You Can’t Rush Beauty, Partna

Posted on November 30, 2009 by Patrick Moran

“You can’t rush beauty, Partna.”

That was the expression uttered by Terrell Owens’ bodyguard Pablo on the premiere of the “The T.O. Show” on VH-1 this summer.   There could be a million nouns used to pinpoint T.O.’s performance the first half of his season in Buffalo, and beauty wouldn‘t be one of them.  Though the first eight games of 2009 Owens grabbed all of 23 passes, managed just 281 yards and caught exactly one touchdown pass. He was on pace for his worst season since his rookie year with San Francisco in 1996.

But a funny thing happened to his humdrum, one-and-done campaign. The T.O. turnaround is in full flight and suddenly, labeling it as beauty would be quite the understatement.  Breathtaking may be more fitting.

After showing signs of life three weeks ago with 92 receiving yards against the Titans, the T.O. show has finally become an on-field hit in Western New York.  Over the past two games, Owens has 14 catches for 293 yards and two touchdowns.  He’s had three games in a row with a reception of at least 40 yards.

By no coincidence, Owens’ resurrection coincided with Ryan Fitzpatrick taking over the offense and Perry Fewell control of the team.  Dick Jauron and Trent Edwards may have looked like they were doing nothing, but they were simply waiting for their problems to go away.

Win or lose, Fewell gave Fitzpatrick the keys to the car, and instructed him there would be no speed limit. He’s responded by hitting T.O. with 98 and 51 yard touchdowns over the past two weeks.

Owens loves Fitzpatrick’s willingness to go to him early and often, regardless of the coverage rolled his way.

“As I mentioned last week it’s experience,” Owens said after the Miami win Sunday.  “He’s not a stranger to being back there in the quarterback position. He’s recognizing defenses. He’s putting us in situations for us to win whether its run or pass. The guys up front are giving him a little bit of time to assesses that, and he’s delivering the ball.”

With the Bills nursing a three point lead late in the fourth quarter of a rivalry game against Miami, Drayton Florence picked off a Chad Henne pass with 2:31 on the clock.  On first and 10 from their own 49, most expected the Bills to run the clock out, and nobody would’ve faulted them for trying.

But not these new Bills under Fewell, and certainly not with the chemistry Fitzpatrick and T.O. have going.  Fitzpatrick changed a pass call at the line, and hit Owens in perfect stride deep for a 51-yard touchdown.

Game..  Set…  Match

“You have to tip your hat off to Ryan in that situation because he dissected and assessed the defense,” Owens said.  “They were kind of moving around a little bit and we felt like we had some opportunities that slipped early in the game.  He missed a few so we wanted to be aggressive and it was his call and it was up to us to make the play.”

The Bills still struggle offensively, regardless of who’s under center and who is roaming the sidelines.  To say the offensive line has problems blocking is about as obvious as boldly proclaiming that cats aren’t fond of mice. But there’s a clear dissimilarity already visible under this brief Fewell era.  He has full trust in his players and unlike Jauron, he isn’t playing to merely be in the game in its waning moments. He’s out for the blood of his opponents.

“I have confidence in them,” Fewell said about his offense. “ That’s why I’ve been over there in the huddle with them in practice. I look them in the eye. I believe in them.  We’re just working together right now. I think we have good skilled players on the outside and I think if we get our playmakers the ball then we have the opportunity to score points so that’s what we’re doing right now.”

Owens, now with 378 receiving yards in three weeks, thinks Fewell taking over has a lot to do with his ascension back to elite receiver status.

“He’s two weeks too late, I been wanting to be aggressive all year, “Owens joked. “That’s his coaching style and sometimes you like that in a coach, and obviously it feeds through him and throughout this team.  Guys are very excited. They like the newness of what’s going on. We like the energy he brings not only on game day but throughout the course of the weeks at practice.”

It was starting to look like these kind of games were never going to come.  Fan response to Owens has been lukewarm at best most the season. When you give a guy $6.5-million and he puts up numbers comparable to Derek Fine, that tends to happen. In his defense, despite the offensive struggles all season, he’s said and done all the right things.  Say what you want, but the man is no fool.  He’s known he’s playing for one final big payday and if he can keep this up, he’s going to get it. And if he keeps it up, the Bills fans are going to chant his name and hope he remains beyond 2009.

It’s widely assumed it won’t be in Buffalo, but not so fast.  Both Owens and Josh Reed are set to become free agents, and you’d expect the Bills to try and retain one of them.  James Hardy and Stevie Johnson are still young and haven’t gotten many opportunities, but whether it’s Fewell or a new coach, they aren’t owed anything. It will be up to who’s in charge to determine the makeup of next year’s roster, and if a coach is interested in winning sooner or later, the Bills will be players in a T.O. free agent market.

For all their troubles, the Bills do have talent on offense.  Assuming Eric Wood can come back next year and Brad Butler returns at full strength, they’re only a left tackle away from the line getting better.  Fitzpatrick may not be the long term answer, but he’s showing he can sure as hell hold down the fort for now.

And the Bills certainly don’t lack in the skilled position department.  If Owens is now the number one, then Lee Evans is among the best number twos in football.  Shawn Nelson is showing a lot of promise at tight end, and Fred Jackson looks like a Pro Bowler when he actually gets the opportunity to play regularly.

The probability of Owens being back next year is slim.  A few weeks ago he looked washed up.  Now he may be the most attractive free agent in next winter’s market.  San Diego seems like a natural fit. Baltimore is always looking for a receiver. A team like Cleveland may throw far more money at him, such as Buffalo did this summer.  So if the Bills want him back, there’s definitely going to be competition.

But regardless of what happens next year, its finally time to enjoy the rest of T.O. and 2009.  At the end of the day, the Bills are getting their money worth, as are the fans who invested in Owens merchandise.

It’s already been announced they’ll be a season two of “The T.O. Show” on VH-1.  Maybe, just maybe there may be an encore in store for Buffalo as well.

“It’s been a little more lively around here.” Owens said.

Who would’ve thought?

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