NO ONE CIRCLES THE WAGONS LIKE THE BUFFALO BILLS!
Wow, that was a heck of a game. After losing to the Patriots in the final seconds last week, Buffalo responded with a last minute victory of their own against the Carolina Panthers. Here are the takeaways I have from what was a wild finish at The Ralph.
E.J. Manuel. I think I speak for all Bills fans when I say that it feels darn good to finally have a good young quarterback. Manuel orchestrated the offense in the final minutes like a seasoned vet. With only 1:30 left in the game, Manuel led the Bills on an 80-yard drive that was capped off with a gorgeous fade pass to the corner of the end zone to a wide-open Stevie Johnson. Not only did the rookie lead the charge, he did it with no timeouts. The Bills did catch a lucky break when Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly was flagged for pass interference that took away what would have been a game ending interception. E.J. finished the game with 296 yards passing with 1 touchdown and 1 interception.
C.J. Spiller showed up in a big way. C.J. rushed for 103 yards against a stingy Panthers defensive front. He would have had more if he didn’t have his 40-yard burst taken back because of a penalty. In my preview, I predicted that C.J. wouldn’t get out of his slump because of the Panthers’ great front seven, and I couldn’t be happier to have been wrong.
Did Bruce Smith come out of retirement and put on a Mario Williams disguise? You could have fooled me. Williams had himself an amazing day, finishing with 4.5 sacks (which is no easy feat on the elusive Cam Newton). Actually, the whole Bills defense had a great game, consistently getting pressure on Newton.
Buffalo corrected what plagued them in week 1, which was not being able to get stops on 3rd down. They were able to hold the Panthers to 6 of 17 on 3rd downs. The defense really came through when it mattered. On 2 consecutive drives in the 4th quarter, the offense turned the ball over inside their own 25, and the defense stood tall and only surrendered 2 field goals. On the Panthers final drive with 2 minutes left, the Bills were able to get a critical stop, forcing them to another field goal while also leaving E.J. Manuel and company enough time to score the game winning touchdown. Great game defensively.
E.J. Manuel may be riding high right now, but there were some negatives to his performance. He has to do better on 3rd down. There were at least 4 different occasions that I can recall that the Bills were faced with a 3rd and medium, and Manuel would throw a short pass well behind the 1st down marker. He’s a little too conservative at times. Not that I want to see him throwing Brett Favre like passes into triple coverage, but I would like to see him take some chances in an effort to get the 1st down.
Penalties. The yellow cloth was raining down upon the Bills once again. They were a little better than last week, only getting flagged 7 times for 55 yards. It’s sad when that’s an improvement. One penalty that stood out to me was called on cornerback Aaron Williams. On 3rd and 12, Cam Newton was forced to throw the ball out of bounds, which should have led to the Panthers punting. Instead of forcing them to punt, Aaron decided to lay out Panthers receiver Brandon LaFell when he was clearly out of bounds. These are the kind of things Coach Doug Marrone is going to have to stop if the Bills want to win games. Marrone needs to teach this young group to be disciplined and to avoid costly penalties.
This is a young team that is only going to get better. E.J. Manuel grew up a little bit right in front of our eyes Sunday afternoon. It’s going to be fun watching him continue to mature through-out the season. The Bills go on the road for the first time this season when they travel to New York to play Geno Smith and the New York Jets.