EJ Manuel led the Bills on a miraculous drive in the closing minute to pull out a thrilling 24-23 win over the visiting Panthers.
Carolina Panthers - 23
Buffalo Bills - 24
Game Analysis for the Buffalo Bills
Pass Offense: The drive to start the half was great. Manuel was calm in the pocket and found the open receivers, including two beautiful passes to Robert Woods and Steve Johnson on consecutive plays. Unfortunately, Manuel committed the first two turnovers of his career and they put the Bills in a bad spot. Accuracy was a problem all day for the rookie. He made a veteran play when it counted, though, and made up for his issues with the game-winning pass.
Run Offense: C.J. Spiller struggled in the middle part of the game, but a couple of long runs showed the type of game-breaking potential he has in the backfield. Consistent run-blocking was not there. The Panthers have a talented front seven, but the Bills struggled running to the left side. Colin Brown had another horrible game at left guard.
Pass Defense: If you had to give the game ball to a specific unit, the Bills secondary would receive that honor. Leodis McKelvin was good again—limiting Steve Smith to only five catches on the afternoon. Nickell Robey looked good as well, but missed a prime opportunity for a pick-six in the second half. Mario Williams' 4.5 sacks was a single-game record for both himself and the franchise.
Run Defense: The Bills could not stop the run when they knew it was coming. They held DeAngelo Williams to a fairly ineffective day, but they continue to struggle on running plays up the middle. Marcell Dareus and Alan Branch were non-existent in the run game.
Special Teams: A unit that drastically improved in the second half of the game. Dan Carpenter looked sharp on his final two field goals of the day and kicked home the game-winning extra point in the closing seconds. Marcus Easley recorded the hit of the day for Buffalo when he bulldozed through his blocker and finished a tackle on Ted Ginn Jr. after a short return.
Coaching: Defensive play-calling was great. Offensive play-calling was not. Things were that simple in this game and the Bills were lucky to come out of this game with a win. Penalties were an issue again. Lack of discipline is expected at times for a young team, but Buffalo had too many miscues that kept the Panthers in the game until the end.
First-Half Analysis for the Buffalo Bills
Pass Offense: EJ Manuel has been shaky to say the least. He overthrew an easy touchdown to tight end Scott Chandler and led a wide-open Steve Johnson too far on the same drive. Chandler has to make a first-down catch to keep a drive going in the second quarter. The Bills settled for a 55-yard field goal after that play.
Run Offense: Everyone knew C.J. Spiller would improve on his miserable marks from a week ago. He surpassed his rushing total from last week at the midway point of the second quarter, on only six carries. His 21-yard rush to get the Bills out of their own end zone was impressive because he had two defenders draped on his back for the final 10 yards of the play.
Pass Defense: Leodis McKelvin continues to be a bit of a revelation for Buffalo with Stephon Gilmore on the shelf. He has already broken up three passes intended for All-Pro Steve Smith. 3rd-and-long situations continue to be an issue for this team.
Run Defense: Much better from a week ago. Safety Aaron Williams and linebacker Nigel Bradham have been very good in stacking the line behind their defensive front. The middle of the line continues to be the biggest issue for the Bills as a majority of Carolina’s rushing yards have come up the gut. It is somewhat surprising that the Panthers have not tried to test the run defense more.
Special Teams: Kick coverage has been bad early on. As good as Ted Ginn Jr. is in the return game, the Bills have consistently overplayed the diminutive receiver in coverage. Ginn has yet to break out a huge return, but the Bills have been losing the field-position battle so far. Dan Carpenter missed a 42-yarder, but made a 55-yarder—as if that makes any sense.
Coaching: Defense continues to be in position to make plays, but the offense has the looks of a Dick Jauron-run offense so far. Offensive coordinator Nate Hackett has Manuel taking care of the ball, but plays have been overly simplistic and ineffective to this point. Not a good half for the first-year coordinator.