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Armed response Losman makes most of window of opportunity Week Nine: Losman takes advantage of Bengals' defense with a forceful keep-me-in-the-lineup performance

Buffalo Bills quarterback J.P. Losman made his first statement Sunday on the second play from scrimmage.

He dropped a lob pass perfectly into the outstretched arms of receiver Lee Evans for a 38-yard gain down the sideline.

"That was a small window," said Evans. "He put it in a good spot over my outside shoulder and just let me go get it."

So it went for the better part of three hours. Losman found windows large and small in the Cincinnati Bengals' secondary. He passed for 295 yards, the third most of his career, and he directed the Bills to a 33-21 victory.

It was a forceful, keep-me-in-the-lineup statement.

"You want to prove to your teammates you deserve to be in there," Losman said. "But as far as the decision goes, I have no control over that. I have control over making the decision hard. They have a hard decision, I guess, is what you can say."

We will find out later this week if the Bills stick with Losman for next week's game against Miami. Rookie Trent Edwards was unable to suit up Sunday due to his sprained right wrist.

But the Bills' players did not seem too preoccupied with the issue in the locker room afterward. After weeks of back-and-forth on the quarterback subject, they simply were happy to revel in their third straight victory.

After starting the season 0-3 and enduring a slew of injuries large and small, the Bills (4-4) find themselves at .500 at midseason for the first time in five years.

A crowd of 70,745 at Ralph Wilson Stadium saw Buffalo's 31st-ranked offense amass 479 yards, its most in five years. Granted, it came against the 31st-ranked defensive team in the league. But the Bills are in no position to quibble about an offensive explosion.

"We went into this game with the mind-set that we had to score every time they did," said receiver Josh Reed. "But our defense made some stops and made some great plays, too."

While Losman was sharp, it took a pass into a very wide window -- by running back Marshawn Lynch -- to turn the momentum in the game.

The Bengals (2-6) were clinging to a 21-19 lead with 5:57 left when the Bills faced a second-and-goal play from the Bengals' 8. The Bills had settled for field goals on their three previous trips into the red zone.

The Bengals' defense had crowded the line of scrimmage in the red zone most of the day. The Bills had run Lynch on six straight plays and powered up with two tight ends in tight formations on the previous three plays.

So the stage was set for some "trickeration."

Lynch took a toss to the right. Tight end Robert Royal, lined up on the right side of the line, broke into the end zone, and Lynch hit him with a soft but accurate throw.

"We knew they were crowding the ball," Royal said. "We ran the ball six straight times. Inside the 10-yard line, it started getting real congested because they were bringing the safeties down. There were nine, 10 guys in the box. I was able to get out there and get free."

Losman said he kept Lynch loose in the huddle before the play.

"I didn't want Marshawn to feel like a lot of pressure was on him," Losman said. "I just kind of went in there and said, 'Let's play some street ball with this play.' "

The Bills had a 26-21 lead with 5:51 left.

Just 3:18 later, Lynch put the exclamation point on the victory, breaking a tackle in the backfield and sprinting 56 yards for a touchdown.

The jaunt put Lynch over the 100-yard mark for the first time this season. He gained 153 yards on 29 carries, and now he's on pace for 1,380 rushing yards on the year.

Passing, however, was more critical to the Bills' win than rushing.

Losman hit 24 of 34 passes with one TD and one interception. His passer rating was 94.6.

The Bills picked on Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph all day. Evans finished with nine catches for 165 yards, the second-best total of his career.

"They showed us some looks where we knew we had to throw the ball effectively to have a chance against this defense," Evans said.

Evans caught an 8-yard scoring pass from Losman on the first drive of the game to get the Bills off to a great start. He faked to the middle of the field and sprinted for the back left corner of the end zone. Losman stared down a safety blitz and threw to a spot about 6 feet directly over the back pylon.

"I don't even think he saw me on that play," Evans said. "He just threw it to a spot and expected me to get there."

"I think they went Cover-0 (everyone in man-to-man coverage) . . . and I just put it up there in the corner," Losman said. "That's what we practiced all week, putting it in the corner and he has to get there."

Losman had superb protection most of the day.

"The offensive line played excellent and they have been for the last couple weeks," Losman said. "So I've been a little jealous of Trent. I think he got hit for the first time against the Jets [last week]. He said, 'Oh, I'm getting hit.' I said, 'You don't know what getting hit is yet.' I said, 'That was the first time you've been hit in three weeks.' The offensive line played well. As a quarterback it feels good you can get through your reads."

It was obvious Losman's teammates were happy for him.

"Time in and time out when his back is against the wall, he finds a way to make a play," Reed said. "He had a couple big rushing first downs. He just played very well."

The Bills are playing well all around.

The defense held the Bengals to 28 rushing yards on 17 carries. Star receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson were held to four and three catches, respectively.

"When you have two big playmakers on each side of the field, you have to have some help over the top on both of them because both of them are capable of making the big play," said safety George Wilson. "We kind of fenced them in and said, 'OK, you can have all the short stuff but we're not going to give you the deep stuff.'

"We just played sound technique football today."

That's how a team wins three in a row.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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