Big plays carried the day for the Bills on offense and defense in their home opener against Tampa Sunday. It helped to put Buffalo in the driver's seat early as they were up 17-0. Tampa staged a comeback effort, but the Bills ultimately closed things out midway through the fourth quarter when Trent Edwards provided the team's last big play, a 43-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Owens in a 33-20 victory.
"We kept running the ball and finally those safeties started coming down, and we got a play action fake and threw it over the top," said Trent Edwards. "It was just a first sound cadence and we caught them in an all out blitz and Terrell did the rest. You just throw the ball as far as you can and Terrell will run under it."
It had been a long day of limited work for Owens, who prior to the touchdown reception had two catches for nine yards and an end around for 13. But Owens kept his head in the game.
"He was still focused," said Lee Evans of Owens. "We knew there would be opportunities out there. By the way that we planned this it was just a matter of time really. We took some (chances) and we made them when they counted."
The Bills offense got off to a great start and with a helper touchdown from the defense, on a 76-yard interception return by Donte Whitner, giving Buffalo a 17-point lead by the time first quarter wound down (17-0). Edwards also got the ball downfield on a 32-yard touchdown reception by Lee Evans on a 3rd-and-1 play in which he called an audible.
"That was a third and short play that we worked on all week and it was a called run to Fred to just pick up the first down yardage, but they played a front that wasn't a good run look. So we checked to a certain pass and the line did a good job protecting me and Lee Evans ran a pretty impressive route against a good corner in Ronde Barber and he got pretty open."
But with just three points over the next two quarters of play, the Bills lead shrunk to 20-14 before an early fourth quarter drive enabled Buffalo to put a 27-yard Rian Lindell field goal on the board with 11:27 to play (23-14).
With Buffalo's offense trying to recapture its rhythm, the Bills defense was solid after the Bucs second touchdown off a Bills turnover, forcing three punts and a turnover on downs on four straight second half possessions.
Tampa Bay eventually put a touchdown on the board with 5:27 remaining on a 4th-and-goal from the six. With Buffalo blitzing, Byron Leftwich was able to loft a rainbow pass to tight end Jerramy Stevens to pull the Bucs to within 10 (30-20). Their two-point conversion attempt failed when Bryan Scott batted down the pass.
Lindell kicked his fourth field goal of the day late in the fourth for the final points for Buffalo. Finishing off the win after getting the two-score lead was what was most important to the men in the Bills locker room.
"We were up in last week's game in the same situation and we found a way to win this week," said Trent Edwards. "Guys buckled down. I think we learned our lesson from last week. And it's a valuable lesson that we're going to need to carry with us for the rest of the season. The game is never over until it reads double zero on the clock. We need to finish games and that's what we did."
Though Owens provided the points to close out the victory, Fred Jackson was the offensive MVP. Despite a lost fumble, Jackson finished with 163 yards on 28 carries. He also had six catches for 25 yards.
"I don't know how you describe Freddy," said head coach Dick Jauron. "He can do just about anything. He's a terrific athlete. He can return the ball, he catches the ball extremely well, runs hard, a slasher in there, very tough to get to the ground as you saw. Just a terrific football player."
Jackson when asked to comment on his second straight week of big time production deflected credit.
"I think Alex (Van Pelt) did a great job with his play calling," said Jackson. "The guys up front did a great job blocking as well as the receivers doing a good job blocking downfield. They made some plays too and that's going to help us in the running game when you've got two guys on the outside like that."
Trent Edwards got the ball downfield hooking up with Owens and Evans for scores. The Bills signal caller finished 21-31 for 230, two touchdowns and an interception.
The Bills offense didn't start the game with the ball, but they got things off to a bang early. After Buffalo's defense forced a three-and-out to start the game the Bills attack got to work. Handed great field by Buffalo's special teams at the Bills 46, Terrell Owens to an end around 13 yards fighting through would-be tacklers for a first down.
After two straight carries by Fred Jackson set up a 3rd-and-1 at the Bucs' 32, Trent Edwards got single coverage outside with Lee Evans and let it fly connecting with the speedy wideout for a 32-yard touchdown reception.
For Evans the play was almost a relief after a preseason of offensive frustration and a Week 1 outing that kept his production to a minimum.
"It comes down to opportunities," said Evans. "Trent wasn't afraid to take chances when we got opportunities. That's kind of the game. You figure out how defenses want to play you and you try to counter what they're doing. That's the chess game. We did a good job of not just making plays, but making plays when they counted."
Buffalo's defense followed the Evans score with their second touchdown in as many games. On a 1st-and-10 at their own 25, Kyle Williams got pressure on Byron Leftwich, who overthrew Cadillac Williams. The ball was intercepted by Whitner who took it 76 yards the other way for a 14-0 Bills lead midway through the first quarter.
"We were in three deep coverage, saw the quarterback, he had some pressure on him, he wanted to get the ball out quick to the back and I just wanted to make a jump on the football," said Whitner. "I saw the ball, caught and it felt good. That right there is team defense. The guys get pressure up front and we make plays in the back."
Before the quarter was out the Bills would add three more points via a turnover. Bryan Scott made a shoestring interception on a Leftwich pass that deflected off of receiver Sammie Stroughter and returned it into Tampa territory. Six plays later Rian Lindell put a 31-yard attempt through to expand Buffalo's lead to 17-0.
Tampa Bay finally answered early in the second quarter when Byron Leftwich fired a bullet deep over the middle to Kellen Winslow for a 42-yard score (17-7) early in the second quarter.
Buffalo's offense responded with a field goal drive of their own marching 48 yards to a 43-yard Lindell field goal to push their lead up to 13 (20-7). But the Bucs closed to within six before the half was over.
With under a minute to go in the half, Fred Jackson lost the football on a 2nd-and-10 carry at the Tampa 14-yard line that was recovered in mid-air by Bucs safety Sabby Piscitelli. The fleet-footed Piscitelli returned the fumble 72 yards before Roscoe Parrish caught him from behind at the Bills eight-yard line.
Leftwich however, would throw an eight-yard touchdown pass on the next play to Cadillac Williams to make it 20-14 at the half. But it's as close as Tampa would get the rest of the game.
The Bills leveled their record at 1-1 with the victory. They host the high-octane offense of the New Orleans Saints in Week 3.