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Losman gets no free pass against Pats

Dick Jauron said the thought never occurred to him. Not after four straight three-and-outs to begin the game. Not after the underthrown interception on the Bills' fifth possession. Not after the poorly managed two-minute drill ending the first half.

If Jauron was telling the truth -- always a dubious proposition when quarterbacks are at issue -- he might have been the only one. At some point, any Bills fan who hadn't drifted off to sleep had to be wondering if the coach might yank J.P. Losman and put Trent Edwards, who was suited and ready to go, into Sunday's game at Miami.

The notion certainly crossed my mind. Losman was awful for three periods. He had reverted back to the "bad J.P." we've seen too much of during his career. He was making the wrong reads, holding on to the ball too long, locking on to Lee Evans, misfiring on simple throws.

After three periods, the Bills had two points against a winless Miami team that was giving up 30 points a game. If Jauron wasn't thinking of using Edwards -- whom he anointed as the starter just a few weeks earlier -- it was further evidence that his brain has a tendency to short-circuit in big moments.

Losman rewarded him in the end. Offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild made things simple in the fourth quarter. He had Losman roll out and hit tight end Michael Gaines on the play that set up the Bills' only TD. He had Marshawn Lynch split wide on a big third down on the winning drive, and Losman hit Lynch to beat a blitz.

A year ago, it was enough for Losman to "manage" the game in Miami when the Bills won with 16 points. But this isn't last year. Miami had given up the most points in the NFL. Losman wasn't expected to simply manage the game against the Dolphins. He was supposed to pick them apart.

So if you believe there's still a chance for Losman to justify a big contract extension (and I don't), this was a step back. He is running out of time. Sunday's game was reminiscent of too many road games earlier in his career.

Now he faces a much more daunting test, Sunday night at home against the unbeaten New England Patriots.

From what I'm hearing, a lot of people are giving Losman a free pass on this game. The logic says it's not fair to judge Losman against a great Pats team that has steamrolled every obstacle in its path, making some good QBs seem ordinary along the way.

Silly me, I thought the whole point of this exercise was finding out whether Losman could succeed against the better teams, in the most challenging situations. Isn't the idea to find a quarterback who can stand up to the elite teams, who might one day give you a fighting chance against the Tom Bradys and Peyton Mannings of the world?

If it's my money, this is precisely the moment where I take a long, hard look at Losman. You don't invest $20 million in guaranteed dollars based on a QB's performance against the worst defenses in the league. You want to see it against the best teams, the toughest defenses.

I'm not saying Losman has to beat the Patriots. No one has beaten them. But he should be expected to play well.

There will be other tough games to measure him by, assuming Losman remains the starter. But you can't just write off the New England game. It's small-time thinking.

The quarterback story gets old, I know. It seems we've been chasing for the answer since Jim Kelly retired. But that's how it goes in the NFL. You keep looking until you find a guy who makes you feel confident in the biggest game of the year.

Otherwise, why even bother?


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