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Bills, Bucs rumble into waiting game Stingy defensive teams put premium on patience

Patience will be tested today when the Buffalo Bills meet the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Two defenses stingy about giving up yards and points butt heads at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa yielded the ninth-fewest points in the NFL last year; Buffalo allowed the eighth fewest. Both teams forced five turnovers and gave up just one touchdown in their season openers last week.

So it will be up to each offense to protect the ball and wait for the right opportunity to make a downfield attack.

"I'm anticipating some great defense being played on Sunday by both teams," said Bills linebacker London Fletcher. "Tampa Bay has consistently been in the upper echelon of defenses year in and year out. We're trying to establish that type of defense around here."

"It's probably going to be a game of field position," said Bills quarterback coach Sam Wyche. "Hopefully, we can maintain that and get enough scores."

Bills quarterback J.P. Losman passed his first test last week. His first road start is a more difficult challenge.

"That will be an interesting story after the ballgame to see if he was patient," Wyche said. "They're gang-tackling, everybody around the ball. So you have to protect the ball and make sure you don't de
cide you're going to force one in there. Just keep taking what they give you."

Tampa usually alternates two-deep coverage in the secondary with a variety of cornerback and linebacker blitzes. Quarterbacks who hold the ball too long tend to get sacked. Those who get greedy downfield tend to get intercepted. Two-thirds of the Bucs' 45 sacks last season came at home.

"We know where we want to attack, and if they're a couple yards over (from where they're supposed to be) we're going to take it," Losman said. "If not, I have to dump it down to Willis (McGahee) or Shaud (Williams), and they're going to have to make someone miss to get the first down."

A strong running game would help Losman immensely. Tampa ranked only 19th against the run last year and is counting on Minnesota castoff Chris Hovan to help fortify the defensive line. Last week, the Vikings never tested the Tampa ground defense because they made turnovers on their first three possessions.

Tampa's offense also must be patient because the Bills' zone-blitzing scheme forces quarterbacks to dump off to underneath receivers. The Tampa offensive line includes first-year starters at left tackle (Anthony Davis) and left guard (Dan Buenning) and a new right guard (Sean Mahan), starting only his second game at that position.

The Bucs, however, have a veteran quarterback who knows patience in 30-year-old Brian Griese. In 10 starts for the Bucs last year, he completed 69 percent of his passes with 20 TDs and 12 interceptions.

"(Coach Jon) Gruden trusts the veteran guy who knows the game plan and who can see what the defense is giving him and takes it," said Bills cornerback Troy Vincent. "If they just want the 3 yards, they'll take the 3 yards, no more, no less."

Every team uses shifting and motion. Gruden's offense does it more than any in the league. The Bucs will set up in one alignment (frequently using a bunch formation of receivers on one side), shift to another and then motion before the snap. It's all designed to get the defense on its heels for an instant.

"They do it all the time," Vincent said. "It can cause confusion. You want to simplify what you're doing defensively. You don't want to be checking to every look. Fortunately for myself, I was with Jon. He was our offensive coordinator when I first came to Philly. It was the same offense. When I was in Philly we played him every year when he was in Oakland and in Tampa. I've seen that system."

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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