T.O. show officially on

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Before he brought them to their feet in a frenzy yesterday, Terrell Owens had tested the patience of the sellout crowd of Bills fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

They booed him for missing a bomb from Buffalo quarterback Trent Edwards, a precision toss square in Owens' hands that, if caught, likely would have resulted in a touchdown.

And they booed Edwards when he went through cautious, extended periods of ignoring Owens and fellow deep threat, Lee Evans.

Little did the doubters recognize, however, that the mere threat of Owens is enough to make the once limp Bills offence one to be feared.

The celebrated off-season acquisition scored a fourth-quarter touchdown to statistically validate his presence in a rousing 33-20 win over the Tampa Bay Bucs before 70,318 at the Ralph.

The Bills were led by running back Fred Jackson and his career-high 163 rushing yards. But without Owens and Evans lurking dangerously on the outside, not nearly as many yards would have been available for such easy carving.

"If we can't run the ball (with Evans and Owens on the minds of the defence) we're not going to win many games," Bills offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said.

Jackson, who initially was looked at as a stop-gap until lead back Marshawn Lynch returns from a suspension in Week 4, was the first to agree that the way defences are playing Owens and Evans creates gaping opportunities in the middle of the field.

"Any team that's got two weapons like that on the outside, it's going to open up everything," Jackson said. "You have to account for those guys all the time."

Owens had just three receptions for a modest 52 yards, the crowd-pleaser being a 43-yard touchdown catch to give the Bills a 30-14 lead with 9:16 remaining.

He celebrated the 140th TD of his career by jumping into the arms of teammates while fans in the end zone showered him with popcorn.

What did T.O. think of his first real game in Buffalo and his first touchdown as a Bill?

You'll have to guess, since T.O. bolted from the dressing room following up on the silent treatment he gave after the opening-week loss to New England.

That act of petulance suggests trouble could be lurking any Sunday, but the Bills knew what they were getting into when they signed the flamboyant superstar in the off-season.

His mild calling-out of Edwards earlier this week was the first sign of trouble but tame by Owens outbursts in the past.

LONGER ATTEMPTS

While most of Edwards' 21 completions (on 31 attempts) were short efforts up the middle, there were more attempts to stretch the field than in Week 1.

Evans had just one reception, but it was a 32-yard touchdown catch, his first score in nearly 11 months, as the Bills snapped a five-game home losing streak.

"We want to get the ball in their hands as much as possible," Van Pelt said of his two superstar threats. "Sometimes, it's only going to be two or three times a game but sometimes that's going to be enough."

The Bills jumped out to a 17-0 first quarter lead, thanks in part to some sloppy play by Tampa Bay quarterback Byron Leftwich, who threw two interceptions leading directly to 10 Bills points.

Seven of those came on an electrifying 75-yard interception return by safety Donte Whitner.

The Bucs narrowed the lead to 20-14 by halftime but never got any closer as the Bills moved to 1-1, a nice recovery from the wrenching Monday night loss to the Patriots.

"I listen to the radio and I know everyone was concerned about the Monday night hangover," Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. "But we have a really passionate, fiery group of guys."

ROB.LONGLEY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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