The Buffalo Bills may have saved their season last week with an inspired team performance.
However, they still have to prove they can win on the road as they visit the San Diego Chargers.
The Bills had backups J.P. Losman, Rashad Baker and Angelo Crowell make large contributions in their 14-3 win over the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday to remain one game behind the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the AFC East.
Losman, benched by coach Mike Mularkey before Week 5, completed 9 of 16 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns in place of injured starter Kelly Holcomb, who suffered a severe concussion in the second quarter.
“I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder. I love that anger,” Losman said. “Call it cocky, arrogant, whatever you want to call it. That’s me and that’s just the way it is. … And I’m not going to lose that from here on out.”
Holcomb missed his third straight practice Friday, giving Losman the starting nod for this game. Mularkey said he expected Holcomb to be medically cleared for Sunday, but wasn’t sure if he would serve as Losman’s backup or be relegated to No. 3 status.
“To be on the safe side, we’d probably look at him being No. 3 as we speak,” Mularkey said.
Additionally, Losman is a native of Venice, Calif., and estimates about 450 friends and family members will attend Sunday’s game.
“Of course it’s a storybook. I would love to go and perform in front of the family members and for our team to get a victory,” he said. “But I just can’t let it be a distraction. … I have a business task at hand to accomplish.”
Baker had two passes defended and an interception subbing for injured safety Troy Vincent while Crowell, who has started since linebacker Takeo Spikes went down with a season-ending Achilles’ injury in Week 3, had nine tackles, an interception and a sack.
“Everybody gets paid,” Crowell said. “When your number is called, you go in there and do your job.”
The strong defensive performance should provide confidence to a unit that has been miserable on the road. The Bills defense has allowed 97 points while going 0-4 away from home. They have forced just three turnovers and recorded seven sacks in those games.
At home, the Bills have forced 19 turnovers and recorded 18 sacks in five games.
“We’ve been dealing with some things with our defense lately and this right here shows us what we’re capable of,” linebacker Jeff Posey said. “With a win like this, we’ve got something to build off of.”
The Chargers are coming off their bye week optimistic that they can rediscover the 2004 form that led them to 12 wins and an AFC West title. The late goal-line stand that preserved a 31-26 victory in Week 9 over the New York Jets was a needed morale boost for a team that has blown fourth-quarter leads in three of its four defeats.
“You start winning those games, the close games, at the end,” Chargers quarterback Drew Brees said. “Those are the type of things that you just need to expect to happen every time you step on the field, and when you have those thoughts and the belief it’s going to happen; I tell you what, it happens.”
Brees is partially to blame for the Chargers being two games behind the Denver Broncos in the AFC West. He has thrown eight interceptions, one more than he had all of last year, and San Diego has a turnover ratio of minus-3.
“To still be in the position we are in, we should consider ourselves pretty lucky,” Brees said. “But obviously that needs to get a lot better when we look at the second half of the season, with some challenging road trips and some big games at home.”
Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson looks to continue his stellar season. He leads the NFL with 1,099 total yards and 15 touchdowns, including three last week against the Jets. Tomlinson rushed for 107 yards against New York, and is looking for just his second back-to-back 100-yard performances of the season.
The Bills haven’t been nearly as effective on the ground of late. Willis McGahee hasn’t rushed for a touchdown in three straight games, and managed just 66 yards last Sunday.