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Buffalo Bills 31, Carolina Panthers 14: Rapid recap and notes

The Bills win one against Sean McDermott’s old team

The Buffalo Bills snapped a losing streak and notched a win against head coach Sean McDermott’s former team, knocking down the Carolina Panthers in a 31-14 win. Buffalo staked a 14-0 lead in the second quarter, and had a 17-8 halftime lead, which was just enough breathing room for the win in Orchard Park.

Before the game even started, Buffalo’s opponent faced an injury crisis—their kicker, Zane Gonzalez, injured his quad during warmups. That left the Panthers functionally unable to kick field goals or extra points in this game.

The Bills, starting the game on defense, forced an early three and out. When their offense took over, they started on the wrong footing. Allen overthrew Cole Beasley, Daryl Williams was called on a penalty, Allen missed Beasley again, and he took a sack on third down, fumbling the ball in the process. Luckily, Spencer Brown fell on it, and the Bills were able to punt.

Taking over at their 30-yard line, it only took two plays for Cam Newton to lead the Panthers to midfield. Chuba Hubbard then ran around the right tackle and found a seam for 21 yards. The Panthers made it to the edge of the red zone, but the Bills’ defense clamped down. On 4th & 9, Matt Rhule kept the offense on the field. Defensive coordinator/assitant head coach Leslie Frazier responded with an all-out blitz. Willie Snead was running free to the end zone, but the pressure forced Newton to hurry his pass and it fell incomplete.

Buffalo’s second drive started like the first, with a holding penalty right off the bat. and a sack on second down. They punted right back to the Panthers.

Carolina’s drive started with a botched handoff. Hubbard dropped the ball, but the Panthers recovered it. Two plays later, Newton was nearly sacked, but escaped downfield. Ed Oliver chased him and forced a fumble, but the ball bounced right into D.J. Moore’s hands for the first down. Jerry Hughes had a key tackle for a loss on the next play, and Cam Newton’s subsequent rushes brought the Panthers to a 4th & 1 at midfield. The Panthers tried for offense, but Newton’s pass was way off target.

Taking over the ball, Josh Allen went right for the end zone. His pass barely missed its mark, with Gabriel Davis unable to finish the catch. Undaunted, Devin Singletary and Dawson Knox helped the team move the chains for the first time on the afternoon. At the start of the second quarter, Allen found Stefon Diggs for a nine-yard gain. On the next play, a tricky counter run sliced right through the Panthers’ defense, with Devin Singletary trucking all the way to the end zone on a 16-yard touchdown run. Buffalo took the 7-0 lead.

The Bills defense forced another quick punt on the next drive, with Newton sacked on third down. Marquez Stevenson had a 14-yard return to bring the Bills near midfield. Over a five-play, 57-yard drive, the Bills strode to the end zone. It was capped off by Stefon Diggs shaking free of Stephon Gilmore for an 11-yard touchdown, and the Bills were leading 14-0.

The Panthers, dinking and dunking, had a nine-play, 30-yard drive next. Buffalo’s defense didn’t give an inch, and Carolina punted back to Buffalo. The ball turned right back over after four plays, when Josh Allen didn’t see Jeremy Chinn in zone coverage, and he jumped in front of a pass for an interception. With some life, the Panthers dialed up a 30-yard wide receiver handoff. Two plays later, Cam Newton ran the ball into the end zone, and he hit D.J. Moore for a two-point conversion. The Bills’ lead was narrowed to six points.

Taking over after the two-minute warning, the Bills started with another holding penalty. But Josh Allen heated up, completing four passes for 37 yards and drawing a defensive penalty. He overcame another penalty and brought the Bills to the eight yard line with eight seconds left, but was forced to throw the ball away, and the Bills settled for a field goal and a 17-8 halftime lead.

Out of the half, both teams traded punts again. At one point, it looked like the Panthers might have stopped Buffalo on their next drive, but one of the Panthers was called for pushing Allen too hard out of bounds. With the extra first down, the Bills extended their drive, and Allen was able to hit Gabriel Davis for a 20-yard touchdown catch in the end zone.

The Panthers gave their best effort to tighten the score, but were limited by their low-octane offense. Over a 15-play drive, they gained 65 yards. They made it to the Bills’ 10-yard line, but were forced to try for a touchdown, and Jerry Hughes knocked the throw away.

Buffalo took over deep in their own territory, but went backwards, with Allen taking another sack. They had to punt it back, and the short field was what Carolina needed again. Ameer Abdullah won on an angle route and scored a 23-yard touchdown. With a failed two-point conversion, the Bills still led 24-14 with 11 minutes left in the game.

The Bills scuffled through another short drive, punting after only three plays. Since this punt pushed the Panthers further back into their own territory, the Bills’ defense had no trouble clamping down and neutralizing them. Carolina went for another fourth-down attempt near midfield, knowing that they had a short amount of time and needed two scores, but the Bills came away with a sack.

With great field position, the Bills put the game away with some hard-nosed running from Devin Singletary. It wasn’t always pretty, but he was able to move the chains and bring the Bills down to the 14-yard line, where the Bills faced a 4th & 2. They went for the throat, and Allen’s naked bootleg run turned into a pass to a wide-open Gabriel Davis for another touchdown.

At that point, the backups were inserted and A.J. Klein finished the day by intercepting his former teammate.

The Bills have a little more life in them, now 8-6 and in position to take back the AFC East if they win next weekend. The season’s not over yet!

Injury report

  • Dane Jackson suffered a stinger early in the first quarter, but was back into the game on the next drive.
  • Cole Beasley limped off the field near halftime, but was back in on offense before the drive ended.
  • Levi Wallace had his foot stepped on near the end of the game. He jogged it off, but it’s unclear if he was totally fine, since the Bills swapped in all their backups shortly thereafter.

Quick hits

  • Spencer Brown drew a tough assignment, switching to left tackle on short notice and going against Brian Burns. It was a difficult day, with the rookie flagged five times on the afternoon.
  • At one point, after Brown was flagged for taunting, Sean McDermott benched the rookie for a few plays to clear his head. The other rookie, Tommy Doyle, took over for a few plays.
  • Weird fact from the broadcast at halftime: Today was the first time in NFL history that a game had the score of 17-8 after two quarters.
  • Coaching decision of the week: Leading 24-14, with two minutes left, the Bills faced a 4th & 2 at the 12-yard line. This time they correctly chose to go for it, not to kick a field goal. With the Panthers unable to kick field goals, a ten-point lead is the same as a 13-point lead to them. It helped that the result was a touchdown, too.
  • Have a day, Gabriel Davis! His five catches, 85 yards, and two touchdowns led the team in each statistic today, and this was his first multi-TD game.
  • Also commended—Devin Singletary, who apparently earned the trust of the coaches for feature-back status today. He carried the ball 22 times for 86 yards and a touchdown. Everyone else combined for five more carries.
  • Dawson Knox also had a good day, converting multiple third downs with both his catching and his blocking efforts.
  • Buffalo’s pass rush finally woke up today, led by Efe Obada’s two-sack game. They had four sacks overall.

Next week

A game with huge implications, thanks to Saturday night’s result. The Bills head to Foxboro to take on the New England Patriots on Sunday at 1 PM EST. If Buffalo wins this, they’ll have the tiebreaker for the AFC East crown.