdown Costs Losman

When the Buffalo Bills opted to try to pass the ball with under two minutes to go against the Jets, it all went wrong. They say one play can change a season, that was it for Buffalo. Unfortunately, JP Losman's mistake affected the entire AFC East. Losman is a sure goner in Buffalo, he may have cost his coach as well. Miami and New England now have one more reasons to dislike the Bills.

There is no question that J.P. Losman's career as a member of the Buffalo Bills is now down to two games. His contract, a five-year deal he signed after being a first-round pick in 2004, runs out at the end of the season, and he will leave via free agency.

Losman's future with the Bills was cemented last season. In his third year as a starter, he failed to elevate his game and lost the starting job to then-rookie Trent Edwards. Playing in place of the injured Edwards the last two weeks, there is now a question about whether Losman has played himself right out of the league.

Losman failed to lead the Bills to victory in two relief appearances against Arizona and San Francisco, and in two starts against Miami and the New York Jets, Losman was dreadful. His record as a starter in Buffalo fell to 10-23.

"Certain athletes get this far in their career because they're able to somehow put these games behind them, move on and let's go to the next one," Losman said Sunday after his lost fumble was returned 11 yards for a game-winning touchdown by the Jets' Shaun Ellis with 1:54 to play. "And if you're given another opportunity, you go in there and show them that you have learned from your mistakes."

The thing is, Losman has had countless opportunities to prove to the coaches that he has learned from his mistakes, and he continually fails to do so. Losman is still making the same mistakes that he's always made -- he holds the ball too long, takes way too many sacks, doesn't protect the ball, and tries to squeeze passes into narrow spaces that usually end up in interceptions.

To be fair, he was put in a terrible spot against the Jets when coach Dick Jauron called for an ill-advised rollout pass on second-and-5 from the Buffalo 27. The situation screamed for the Bills to run the ball and perhaps salt the game away with a first down. Instead, Losman was instructed to roll right and throw a safe pass into the flat to fullback Corey McIntyre.

McIntyre was held up at the line, never got into the pattern, and Losman kept rolling and waiting and eventually Abram Elam tracked him down from behind and forced the fumble that wound up in Ellis' hands for the winning score.

"Out of a number of heartbreaking losses, that was the worst to this point," Jauron said. "The responsibility for the call goes right on me. It backfired, clearly, and it caused us to lose the game. The guys fought hard, they made enough plays to win that game. I just didn't help them with that call."

Offensive coordinator Turk Schonert didn't disagree with the play call by his boss -- he didn't say what he thought of being overridden in that situation. But he was clearly not happy with the way Losman completed the play.

"He thought we'd catch them with a quick pass to the fullback in the flat," Schonert said, defending Jauron's decision. "You go with what you call, what your gut feeling is, but it didn't work out. (Losman's) got to see the blitz, and when the fullback gets stuffed immediately, he has to protect it or throw it away."

Jauron made the egregious mistake of putting the game in Losman's hands. Just the week before he did the same thing -- although Schonert made the call -- when Losman was told to throw a fade pass to Lee Evans on a first-and-goal at the 3 against Miami. The Bills were down 13-3 at the time and it seemed as if giving the ball to running back Marshawn Lynch a couple times would have resulted in a touchdown.

Instead, Losman underthrew the pass to Evans, it was intercepted by Will Allen, and the Bills went on to lose 16-3.

Losman is now 63 of 104 (60.6 percent) for 584 yards with two touchdowns, five interceptions and a passer rating of 62.3 that ranks 54th among the 70 quarterbacks who have taken snaps this season in the NFL.

He figures to get a chance somewhere in 2009 if only because he's a former first-round pick, has a strong arm and is only 28 years old. But it would be a stunning development if Losman goes somewhere, competes for a starting job and wins. He is seen by some as nothing more than an average backup, and in many places, he'd be nothing more than a third-stringer.

Notes:
--The Bills offensive line got some much-wanted redemption, though it didn't result in a victory. The first time they played the Jets, New York's Kris Jenkins led a dominant effort and Buffalo managed a season-low 30 rushing yards. In the rematch at Giants Stadium, the Bills' big guys led the way for a season-best 187-yard rushing day, including 127 by Marshawn Lynch.
"We had a score to settle, man," C Duke Preston said. "After what the Jets did to us the last game, we wanted to get even. We went out with that purpose, and we shoved it down their throats."
The key was controlling Jenkins in the middle, and the Bills did that with constant double-teaming.
"That's the way our run game works with these 3-4 noses," Preston said. "You're not going to blow the guy off the ball. You're not going to have him 5 yards deep. We get a stalemate and maybe we get a yard or 2, and our backs do such an amazing job of setting defenders up with head fakes. Not only that, they will fake one way and put their foot in the ground, and it's like trying to tackle a freight train when they run downhill. They make our jobs easier."
--RB Marshawn Lynch's big day (21 carries, 127 yards) enabled him to surpass the 1,000-yard barrier. He became just the second Bills back in team history to reach that mark in his first two seasons in the league. He joined Joe Cribbs and Willis McGahee in accomplishing that feat.
"We ran the ball well. That was good to see," offensive coordinator Turk Schonert said. "I kind of challenged our guys this week about the run game. Some guys were clamoring for the run last week. I showed them we didn't run the ball last week. We were sputtering running the ball. I kind of said, 'Show me. You want to run the ball? We'll run the ball,' and we did. We ran it as good as anybody's run it against this team."
--WR James Hardy's tremendously disappointing rookie season came to an end in the first quarter when he suffered a left knee injury and was carted off the field. He was on crutches after the game. Hardy, a second-round pick who was expected to help the Bills' red-zone offense this season, made only nine catches for 87 yards and two TDs in 13-plus games.
--Roscoe Parrish padded his lead in the AFC in yards per punt return, improving his average to 15.3 (third in the NFL) with a 56-yard run that set up a Bills touchdown. Also, Leodis McKelvin remained on top of the AFC in kickoff returns with a 29.3 average (second in the NFL) even though he had a 100-yard touchdown return wiped out by a penalty.

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