Brady, TO take spotlight in marquee opener

Sep 13, 2009 - 4:02 AM By HOWARD ULMAN AP Sports Writer

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.(AP) -- If Terrell Owens brings a camera to his debut with the Bills, here's what it probably would record:

A loud Monday night crowd pumped up by the return of Tom Brady. A Patriots defense smashing through a very young offensive line. And New England's 12th straight win over Buffalo.

Owens joked last Wednesday about the NFL's punishment of the Patriots in 2007 for using a sideline video camera to spy on New York Jets coaches in that opener.

"I might bring my spy camera," he said when asked if he had prepared something special.

Not even Owens' pass catching or trash talking are likely to make a difference when a team that went 11-5 without Brady faces one that lost eight of its last 10 games in 2008 and fired its offensive coordinator 10 days before this year's opener.

Brady will bring something more important: a left knee that handled the pounding and sacking during exhibition games. Brady shook off the rust this summer after torn ligaments ended his 2008 season in the first game.

He'll also bring a knee brace that he's grown comfortable with, and extra motivation after he missed the Patriots' first non-playoff season in six years.

"He's been chomping at the bit for a really long time," center Dan Koppen said. "He's one guy you don't have to worry about being ready to play or bringing his competitiveness."

Owens also is eager for a strong start in the Monday night spotlight.

"My mom says it best: `When the lights come on, then I'm ready to shine,' " he said.

In Brady's last healthy game, the Patriots lost a chance for a 19-0 season when they New York Giants won the Super Bowl on a last-minute touchdown. That season, Brady threw an NFL record 50 touchdown passes and was the league's MVP.

Now he's back and the Patriots are widely viewed as a top Super Bowl contender.

"I feel great about where we're at as a team," Brady said. "There's just an excitement for a new season and to see what kind of team we have and to see what kind of mental toughness we have and what kind of character we have."

The Patriots' starting offense returns almost intact, with the addition of Brady. Randy Moss and Wes Welker are back at wide receiver. Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and Laurence Maroney are joined by Fred Taylor at running back.

"We've got New England and Tom Brady is back, so everyone will be watching that game to see what he can do," Bills running back Fred Jackson said. "What better place for us to go out and make a statement for ourselves?"

The Patriots' starting offensive line is the same for the fifth straight season.

"There's always a lot of pressure on us to protect Tom," left guard Logan Mankins said, "If you can't protect your quarterback, you're not going to win."

Don't remind the Bills.

Three of their five starting offensive linemen will play their first NFL game. They must protect quarterback Trent Edwards in the team's new no-huddle offense and block for Jackson while Marshawn Lynch serves a three-game NFL-imposed suspension.

"It's not going to be easy, there's no doubt about that," Buffalo coach Dick Jauron said, "so there's a lot of worry."

They won't have to block three members of all three Patriots championships. Linebacker Tedy Bruschi retired and defensive end Richard Seymour and linebacker Mike Vrabel were traded. But the Patriots still have good depth in their front seven, led by 2008 Defensive Rookie of the Year Jerod Mayo at inside linebacker.

Jarvis Green, a backup for most of his seven seasons, replaces Seymour at defensive end.

"He's a versatile player that's played inside, played outside in our three-man line and also in our four-man line," coach Bill Belichick said.

The secondary, with veteran cornerbacks Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs added, will face the strongest part of Buffalo's offense, wide receivers Owens and Lee Evans. Owens returned to practice this week and wasn't listed on the injury report after missing the last four exhibition games with a toe injury.

"I've been given an opportunity by the Buffalo Bills to come in and try to create some energy, a buzz, and so far I've done that," said Owens, released by Dallas in March. "The other part of that is going out there and producing on the football field and I plan to do that."

The change in offensive coordinators from Turk Schonert to Alex Van Pelt is likely to produce more deep passes. And the no-huddle can tire defenders.

The Bills will need more than that.

The last time they beat the Patriots was in the 2003 opener, 31-0. But New England was reeling from the release of safety Lawyer Milloy and his signing with Buffalo in time for that game.

"One win at New England on Monday night would change everything, everybody's perception," Buffalo safety Donte Whitner said.

The Bills went 7-9 for the third straight season in 2008, finishing with a 13-0 loss to the Patriots.

In Brady's 14 games against Buffalo, 13 of them wins, he's thrown for 30 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and an average of 230 yards. And during the current 11-game winning streak, the Patriots outscored the Bills by an average of 29.1 to 8.7.

"I live in the present," Owens said.

That might not offer much hope either.

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