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Running game takes a step in the wrong direction <br> Bucs' defense holds McGahee to 34 yards

Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide.

That's the way it went for Buffalo Bills running back Willis McGahee on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Everywhere McGahee ran, a Buccaneers defender -- sometimes two or three of them -- was there to make the tackle.

McGahee was never a factor, finishing with just 34 yards on 13 carries during the Bills' 19-3 loss. Take away a 14-yard run late in the first half, and his total looks even worse.

McGahee, who gained 117 yards in the Bills' season-opening win over Houston, had little to say about his performance. He gave all the credit to the Buccaneers' defense.

"They're good," he said. "It's not like they're sorry. They've got veterans on their team. They know what to do and they know how to play football."

The Bills believe in the ball-control philosophy. It worked like a charm a week ago, but not Sunday. The Buccaneers knew the Bills wanted to establish a running game early and made that the focal point of their defensive game plan.

"We wanted to stop Willis McGahee," said Derrick Brooks, the Buccaneers' All-Pro linebacker. "If he's able to run the football, then that takes a lot of pressure off a young quarterback."

With McGahee shut down, the Buccaneers came after quarterback J.P. Losman, and he had a difficult time making anything happen in the passing game.

McGahee didn't have much room to run, but coach Mike Mularkey said that wasn't totally the fault of the offensive line. Mularkey was critical of McGahee's indecisiveness when he got the ball.

"There were holes there, too, at times because we get pictures," Mularkey said. "We need to do a better job of hitting it up in there. Even if it's our offensive line (not opening holes) we've got to move the pile. We've got to do it or it's going to happen again. You cannot go sideways against a fast defense. You're asking for trouble."

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The only time backup middle linebacker Angelo Crowell usually sees the field on Sundays is when he plays special teams. That changed Sunday as he got his most extensive time with the starting defense after replacing an injured London Fletcher. Fletcher suffered a strained right hamstring late in the first half, and Mularkey elected to sit him the rest of the game as a precaution.

Crowell finished with six tackles (four solo) but was less than enthused about his performance.

"It felt pretty good for my first real playing time in the regular season," he said. "But I wished I could have played better. I wasn't satisfied at all with my performance. I'll go back to the drawing board on Monday and try to get better."

Fletcher, who was a constant voice in Crowell's ear on the sideline, thought Crowell did a good job under difficult circumstances.

"I thought Angelo did well considering he was thrown in there with no notice," Fletcher said. "The one thing about being a backup is you have to prepare like you're about to play. He does a great job of preparing, and (linebackers coach) Don Blackmon does a great job of preparing the backups like starters."

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Right tackle Mike Williams got a scare when his left leg was rolled up in a pile of players in the third quarter. The team said Williams suffered an ankle injury, though he didn't walk with a noticeable limp in the locker room after the game.

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The Bills wore their throwback jerseys again Sunday. They broke out the uniforms in the season opener last week and decided to wear them again after receiving a lot of positive feedback from fans.

"We had so much positive reaction from our fans from letters, e-mails, phone calls that we decided to wear them," said Bills President and General Manager Tom Donahoe. "Mike (Mularkey) said, 'Would it be OK if we wear them again this week?' We decided on Wednesday or Thursday to wear them. We notified the league on Saturday. We didn't hear back from them."

The NFL allows teams to wear alternate jerseys only twice during the season. But Donahoe didn't rule out the possibility of petitioning the league to wear them again.

The blue jersey and white helmet with a standing red buffalo are replicas of what the team wore during its 1965 AFL championship season.

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This was the eighth meeting between the Bills and Buccaneers, with all the games played down south. Tampa Bay leads the series, 6-2, and has won six of the last seven meetings. The Buccaneers will make their first appearance in Ralph Wilson Stadium in 2009. . . . The Bills' inactives were receivers Roscoe Parrish and George Wilson, running back Lionel Gates, free safety Jim Leonhard, lineman Justin Geisinger, tight end Tim Euhus and defensive tackle Lauvale Sape.

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

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