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Steelers

View from Buffalo: Losman needs to accept blame

| Monday, Sept. 17, 2007

Look on the bright side. Between now and Sunday, the NFL might impose further discipline on Bill Belichick for sign-stealing and make the Patriots play defense against the Bills with one hand tied behind their backs.

Of course, even that might not be enough for the passing attack and quarterback J.P. Losman, who has started the season with two straight horrible games and resurrected serious questions about his long-term viability as the franchise QB.

Losman was bad again in the Bills' unsightly, 26-3 loss to the Steelers on Sunday. He was unsure and inaccurate. Many of his throws sailed high, forcing his receivers to leave their feet. Losman was 15 for 25 for 154 yards, but 59 of those yards came on the final, garbage-time drive.

It was sadly reminiscent of Losman's ill-fated road debut two years ago. When the Bills fell behind, 19-3, did anyone out there holler, "That was the final score at Tampa Bay in Week Two of '05!'

This doesn't feel like progress. And as hard as it is to believe, Losman's performance in the postgame interview room was even worse. To summarize, he questioned the play-calling and refused to take any personal responsibility for the two losses. Losman actually said he's not disappointed with his throwing so far.

"No, I'm not," said Losman, who has thrown for 251 yards and zero TDs this season. "I think we are throwing the ball effectively, when we get those plays called. Certain things are hindering us, like penalties and some protection issues. But we'll get those corrected. We understand we are 0-2 at this point. We understand the offense has gotten off to a slow start. We also understand we've played two great defenses so far."

Losman reached into the goody grab bag of excuses and pulled out penalties. pass protection and great defenses. Oh, and coaching. By "those plays," he was referring to aggressive pass plays down the field. He feels Steve Fairchild, his offensive coordinator, has been too conservative. Losman, borrowing a page from the Eric Moulds/Andre Reed handbook, pointed the finger directly at the play-calling.

"Everybody, speaking from the offense, we're ready to open it up," Losman said. "We're ready to just let it go, let it hang. We don't want to sit back on our heels. I know the coaches don't and the players don't. Let's see if we can get that done this week."

He does have a point. The play-calling hasn't been very inspiring. Fairchild didn't test Denver's two-deep zone down the middle in the opener. He hasn't gotten the tight ends or Marshawn Lynch very involved in the passing game. He should design more plays to roll Losman out and allow him to be a playmaker.

But it would help if Losman took his share of the blame. He's supposed to be the leader. Maybe he was speaking for the rest of the offense. But he has to be careful. He's not Jim Kelly. He doesn't have that kind of stature yet. When he throws the coordinator under the bus, it looks like he's ducking blame.

It's not "we" sailing throws. Just once, Losman should come out and say, "It's on me, guys. I stunk today. I need to be better."

He does need to be better -- a lot better -- if he expects the Bills to pony up a staggering contract extension after the season. He's not off to an encouraging start. The Bills pumped $75 million into the offensive line and drafted a running back. They have a right to expect more from the QB.

"We have to be able to attack," Losman said. "We can't sit back. We can't run, run, pass, every time." For the record, the Bills called run-run-pass on exactly one series of downs yesterday.

Losman talks about letting it hang out. He makes it sound easy. This isn't 1970, when teams threw the long bomb on a regular basis. Losman hit enough long throws to Lee Evans last year to puff up his rating. He needs to take the next step, to master the short and intermediate throws that separate the gunslingers from the elite QBs.

Maybe it's time to turn Losman loose and let him sink or swim. But I don't think the coaches trust him enough. He's not making enough accurate throws and quick decisions to win them over fully. Losman still has time, but his time is growing short. He can't afford many more games like this if he expects a massive contract extension.

Coach Dick Jauron said he still believes in Losman. But his faith is being tested. Jauron said they "clearly" have a top running back in Lynch. He said it "clearly" wasn't a matter of pass protection. Well, if it's not the running back or the O-line, who is it?

Losman came on strong last year, but he seems to be regressing. In the aftermath of the Kevin Everett injury, he had a chance to assert himself as a clutch player and emotional leader. He failed miserably. We could be one week from a full-blown crisis.

If Losman and the offense fall flat again in New England, the cries for Trent Edwards will intensify. The Bills drafted Edwards for a reason. They're high on the new guy. If the offense continues to sputter, they'll throw Edwards in there for a spark. Jauron was asked how many of these clunkers it would take.

"I'm certainly not going to put a number on it at this point," Jauron said.

The coach didn't rule it out, either. Sometime soon, Losman needs to give his coaches a sign. The way things are going, the Pats will steal it.

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