TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrated the start of a "new" season Sunday, while the Buffalo Bills reflected on yet another agonizing loss.
Victory literally slipped through the Bills' fingers when Jim Kelly's fourth-down pass sailed through Robb Riddick's hands in the end zone with no time left and the Buccaneers clinging to a 34-28 lead.
Earlier, Tampa Bay used fumble recoveries on two first-half kickoffs to score one touchdown and set up another en route to a 20-0 halftime lead.
"We came back, but not far enough," said Buffalo Coach Hank Bullough, who watched Kelly throw three touchdown passes in the second half.
"It would have been nice to get it in," Bullough added of the pass intended for Riddick, who was wearing a cast to protect a fractured wrist. "It was up high on him which was tough to catch with a cast."
Riddick, who wasn't the primary receiver on the play from the three-yard line, offered no excuses.
"We're all human. We all go out and make mistakes," he said.
Tampa Bay Coach Leeman Bennett had declared Sunday the start of a new season for the Buccaneers, who stopped a five-losing streak and improved to 2-7. Buffalo is also 2-7.
"We faced a lot of adversity today and we overcame it," Bennett said. "It was good to get the new season under way and to be 1-0 in the second half. That's the way I look at it."
Rookie Pat Franklin recovered Ron Pitts' fumble on a kickoff return for a touchdown, and Rod Jones pounced on another fumbled kickoff to set up a second-quarter touchdown for Tampa Bay.
Both recoveries came after Donald Igwebuike field goals.
Kelly, whose nine-yard scoring pass to Jerry Butler cut Tampa Bay's lead to 34-28 with 3:20 left, finished with 28 completions in 39 attempts for 343 yards.
Kelly also threw touchdown passes of 1 and 44 yards to Pete Metzelaars in the third quarter.
The loss was Buffalo's 21st in a row on the road, two short of the NFL record set by the Houston Oilers between 1981 and 1984. Tampa Bay, which stopped a 19-game road losing streak of its own in September, won at home for the first time since Nov. 24, 1985.
Tampa Bay quarterback Steve Young completed 14 of 24 passes for 193 yards and ran for 2 touchdowns.
The Bills pulled to within 27-21 with 7:32 left when Ron Pitts scored on a 49-yard punt return. But Tampa Bay refused to collapse. Young threw 23 yards to Leonard Harris on the next possession, and then James Wilder sprinted 45 yards for a touchdown and 34-21 advantage.