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Terrell Owens Is The Cancer Of The NFL.

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In the final analysis, the only numbers that mattered for the Buffalo Bills here yesterday were the ones on the scoreboard that read: Saints 27, Bills 7.

That the Bills now have one win and two losses in their 2009 NFL season are other numerically significant facts.

But on any given day at any given time, there is a subtext at play in Bill-dom this season. His name is Terrell Owens and he had a number next to his name that is both laden with meaning and as hollow as they come. Zero. Zip. That's how many catches he had, precisely none. For the first time in 186 games.

The Bills' big off-season free-agent signing was targeted five times by quarterback Trent Edwards, channelling offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt's game plan, but for one reason or another wound up shut out. The last time T.O. went oh-fer was Oct. 14, 1996.

He was visibly unhappy afterward and said repeatedly, in various monotonic variations of the same idea: "We just run the plays that are called." And: "Whether I like them or don't, we're going with the plays that are called."

Owens on one side was supposed to counterbalance talented fellow receiver Lee Evans on the other side but Evans managed just four receptions for a total of 31 yards.

"The philosophy was good," said Evans. "The execution wasn't."

Van Pelt wasn't so sure. "I didn't do a good job upstairs (where he sits during the game). When the opposition closes down the middle, obviously we have to find a way to get the ball in the hands of Terrell and Lee."

Owens, whose lone TD this season came in Buffalo's win over Tampa last week, was dressed, spoke to the media, then was one of the first players gone from Ralph Wilson Stadium. The week before he left without saying anything. He seems sulky and far from the flamboyant image he likes to cultivate. Clearly if he were catching big passes, the Bills might be winning more and everyone, not just Owens, would be happy.

Is he, or are they, building toward a blow-up? Is Owens, known for dining on the remains of his quarterbacks, getting hungry?

"No, I don't want to answer that," he said when asked about Edwards' decision making. "I don't want to answer that because whatever I say you guys are going to turn it to however you want to say it."

The Saints started the game like they'd never missed a beat from their first two games, in which they hammered Detroit and Philadelphia. They scored six touchdowns in each of those wins, setting a pace that would be hard to maintain.

But it looked like they would be unstoppable as the Bills won the opening coin flip, opted to give Drew Brees the ball and he led New Orleans on a 10-play, 82-yard scoring drive and a 7-0 lead before many of the sellout crowd of 70,261 had finished their final tailgate refreshments.

The Bills replied early in the second quarter with a TD on a fake field goal, holder Brian Moorman hitting defensive end Ryan Denney with a 25-yard reception.

The Bills defence pressured Brees repeatedly and he coughed the ball up when sacked by Aaron Schobel. Not that the Bills were error free. Edwards threw an interception and punt returner Roscoe Parrish turned the ball over, which led directly to a field goal that gave the Saints a 10-7 lead late in the first half. So much for the anticipated fireworks.

It was a pair of long runs by Pierre Thomas that resulted in two Saints TDs in the final quarter that padded the lead out to 27-7 (another field goal was thrown in) – a reminder that New Orleans' offence is multi-dimensional.

On the other side of the ball, the Saints kept the Bills receivers in check and, once again, Buffalo's attacking load was carried by Fred Jackson, who ran for 126 yards. He'll get some help this weekend at Miami as Marshawn Lynch comes off his three-game suspension.

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