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Bills, Losman keep focus on Dolphins

Here's what the rivalry has come to: During the buildup to today's game in Miami, the name "Bryan Cox" never came up once. Don Shula caused a big stir -- by ripping the Patriots.

What was the big issue at One Bills Drive during the week, aside from the quarterbacks? Whether the Bills were looking past the Dolphins to the nationally televised night game against unbeaten New England a week from now.

The Bills, looking past Miami? The way the players reacted, you'd have thought someone asked if they planned to take the field in their underwear.

"No temptation at all to look past Miami," said safety Donte Whitner.

"In past years, there probably would be," said Coy Wire. "But not with this group."

History and rivalries have nothing to do with it. For this young Bills team, every week is the biggest game of the year. As Whitner said, the "one game at a time" cliche really applies.

Fine, but if the Bills get past Miami today, they will be on a four-game roll when the Pats show up in Orchard Park next Sunday. They'll be the current hot topic, a young team standing in the train tracks of NFL history, eager to derail thePatriots' journey to perfection.

The game would lose a bit of its national appeal if the team trying to knock off the high-flying Pats was coming off an upset loss to a winless team.

This Bills team is too young, too fixed in the moment, to look past the Dolphins. After all they've endured this season, how could they look past any team? Once you've seen a teammate lying motionless in a hospital bed, it's impossible to take anything for granted.

You can bet J.P. Losman isn't looking past Miami. Losman isn't looking past the tips of his shoes. For Buffalo's embattled quarterback, every game has become a crisis, a pop quiz, a screaming siren.

"Everyone is preparing for this week and not looking ahead," Losman said. "It's very evident when you go in the locker room right now that guys are focused on this week."

Losman is the starter, at least for now. He earned the designation by playing brilliantly against the Bengals with Trent Edwards sidelined by a wrist injury. After that, Jauron isn't saying. It's a game-to-game thing. If Losman performs well again, he keeps the job. If he doesn't, who knows?

It's an unconventional method of choosing a QB. But I'm beginning to wonder if Jauron doesn't actually like it this way. Maybe it's not so much a distraction for his team as a way of bringing them together. When your captain is in a battle for his job, it can provide the players with a sustained focus, a keener competitive edge.

There's a lot of pressure on Losman today. It's another favorable matchup. The Dolphins have the NFL's sixth-rated pass defense, but that's because they're so bad against the run. Miami is 30th in yards allowed per pass attempt, 30th in interceptions and last in stopping third downs. Opposing QBs have a rating of 102.6.

Losman needs another big game to continue building his case for a contract extension. He needs to perform at a consistently high level in the remaining road games. He has started 13 road games in his career (not counting the New England game this year). In nine of them, he threw for fewer than 170 yards. The Bills are 3-10 and have scored 14 points a game. He was the difference just once, last year in Houston.

That's why the Bills lost confidence in him. That's why they took Edwards in the third round. So if Losman has been underestimated, if this was to be the year he proved himself as a winning road quarterback, he has to start now. He can't fall on his face against a winless team.

Something tells me Losman won't be content to simply "manage" the game as he did a year ago, when he threw for 83 yards in the Bills' 16-6 victory. Losman will be eager to prove, once again, that throwing the ball down the field is the best thing for this offense. If he has another big game and the Bills win, it'll be hard to argue.

Then it'll be OK to look past Miami. That's Bill Belichick off in the distance, putting together the defensive game plan.

e-mail: jsullivan@buffnews.com

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