The combination of Lee Evans and Terrell Owens certainly did not provide big play fireworks in Week 1 because New England's defense was committed to keeping any downfield fuses from being lit last Monday night. However, looking at what Tampa Bay's secondary surrendered through the air in Week 1 it's hard to believe Evans and Owens won't have at least a few chances at being more explosive in the passing game Sunday.
The Buccaneers defense was sliced up on more than one occasion by Tony Romo and the Dallas receiving corps in their opener en route to a 34-21 defeat. The Cowboys wideouts got behind Tampa's defensive backs three times for touchdowns of 42, 66 and 80 yards.
Now facing a receiving tandem of Evans and Owens, Bucs head coach Raheem Morris realizes little has changed in terms of the outside receivers they'll face in Week 2 compared to Week 1.
"Obviously the Bills are very talented," said Morris. "They do have that ability to go deep. They have Terrell Owens. They have Lee Evans. Those guys have the ability to stretch you. Roscoe Parrish. All those guys can run. They can get downfield."
Tampa's secondary was juggled a bit at the safety positions entering the season. With starting safety Tanard Jackson serving a league-imposed four game suspension for violation of substance abuse policy, Morris had to move Jermaine Phillips back to free safety from linebacker and third-year safety Sabby Piscitelli is a new starter at strong safety. Piscitelli was victimized on more than one of the touchdowns.
"(He) didn't have a great game, but he's ready to bounce back," said Morris. "When you're back there, you've got to have a short memory anyway. Either you had a good game or a bad game."
Entering Sunday's matchup with Buffalo, Morris realizes his defensive backfield could be a target.
"You give a team a chance to capitalize on what you put on tape the last week," he said. "You are what your tape says you are. And I know they are going to try and capitalize on that."
After facing New England's coverage, which included a lot of safety help in holding Owens and Evans to a combined five catches for 71 yards, Buffalo's top two wideouts are hoping to get a few more downfield plays Sunday.
"We know that there will be some opportunities out there and we'll try to get those if the look is right," said Evans. "We'll just have to wait and see how they try to play us. I'm sure they'll have a different game plan for us than they did for Dallas. We'll just have to wait and see what they want to do."
"The thing is we have to stretch the field and take advantage of the opportunities out there," said Owens. "Given the situation, if Trent (Edwards) is dropping back and assessing that defense and we can exploit those situations (we will)."
Bucs veteran cornerback Ronde Barber recognizes that their defensive backfield could be a target of the Bills passing game, but believes they'll have things rectified this week.
"We have some young guys on this team and some of those mistakes on those plays are very easily correctable," Barber said. "They were just flat out blown assignments, it's not as if we had matchups and we were getting beat one on one and on individual matchups. We were just blowing coverages, and that's unacceptable considering that we've been doing this stuff for five or six months now. You don't want to have it linger obviously."
The Bucs defense is no longer their trademark 'Tampa 2' scheme that was built by former head coach Tony Dungy and popularized by long time defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. They still play elements of that scheme, but with new defensive coordinator Jim Bates, Tampa's defense has altered their approach.
"They're very aggressive," said head coach Dick Jauron. "They'll show you a number of different things, a number of different pressures and get on you with close coverage teams. They do a real nice job."
"The way the Cowboys were able to take advantage of some big plays outside was getting behind those safeties," said Edwards. "They played pretty shallow and they missed a couple of Tony's (Romo) pump fakes and got beat, but for the most part, their front seven, they're a four down team with three solid linebackers. They're going to close the middle, bring some pressure and allow you to throw the ball outside."
That has Edwards encouraged knowing how much more he'd like to get Evans and Owens involved in the passing game.
"Those two guys are the biggest part of our offense," said Edwards. "And when you don't get them ball, you look on tape and try to figure out how we can get them the ball because those are the guys that are playmakers for us. They're going to put points up on the board and move the chains for us. We need to make sure we're figuring out ways to continue to try to get them the ball, but still convert on third down and put some points on the board."
"When Dallas had opportunities to make some plays going deep, they took them and made them work," said Evans. "We have to be able to do the same thing. If we get certain looks then we have to be able to take those shots. I think they'll try to scheme up some ways to try to get some pressure on Trent and confuse our young offensive line. If we can pick up everything that they want to do to us, then we'll have opportunities down the field."