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Bills win in dramatic fashion

Posted Sep 15, 2013

EJ Manuel led a game-winning TD drive to help Buffalo to a 24-23 win over the Panthers.

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The Bills were again in a tight ball game in Week 2 hosting the Carolina Panthers. Self-inflicted wounds like turnovers and penalties looked like they would again cost Buffalo on the scoreboard as they trailed 23-17 with 1:38 remaining. But an inspiring eight-play 80-yard drive was capped when EJ Manuel hit Stevie Johnson for a two-yard touchdown pass on a fade with two seconds remaining. That along with an extra point from Dan Carpenter lifted the Bills to a dramatic 24-23 win over Carolina.

“We knew the situation,” said EJ Manuel, who went 27-39 passing for 296 yards with a touchdown and an INT. “I didn’t feel nervous or anything like that. We’ve practiced it time and time again. I’ve been in two minute situations before, not just in the NFL in practice, but in college and we’ve won games like that before. You’ve just got to go out there and operate the offense. If you can’t get anything deep, which they took away, just check it down and get yardage that way so guys can get out of bounds.”

The drive began on Buffalo’s 20-yard line as field position was again a challenge all day for the offense. Manuel hit Johnson for an eight-yard gain on first down. C.J. Spiller then converted a second-and-short on a pass over the middle from Manuel for a 12-yard pickup.

Manuel then hit Fred Jackson for a 14-yard reception followed by Johnson two plays later for another 14 yards to move to the Carolina 35 with 40 seconds remaining.

After a short reception by Spiller, who got out of bounds to stop the clock, Manuel threw deep over the middle. The pass was intercepted, but Johnson was interfered with on the play by Panthers LB Luke Kuechly setting Buffalo up 1st-and-10 at the Carolina 11-yard line with 14 seconds left.

Manuel had to scramble out of trouble on the next play and ran for nine yards getting out of bounds as the two with six seconds left. On the next play, Manuel found a wide open Stevie Johnson as the two cornerbacks on the play got crossed up seeing Chris Hogan run a slant underneath.

“I have pretty much got a corner route on that play,” said Johnson. “The defender was yelling check the corner to the outside guy, but with Chris Hogan in there you’ve got to respect him. When he comes underneath you better jump on ‘7-Eleven’ and they just left me wide open. It was a play where we took advantage of their miscommunication.”

Buffalo had to kick off with two seconds left and squibbed it, leaving a second on the clock for Carolina. But Kiko Alonso sacked Cam Newton on the game’s final play to thwart a last second pass attempt. The win evened Buffalo’s record at 1-1.

“It was an outstanding game,” said head coach Doug Marrone. “What I talked to the team about was a great effort defensively on the short fields holding them to three. For them to stand up like that, that’s very difficult to do in this league against a team that has quite a bit of weapons out there. We didn’t do some smart things out there, but I’m proud of this team for believing in one another.”

For the second straight week, Buffalo committed a pair of turnovers inside their own 30-yard line on a sack fumble by Manuel and an interception by the Bills rookie quarterback. Buffalo’s defense however, held Carolina to a pair of field goals to keep it a one score game. Penalties also helped give Carolina a late six-point lead (23-17) with just over a minute remaining. But Manuel and the Bills offense strung plays together when it mattered most.

“Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come and we can keep putting together tough wins like that,” said Fred Jackson. “A lot of games are going to come down (to the end) like that, so hopefully we can build off this one and get some more wins.”

Down 7-3 at halftime, Buffalo came out in the third quarter and put together a consistent drive with EJ Manuel going 6-7 passing for 75 yards on the possession. But Manuel and Stevie Johnson could not hook up on a 2nd-and-goal from the Panthers two and then on 3rd-and-goal Manuel overthrew intended receiver Scott Chandler on a fade. The Bills had to settle for a short Carpenter field goal to pull within a point (7-6) with 10:49 left in the third quarter.

