The Buffalo Bills brought the offense -- and the fun -- back to The Ralph on Sunday.
The Bills gave a sellout crowd a little bit of everything that it wanted to see in a home-opening, 33-20 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There were two long touchdown passes -- one each to Lee Evans and Terrell Owens.
There was running back Fred Jackson doing a Thurman Thomas impersonation on a day when the great No. 34 was honored with the Bills' all-time team.
There was a defensive touchdown.
And most of all, there was offense. In the last three home games of last season, the Bills had produced six points and no touchdowns.
It looks like that painful-to-watch attack is a thing of the past, as the Bills rolled up 438 yards and 25 first downs -- more than in any home game last season.
"What are we going to run at them?" quarterback Trent Edwards asked rhetorically. "If they're going to drop into coverage, we're going to run the ball with Fred Jackson. If they're going to drop down, we're going to throw the ball up top. It gives us great balance."
"We've got some weapons," receiver Josh Reed said. "We've got some new faces around, a new guy calling the plays. He knows the personnel well, and he's utilizing it."
New coordinator Alex Van Pelt mixed plays seamlessly. The Bills called 33 passes and 35 runs.
Edwards hit 21 of 31 passes for 230 yards with two TDs, one interception and a 97.5 passer rating.
Jackson ran 28 times for 163 yards, a 5.8-yard average. Jackson had 97 rushing yards in the first half.
"We feel like we should be able to stop them with the seven guys in the front, the big boys in the front," Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris said. "We weren't able to do it. Then we tried to take a chance and use one of our eight-man fronts and they exploited that as well."
The deep throws were what the crowd of 70,318 at Ralph Wilson Stadium had been waiting for.
The first one came on the Bills' first drive, on a third-and-1 play from the Tampa 32. Edwards called an audible at the line and lofted a perfect throw down the right sideline. Evans caught it just as he crossed the goal line, in the front corner of the end zone.
"It was a called run to Fred to pick up the third-down yardage but they played a front that's not a good run look," Edwards explained. "So we checked to a pass, and the line did a great job protecting me. Lee Evans ran a pretty impressive route against a good DB -- Ronde Barber. He got pretty open. I was almost surprised how open he was when I looked at him."
The second bomb came early in the fourth quarter, with the Bills holding a 23-14 lead.
Owens had dropped a perfectly thrown, 60-yard pass from Edwards in the second quarter. This time the Bills had a first-and-10 situation from the Bucs' 43. Owens went straight down the right sideline. Bucs corner Aqib Talib had good coverage, but the ball was in a perfect spot, and Owens made a good catch in the end zone.
"We called it earlier in the game," Edwards said. "We kept running the ball, kept running the ball and finally those safeties started coming down. We made the adjustment on the sideline. We said the next time we call a run, we're going to get a play-action fake and throw it over the top. It was a great call by Alex. We had just picked up a first down and they were on their heels a little bit. They called an all-out blitz, and Terrell did the rest. You just have to throw the ball as far as you can and he can run under it."
Owens kept the ball (it was his 140th career TD catch), then went to the sidelines and flexed his arms to form T and O letters, to the delight of the crowd and teammates.
"I was waiting to see the T.O. thing that he does; I love that," Reed said.
The Bills looked like they were going to win with ease after taking a 17-0 first quarter lead.
But the Bucs came back with a 42-yard TD strike to tight end Kellen Winslow, then got a gift from the Bills just before halftime. With the Bills driving toward another score, Jackson fumbled the ball up into the air. It popped into the arms of Sabby Piscitelli at the Tampa Bay 20 and he ran 72 yards to the Buffalo 8. On the next play, Tampa QB Byron Leftwich hit Cadillac Williams on an 8-yard TD pass to cut the Bills' lead to 20-14 at intermission.
The Bills' defense did a good job stopping the run. Tampa had rushed for 173 yards last week against Dallas. Williams had gained 97 yards.
But the Bucs were held to 57 yards on 19 carries, and Williams managed just 9 on seven attempts.
"I think the big thing coming into the game was being able to stop the run," defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. "They have an athletic offensive line, they have a good scheme and they have good backs. We were able to take that away from them and put them in favorable spots for us. It could have been better in a lot of spots, but we'll take the win."
Williams made the play that forced the Bills' defensive score. He got pressure on Leftwich, which forced an overthrow that safety Donte Whitner easily caught at the Bills' 24. Whitner practically walked into the end zone for a 76-yard TD to make it 14-0.
"It was a play action, so initially I got a double-team," Williams said. "The center left me and I just bulled the guy on the outside and got on the corner of [Leftwich]. I dove to try to hit his arm and ended up hitting him in the hip when he threw the ball. He short-armed it and Donte took it back."
The Bills put good heat on Leftwich throughout the second half.
Leftwich finished with 296 passing yards, hitting 26 of 50 attempts. The Bills held the Bucs to just four conversions on 16 third-down attempts.
The Bucs did not have enough offense to keep up with the Bills.
"We got a pretty balanced attack, and we'd like to stay that way the whole rest of the year," Bills guard Eric Wood said.