ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Donte Whitner returned an interception 76 yards for a touchdown and Terrell Owens — after being negated most of the game — scored on a 43-yard catch in his home debut to cap a 33-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Whitner also made a key stop on fourth down less than a week after he was left crying in frustration after the Bills squandered an 11-point lead in a 25-24 season-opening loss at New England.
Buffalo (1-1) ended a five-game home losing streak. The Buccaneers (0-2) have lost six straight and continue to struggle on defense after allowing 438 yards.
Tampa Bay's once-respected defense has now allowed 332 yards or more in each of its past seven games. It's given up 400-plus yards in each of its two games this season following a 34-21 loss to Dallas last weekend. The defensive backfield continues to be susceptible to the deep pass.
Before Owens' touchdown, Lee Evans opened the scoring with a 32-yard touchdown reception. Tampa Bay allowed three touchdowns of 40 yards or more against Dallas.
So much for Bills quarterback Trent Edwards' inability to go deep. After being labeled "Captain Checkdown" for most of the preseason, and questioned by Owens this past week for overlooking a few opportunities to go long against New England, Edwards responded.
He finished 21 of 31 for 230 yards with two scores and an interception.
Edwards hit Evans in stride just inside the right pylon — and ahead of Ronde Barber — five plays into the Bills' opening drive. The touchdown to T.O. came on a similar play, with Owens going up to get the ball just ahead of cornerback Aqib Talib.
Owens celebrated his first touchdown with Buffalo — and the 140th of his 14-year career — by jumping into the arms of several teammates in the end zone. Some fans in the sold-out stadium celebrated by tossing up popcorn in tribute of T.O.'s famous saying: "Getcha popcorn ready."
Byron Leftwich finished 26 of 49 for 296 yards and three touchdowns, but threw two costly interceptions. Carnell Williams, Kellen Winslow and Jeramy Stevens each scored touchdowns after the Bucs fell behind 17-0 in the first quarter.
Whitner played a big role in that by stopping the Bucs on their second possession. After Leftwich marched Tampa Bay 55 yards, Leftwich dropped back to pass and his arm was in motion when he was hit on the leg by defensive tackle Kyle Williams.
The pass sailed over Williams and into the arms of Whitner, who danced up the right sideline untouched. Whitner also stopped Derrick Ward for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-1 early in the third quarter after the Bucs had cut Buffalo's lead to 20-14.
With the Bills up 20-7 and threatening to score late in the first half, the game's momentum suddenly turned in Tampa Bay's favor. Fred Jackson was running inside the Bucs' 20 when he lost control of ball after taking a hard hit from Barber.
The ball flew up and directly into the hands of safety Sabby Piscitelli, who returned it 72 yards up the sideline before being caught from behind by Roscoe Parrish. Leftwich capitalized on the next play by hitting Carnell Williams for an 8-yard touchdown pass.