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Bills survive late Panthers rally

Posted Aug 8, 2014

Buffalo picked up its first win of the preseason with a 20-18 victory over the Panthers in North Carolina.

Final Score: Bills 20 – Panthers 18

Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina

Preseason records: Buffalo (1-1); Carolina Panthers (0-1)

In a Nutshell:  
Buffalo surrendered an early 3-0 lead, but used a pair of turnovers to score 10 unanswered points to end the first half up a touchdown (13-6). After a scoreless third quarter the Panthers put together an 80-yard scoring drive off a takeaway of their own, but chose to try and take the lead after closing to within one. Their two-point conversion failed leaving the Bills a point ahead (13-12) with 11:32 to play.

Using the ground game to move the ball Buffalo capped a 58-yard scoring drive with a one-yard pass from Jeff Tuel to Chris Summers with just over five minutes remaining (20-12). The Panthers threatened to knot the game up with under two minutes to play after a 31-yard touchdown to Brandon Williams, but their two-point conversion failed (20-18).

Carolina was successful with an onsides kick attempt and mounted a late drive, but a tipped pass was intercepted by Jonathan Meeks to end the threat.

How it went down: 
--Buffalo got on the board first with a 37-yard field goal from Dan Carpenter with 5:42 left in the opening quarter.

--The Panthers’ most impressive drive was capped at the start of the second quarter when Kelvin Benjamin made a great adjustment to an underthrown pass to the end zone by Derek Anderson, pulling in the pass for a 29-yard touchdown to make it 6-3 Carolina. Their extra point attempt was no good.

--Anthony ‘Boobie’ Dixon capped a five-play 28-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run to capitalize on a turnover and put Buffalo ahead 10-6 with four minutes left in the half.

--Da’Norris Searcy intercepted an overthrown pass by Matt Blanchard and returned it to the Carolina 38. It resulted in a Dan Carpenter 42-yard field goal as time expired (13-6).

--Buffalo’s defense then held Carolina scoreless through the third quarter as they forced a pair of punts on the Panthers’ only two possessions.

--Josh Norman’s interception of a Jeff Tuel pass intended for Marcus Easley in the end zone was taken 80 yards in the other direction by the Carolina offense for a touchdown on a six-yard run by Darrin Reeves. Panthers coach Ron Rivera chose to go for two to take the lead, but their conversion attempt failed leaving the Bills with a one-point edge (13-12). 

--T.J. Graham’s ensuing 38-yard kick return helped set up the offense for an 11-play 58-yard touchdown drive capped by Tuel’s one-yard touchdown pass to Chris Summer on fourth-and-goal from the one. Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon pounded out 47 of the 58 yards on the ground on just eight carries.

--Carolina had a chance to tie with 1:37 remaining after a 31-yard touchdown pass from Joe Webb to Brandon Williams, but their second two-point conversion attempt also failed.

--The Panthers still had life after a successful onsides kick as a bouncing ball was recovered at the Carolina 39. But Jonathan Meeks intercepted a tipped pass to effectively seal the victory.

 The half of it 
--The Bills got off to a fast start as C.J. Spiller ripped off a 14-yard run on the first play from scrimmage. Two plays later Sammy Watkins made his first reception for another 14-yard gain and a first down.

-EJ Manuel hit Chris Hogan down the right sideline to convert a 3rd-and-3 at the Panthers 43 and Hogan got all the way down to the Carolina 11. Four straight carries by Fred Jackson however, could not get the Bills a first down or in the end zone as a 4th-and-1 carry at the two went for no gain and a turnover on downs.

--The defense turned in a solid performance. They surrendered just one long scoring drive, which resulted in Carolina’s only points of the half. On the Panthers five other possessions none went for more than five plays. 

--Buffalo’s defense registered a pair of takeaways. The first came on a forced fumble by Jarius Wynn, who stripped quarterback Matt Blanchard of the ball. Manny Lawson recovered at the Carolina 28. The offense cashed in with a touchdown off the turnover.

--The other takeaway came late in the half on an overthrow as Da’Norris Searcy intercepted a Blanchard pass and returned it to the Panthers 28-yard line. Buffalo got a field goal off the takeaway.

Subplots: 
--Bryce Brown entered the game before Anthony Dixon, flipping the order in which they appeared in the Hall of Fame game. Brown’s first two carries went for 25 yards as he again looked explosive. His first two carries gave way to Dixon’s short goal line carries, with Dixon’s second finding the end zone on a one-yard run.

--Thad Lewis served as the second team quarterback playing the second and most of the third quarter. In the Hall of Fame game Jeff Tuel served as the second team QB. Lewis finished the night 6-11 for 63 yards and a passer rating of 71.4. He was sacked once.

--Buffalo’s punt coverage looked strong. Carolina returner Kenjon Barner had a pair of returns for no gain with tackles turned in by Ron Brooks (solo) and Jacquies Smith and Chris Hogan teaming up for the other tackle. Nigel Bradham also downed a third punt that was not returned at the Carolina 12-yard line.

--Cyril Richardson was the first guard to spell starter Kraig Urbik at right guard. He only played one series with the starting unit, but went the rest of the way with the second unit. Kraig Urbik then returned to play right guard with the third unit.

--DT Landon Cohen got into the game a lot earlier in the Bills’ second preseason game. Cohen lined up with the second unit Friday night after getting mop up duty in the Hall of Fame game.

--DE Jarius Wynn and LB Randell Johnson both logged sacks in the game.

Quotes from the locker room: 
--“I thought they did a nice job, especially EJ. I think he was nine for 13 and really moved the team. It was up to the people around him to really get the ball in, as I talked about before. We’ve been creating opportunities and we’ve got to take advantage of it.” – Doug Marrone on the play of first team offense

-- “It was a crazy feeling. I got the butterflies out of the way. It felt good to just get my first catch and get the first down. It felt great and I got into the game.” –WR Sammy Watkins

--“I think it was good. That’s what we’re supposed to do. When we step out on the field, we expect to get a three-and-out every time. When we don’t we’re a little disappointed in each other, but we never get down. We bend, but don’t break. They scored a touchdown early, but we were able to get off the field on our last possession.” –S Duke Williams on play of first team defense

Inactives:  
CB Leodis McKelvin, S Kenny Ladler, S Derek Brim, OT Edawn Coughman, OT Cordy Glenn

Up Next:  
The Bills will travel to Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers Saturday Aug. 16th. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 pm.