Buffalo Bills coach Dick Jauron has told his players they should spend a day enjoying every victory or overcoming every defeat with the understanding that winning doesn't come easily in the NFL. The 24-hour rule, as it's commonly called, lasted about 24 minutes after the Bills' 13-10 victory over Miami.
The Bills have won four straight games and five of their last six, certainly meeting the criteria for a day of celebration and relaxation. But they hadn't left the visitors' locker room in Miami when they began turning their attention toward the undefeated New England Patriots.
"Now, we're 5-4 and we have an opportunity to go play the Patriots on Sunday night," strong safety Donte Whitner said after the game. "Guys are going to go to work hard this week. Coach gave us a day [Monday], but I'll be in there watching Patriots film, and I'll bring some guys in there with me."
The Bills are a game over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2004 season, when they finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs under Mike Mularkey. Buffalo also has worked its way back into playoff contention, which seemed highly unlikely after the Bills opened the season with three straight losses.
"I don't know about anybody but me," Jauron said. "It doesn't wear off fast. I like the feeling of winning. . . . Hopefully, it will last the whole week. It's a much different feeling around the building when you win than when you lose. It carries you for a week."
For everything the Bills have accomplished, here's the reality: Buffalo's five victories came against teams that currently have a 9-36 record and none was above .500. Its four losses came against teams that currently have a 28-8 record. Their remaining opponents have a combined 35-28 record.
Buffalo has beaten Baltimore, the New York Jets, Cincinnati and Miami in the last four games. Baltimore, the Jets and Miami have combined to lose 18 straight games. Cincinnati has won two of its last four games, but those victories have come against the Ravens and Jets.
New England, of course, has been the best team in the NFL all season and has the potential to become the first team since the 1972 Dolphins to finish undefeated in the regular season. The Pats are 9-0 going into the game and coming off a bye week after beating previously unbeaten Indianapolis.
"In the NFL, honestly, anybody is capable on game day of beating anybody else," Bills General Manager Marv Levy said. "Now, they're as good as any team I've seen since the 1970s' Steelers. Sure, it's going to take a great performance on our part, and it should inspire our players. I don't think they're wary of it. I think they'll be excited about it."
Marshawn Lynch was nursing a sprained left ankle Monday, but the Bills do not believe it will keep him from playing Sunday against the Patriots. They were awaiting results from an MRI exam scheduled for Monday.
The Bills also were waiting for updates on defensive back Kiwaukee Thomas, whom Jauron feared suffered a serious groin injury, and concussed tight end Robert Royal. Right tackle Langston Walker had a sore hamstring, but he finished the game.
As has been his Monday custom, Jauron refused to name his starting quarterback for next week. J.P. Losman completed only 12 of 23 passes for 157 yards and an interception in the end zone, but has won his last two starts and led the Bills to a third victory in relief of injured rookie Trent Edwards.
An official announcement about the starter could come today.
"I need to talk to a lot of people," Jauron said. "Do I know? Yeah."
Lynch finished with 61 yards on 19 carries Sunday and is fourth among NFL rushers with 751 yards, just ahead of Baltimore's Willis McGahee. Lynch has 196 carries, second in the NFL behind Pittsburgh's Willie Parker.
"He's going to get a lot of carries," Jauron said. "That's why we drafted him. You can see the talent that he has. In order to win games, we've got to get him the ball. We do not like it when he carries 30-plus times a game. We would like to keep it in the low 20s."
Lynch's short TD run Sunday gave him six TDs this season, most by a Bills' rookie running back since Antowain Smith had eight in 1997. Joe Cribbs set the team mark (11) in 1980. Cribbs also has the team rookie rushing record (1,185 yards).
Lynch and Trent Edwards (790 yards passing) became the first rookie running back and quarterback from the same team in 18 seasons to rush and pass for more than 700 yards in the same year. Barry Sanders (1,470) and Rodney Peete (1,479) did it for Detroit in 1989.
Losman has led the Bills to wins in consecutive games when trailing in the fourth quarter, a first for a Buffalo QB since Jim Kelly did it in 1990.
Roscoe Parrish's 40-yard punt return in the fourth quarter, which gave the Bills the ball at the 50-yard line and helped set up the winning field goal, pushed him into sixth place on the Bills' single-season yardage list with 330. He needs just 55 punt-return yards to catch Donnie Walker's team mark set in 1974.
Rian Lindell has made 11 consecutive field-goal attempts, tying his career high and tying the third-longest streak in team history. Steve Christie made 17 straight in 1994.