Bills-Panthers: Fred Jackson intentional drop helped game-winning drive

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Was the biggest play on the Bills' game-winning drive against Carolina an intentional drop by Fred Jackson? One could make that argument.

The Buffalo Bills burned 96 seconds of game clock in marching 80 yards for a go-ahead touchdown in the waning moments of Sunday's 24-23 win over the Carolina Panthers. Were it not for a key drop by veteran running back Fred Jackson, they may have run out of time rather than scoring with two seconds remaining.

EJ Manuel and the Bills began their game-winning drive on their own 20-yard line with 1:38 left in the contest. Their first play of the drive was a seven-yard completion to Stevie Johnson, who took the ball out of bounds with 1:28 remaining.

Their next three plays were all dump-off passes to running backs. C.J. Spiller caught a 12-yard pass, and then Jackson hauled in a 14-yarder. Both plays kept the clock ticking, and when the ball was snapped for the fourth play of the drive, just 47 seconds remained.

Manuel's pass hit Jackson in the hands, a Panthers defender corralled him in the middle of the field, and fans in the stands groaned at the sight of more precious seconds ticking off the clock. Then a ref blew his whistle, waved his arms to signal an incomplete pass, and a sigh of relief went through the stands. The clock was stopped, and the Bills had 40 seconds left to play with.

After that play, my father turned to me in the stands and said, simply: "Nice veteran drop, Freddie." Those three plays - the pass to Spiller, and the two passes to Jackson - consumed exactly half (48 seconds) of that drive. Had that trio of plays lasted any longer, we may well have been commiserating this morning.

But was it a mere incompletion, or an intentional move on Jackson's part? Jackson confirmed after the game via Twitter that he had, in fact, dropped the pass on purpose.

It's less than conventional when a purposely-dropped pass and a timely pass interference call work in tandem to set up a game-winning touchdown, but that's what happened for the Bills in Week 2. Plenty of plays were made on that drive, but one of the biggest was an incredibly savvy move by a veteran and a team captain to aid his rookie quarterback and coaching staff with time management.

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