Carolina appeared to have a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, but was given a second chance when Frank Summers committed a defensive holding penalty on the punt on fourth down, giving the Panthers a fresh set of downs. Four plays later Newton hit Ted Ginn for a 40-yard touchdown to put the Panthers up by eight (14-6).

“There were some critical mistakes,” said Marrone. “Again a penalty came up that really hurt us. We didn’t do well with a couple of situations and we’ll address that.”

The Bills answered back with an eight-play 80-yard drive with Stevie Johnson delivering a 45-yard catch and run to the Carolina 10-yard line. After a defensive holding call gave Buffalo a 1st-and-goal at the four, Fred Jackson plunged in for a touchdown to make it 14-12. The Bills went for a two-point conversion and Manuel found fellow rookie Robert Woods, who made a diving catch on a slant to tie the game (14-14) with just over four minutes left in the third quarter.

“I thought Woody was going to make a great play and that’s what he did,” said Manuel. “That ball has to be thrown low and away from the defender. He got off the ball great, got inside and made a great catch.”

While the Buffalo defense stiffened from there the Bills offense would turn the ball over deep in their territory on their next two possessions. The first, coming on a strip of EJ Manuel at his own 16-yard line on a sack. Carolina capitalized with a short field goal.

The second turnover came on the very next possession as Manuel was picked off by Luke Kuechly on a short pass over the middle that was intended for T.J. Graham at the Bills 26. Again Buffalo’s defense held Carolina out of the end zone as Mario Williams got his fourth full sack of the day, and four and a half total on the afternoon, a team record. The Panthers took another field goal from Graham Gano for a six-point edge with 8:41 to play (20-14).

“We’re a stingy defense,” said Manny Lawson. “Holding them to field goal is good, but we don’t want any points on the board. We want a goose egg. That’s what we’re going to go out there and does not matter what situation we’re in, we’re going to go out there and try to stop them.”

Game Rewind: Buffalo Bills

The Bills offense finally appeared to get its bearings with C.J. Spiller delivering a big 43-yard run into Carolina territory. But the drive would stall quickly forcing Buffalo to take a 48-yard field goal from Carpenter to make it a three-point game with just over seven minutes remaining (20-17).

Carolina to their credit engineered a 12-play 59-yard drive, pounding out yards on the ground to set up a 39-yard field goal by Gano to take a six-point lead (23-17) while forcing Buffalo to expend all of their timeouts leaving the offense with just 1:38 to work with on the clock.

It was expected to be a low scoring affair and the defensive units for both the Panthers and Bills made it so through three quarters of the game.

Pass pressure proved to be an effective neutralizer for Buffalo. The Bills defensive line got three first half sacks from Mario Williams and effectively collapsed the pocket through the first two quarters keeping Cam Newton from connecting on big pass plays. Newton was sacked six times in the game and finished with a passer rating of just 79.8.

“That was the focus this week for the defensive line—that was our job to put pressure on him,” said Marcell Dareus. “Get him to throw the ball early. Our job was to get after him and make that happen.”

Buffalo’s offense was initially slowed more by a few missed plays more than anything. Bills receivers were winning on their routes, but the passing game could not connect consistently.

The Bills got on the board first when a nine-play drive stalled at the Carolina 37. Dan Carpenter, who missed a 42-yarder earlier in the half, put a 55-yarder through with ease to give Buffalo a 3-0 lead with 10:41 left in the half.

A two-minute drill drive by Newton and the Panthers however, gave Carolina a 7-3 lead at the half.

With the win Buffalo evens their record at 1-1 on the young season. They travel to New York next week to take on the Jets in a 4:25 kickoff.

Notes
C.J. Spiller ran for over 100 yards with 103 on 16 carries (6.4 avg.). It was the seventh 100-yard rushing day of his career.

Stevie Johnson finished with 111 yards receiving on eight receptions and a touchdown.

Kiko Alonso had 10 tackles, an interception, a pass breakup and a sack to end the game.