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DEFENSE EXPECTS BILLS TO ATTACK SORE SPOT

Bucs defensive coordinator Jim Bates acknowledged Wednesday that after the Cowboys made several huge plays in the passing game Sunday, his secondary knows "they got a target on their chest" against the Bills.

"They're going to challenge us now," Bates said.

CB Elbert Mack said: "Why wouldn't they? If we saw any weakness in their secondary, I'm pretty sure our offense would do the same thing.

"We're ready."

Bills QB Trent Edwards took notice of what the Cowboys did, and he hopes to repeat the feat with talented receivers Terrell Owens and Lee Evans.

"I was pretty impressed with the way the Cowboys attacked - their receivers were making big plays, and that's what we kind of need in our offense," Edwards said. "I feel like we have some players out wide that are capable of doing that. It's a matter of protecting up front and being able to deliver the ball accurately like Tony (Romo) did last week. So hopefully we can hit a couple plays like that."

The Cowboys racked up 353 passing yards in a 34-21 win, including touchdowns of 42, 66 and 80 yards. S Sabby Piscitelli, who was responsible for the Bucs botching two of those long TDs, said the mistakes were easily correctable, whether that's through improving technique or communication. And Piscitelli expects that the Bills might go after him.

"I hope so," he said. "As a DB, you have to have a short memory. But at the same time, you open up opportunities for yourself to make more plays."

S Jermaine Phillips said: "We're looking forward to getting out there this week and showing the world what we have. ... I think you'll see this Sunday the Bucs defense of old."

STEPPING IN: The role of replacing injured Bucs C Jeff Faine (triceps strain) will be a tough one, but recently re-signed Sean Mahan said he's ready for the challenge. Mahan, 29, took reps with the first team Wednesday and expects to start against the Bills (the Bucs will likely choose between Mahan and rookie Jonathan Compas). Mahan said his experience (52 career starts) and his familiarity with the Bucs offense during the preseason will be a valuable. "It's not like I'm jumping into something I've never been into," Mahan said. "It should be pretty smooth. You can't put a price on experience, and that should help a lot.''

Coach Raheem Morris pointed to how Mahan filled in for Faine during training camp. Mahan, cut by the Bucs on Sept. 2, was re-signed Monday. "Unfortunately, he wasn't one of the best 53 at the time," Morris said. "Now he is."

MONEY MATTERS: Cowboys S Gerald Sensabaugh was fined $5,000 for his horsecollar tackle on RB Cadillac Williams in the second quarter. Sensabaugh is appealing the fine. There was no penalty on the play.

Williams, who is coming off his second knee surgery for a torn patellar tendon in as many years, said the play looked worse on film than he originally thought.

"That one kind of made me nervous,'' Williams said. "When I saw it on film, it looked worse than I remembered.''

INJURY REPORT: Morris said DE/DT Kyle Moore (groin) didn't practice and neither did CB E.J. Biggers (shoulder). WR Antonio Bryant (knee) and TE John Gilmore (ankle) were limited.

Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

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