J.P. passes first test

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- He can say it now the kid has passed his first test, but Buffalo Bills tight end Mark Campbell admitted to having some doubt.

Many of the 71,781 celebrating the season-opening party at Ralph Wilson Stadium yesterday had to wonder, too.

For now, at least they know -- in quarterback J.P. Losman they can trust.

Making the first start of his NFL career, the 24-year-old successor to Drew Bledsoe looked poised beyond his years in leading the Bills to a 22-7 victory over the Houston Texans.

FIELD GOALS

In a near-perfect first half, Losman directed four scoring drives -- albeit all ending in field goals. He completed his first five passes and by halftime had connected with seven different receivers. By then, fans and teammates alike could heave a sigh of relief.

"It was really impressive, it really was," said Campbell, who marvelled at Losman's command in the huddle. "The way he came out in his first NFL start. Are you kidding me?

"I want to say I was surprised but I was happy for him because of all the hard work he has put in. He deserved it."

Never mind that the real strength of the Bills is a defence that humiliated the Texans yesterday.

Or that when push comes to produce, running back Willis McGahee, who rushed for 117 yards, will be at least as important as Losman.

With former Bills legend Jim Kelly looking on, in so many ways this brilliant late summer afternoon was about Losman. The former Tulane star knew it, too, admitting after the game he needed sleeping pills to calm himself.

"I was up all night, all week and the week before," Losman said. "And even this morning, I was just telling myself 'play the game you know how to play. Don't hesitate.' "

There needs to be caution in reading too much into one win over a clearly inferior foe.

But despite having missed the playoffs for the past five seasons, the Bills qualify as one of the hottest teams in the NFL.

They are 9-2 in their past 11 regular-season games, with the only losses coming against the top two teams in the AFC last season -- the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Losman completed 13 off 18 passes in the first half for 143 yards and one score. And even their lone offensive touchdown of the game gave the giddy inhabitants at the Ralph another special treat.

Facing second and goal from the one, Losman lobbed the first TD strike of his career to 328-pound tackle eligible Justin Peters, who was wide open in the end zone.

FIRST-ROUNDER

As brash as he has been since the Bills drafted him in the first round of the 2004 draft, Losman has had quite an audience to prove himself to. His teammates, fans and coaching staff all needed at least a hint that drafting him was the right move.

Yesterday, they got that and more.

"I'm really happy for him," Bills quarterback coach Sam Wyche said. "Basically how you have to grade him is did he play a winning game, a losing game or an average game. He played a winning game.

"The better word is I am really proud of him because it is difficult as a first-year starter."


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