The Bills came out with something to prove Sunday afternoon in Orchard Park.
Following a gut-wrenching loss to the Patriots in Week 1, the Bills were back in the comfort of home looking for somebody to take the hurt out on. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, they drew the short stick as the Bills won by a comfortable margin 33 – 20.
Just like last week, the 1st Quarter belonged to Buffalo. The defense showed early that it would not be phased by the absence of LB Paul Posluszny, as the Bills held QB Byron Leftwich to a three-and-out on the games first drive. An interesting couple of gimmick plays ensued including the Bills take on the Music City Miracle and an end around to T.O. who broke some tackles and gained yards on the run. The big play, though, came on a perfect pass by Edwards to Lee Evans who was streaking (clothed) down the sideline for a 32 yard TD catch. Bills up 7 -0 right off the bat.
Not to be outdone, the defense showed the capacity crowd at The Ralph that it could score too. On an errant pass, Donte Whitner leaped from the backfield to make an interception which he returned 76 yards for a touchdown. Bill lead 14 – 0, 6:16 left in the 1st Quarter. Early trouble continued for Leftwich as he threw another interception on the following drive, this time picked on a spectacular shoe-string catch by S Bryan Scott. That drive ended in a 31 yard kick by Rian Lindell putting Buffalo up 17 – 0 going into the 2nd Quarter.
Tampa Bay looked like they found themselves to start the quarter as strong run defense, but soft secondary coverage allowed the Buccaneers to march up-field. After a drive of 2:14 which went 77 yards on 5 plays, the Bucs were in the end-zone on a 42 yard laser to TE Kellen Winslow. Bills lead cut to 17 – 7. A fairly solid drive was produced by Buffalo with Trent looking comfortable in the pocket and Fred Jackson absolutely running men over. The drive stalled on a pair of incomplete passes as Lindell again converted from 43 yards. Bills up 20 -7.
The next few drives from each squad were fairly lack-luster until Edwards threw an utterly beautiful ball to T.O. who was flying down the right side-line. This ball was perfect … I mean I think I saw it glowing as it flew toward Owens and hit his hands in perfect stride. Then, he dropped it. No coverage, just dropped. Doh. No opportunity to bad-mouth Trent there. After the Bills punt, and a Bucs punt, the Bills were again on the move behind Fred Jackson. Every time he touched the ball he was rushing for ten-plus yards. The guy looked unstoppable. The announcers seemed surprised, Bills fans were not. Just when it looked like Buffalo was sure to punch it in for a TD Jackson lost control of the ball which flew right into the hands of a Bucs defender. S Sabby Piscitelli raced down the field all the way to the Bills ten before a fantastic effort by Roscoe Parrish brought him down. The Bucs would score again on a pass to RB to Cadillac Williams leaving Bills fans in stunned silence with the score 20 – 14 at the end of the first half.
The 3rd Quarter was one that the Bills would be happy to forget, as it was plagued by injuries and abysmal offensive efforts. The Bills lost TE Derek Schouman – Edwards favorite target of the night with 6 catches for 62 yards – with what looked like a bad knee injury. They also lost Leodis McKelvin and rookie TE Nelson. The confidence that was there at the start of the game was all but wiped out by the Jackson fumble as Trent slipped back into dink/dunk passing and Alex Van Pelt was overly cautious with play calling. Edwards, who looked comfortable in the pocket throughout the game, flew a pass over his target and had it easily picked off; happily, no score resulted.
The eerie silence and emotionless 3rd quarter was unsettling for Bills fans who thought they might be watching another one slip away. On this evening though, the Bills regained their composure. A reverse by Parrish and a couple of gutsy throws by Edwards – coupled with sure running by Baby Beast Mode – got Buffalo back on track with a 64 yard drive that ended in a field goal to open the 4th Quarter. Bills looking rejuvenated, up 23 – 14.
The Bills defense started to bring lots of pressure, and the Bucs were unable to execute on a drive of only three plays. On the next Buffalo possession, the moment we were all waiting for: T.O. out-muscles then burns his man down the sideline making a fantastic catch (I KNOW!) for a Touchdown. The crowd goes nuts, T.O. goes nuts. I’m fairly sure at this point I can see every vein in his body as he makes his signature “T” “O” with his arms to fans at The Ralph.
BLD, covering the game from Twitter, unleashed the following: GET THE POPCORN KIDS! Doesn’t that feel good? Huge pass to T.O. who CATCHES IT! And the RALPH is ELECTRIC!
The Bills light up Buffalo, up 30 – 14 with under ten minutes to play. The Bucs would follow with a long drive and a score, but T.O’s catch really put the nail in the coffin. Of course, like good Bills fans, we refused to believe the game was out of reach. Despite Tampa Bay’s admirable fourth quarter effort, the Bills defensive pressure held up in the end as Buffalo improved to 1 -1 on the final score of 33 – 20.
Fred Jackson finished the game with 163 yards on 28 carries, but no touchdowns. Edwards again, played solidly enough to win the game completing 21 of 31 for 230 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. While T.O. had the catch of the night, Shouman was the workhorse and will be missed for sure. Stay tuned to BLD for this week’s grades, game balls, and more.