2014 NFL Preseason Week 1: Live Analysis of Buffalo Bills vs. Carolina Panthers

After averting a disastrous interception with a pass interference penalty, EJ Manuel made two plays to lead the Buffalo Bills to their first victory of the season. (Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig — USA Today Sports)

EJ Manuel and the Buffalo Bills will take the field on Friday night to battle the Carolina Panthers in the preseason.(Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig — USA Today Sports)

BBD Assistant Editor: Ryan Talbot

The Buffalo Bills held on late to defeat the Carolina Panthers 20-18.

Buffalo has plenty to feel encouraged about following the game. First, EJ Manuel rebounded from his first preseason game and looked confident against Carolina. He finished 9-of-13 for 96 yards and looked to stretch the field. Manuel found Chris Hogan for a 32 yard gain and Mike Williams for a 28 yard pass. He wasn’t perfect as he did stare down his receivers at times, but it was a positive step in the right direction.

Buffalo’s running backs also performed well against the Panthers. Buffalo’s top four backs ran 28 times for 124 yards and a touchdown. Bryce Brown looked elusive but didn’t shy from contact. Anthony Dixon also looked very athletic and grinded forward for some tough yards.

Sammy Watkins also recorded his first three receptions against the Panthers. I’m guessing he won’t appear on “Overreaction Monday” on ESPN this week.

The starting defense also looked great against the run. It’s only the preseason, but it’s encouraging to see how strong Buffalo’s defense looks against the run based upon their struggles in 2013.

All in all, the Buffalo Bills looked solid on both sides of the ball.


Jonathan Meeks intercepts a Joe Webb pass that hit his intended receiver right off of the hands. The Bills will win the game 20-18.


The Panthers recover the onside kick and have one last chance to win the game.


Webb throws a ball into the ground on the two-point conversion and the Bills lead 20-18.


Webb finds Brandon Williams wide open in the end zone. The Panthers are going for two to tie the game.


With under two minutes remaining, the Panthers are driving. Ty Powell almost intercepts the Webb pass but it falls to the ground. Powell is playing well for the Bills tonight.


Webb should have been sacked on that play, but the quarterback made a few guys miss and picked up the first down for the Panthers. On the next play, JaJuan Harley had a ball hit him right off the hands.


The ruling stands and the Bills have the ball on Carolina’s one yard line. Dixon gets stuffed on 3rd-and-1. On 4th and 1, Jeff Tuel throws a touchdown pass to Chris Summers. The ball was a bit under-thrown and Summers made a nice job of getting low to catch the ball. Buffalo leads 20-12 with 5:46 remaining.


We have a late game review after Anthony Dixon lunged for the end zone, but was called down at the one.


Jeff Tuel moves the chains on a four yard scramble. Buffalo is moving the ball mostly on the ground this drive with Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown.


A 38 yard kick return by T.J. Graham will give the Bills the ball on their own 42 yard line. Graham is making the most of his opportunities tonight.


The Panthers score a touchdown on a six yard Reaves touchdown. Carolina goes for two and fails. Buffalo leads 13-12.


The Panthers have the ball on Buffalo’s six yard line early in the fourth quarter.


The third quarter was rather uneventful for both teams. Joe Webb is making some solid reads for the Panthers and has the team near midfield as we begin the 4th quarter.


Mario Butler made a great play to end the Panthers’ last series, but he’s getting picked on a bit this series by Joe Webb.


Webb finds Tavarres King for 52 yards, but an offensive holding call negates the big play.


Jeff Tuel throws a ball to the end zone but it went right to Josh Norman of the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers will take over on their own 20 yard line after the touchback.


It’s been a rather uneventful third quarter thus far, but it appears to be Tuel time. Jeff Tuel is entering the game after Thad Lewis goes 6-of-11 for 63 yards.


Cyrus Kouandjio is in at RT to start this series. He struggled early against the Giants. Definitely someone to watch.


Joe Webb is in at quarterback for the Carolina Panthers to start the second half. The quarterback converted two third downs, one passing and one running, but the Panthers were still forced to punt. T.J. Graham received the punt at the 11 and was instantly hit.


Halftime Thoughts

There’s plenty to be encouraged about at halftime. Here are four things that caught my attention.

EJ Manuel

Manuel had a nice bounce back performance following his poor outing in the Hall of Fame game. Manuel finished 9-of-13 for 96 yards and made some nice passes down the field. Manuel still looked down his first target on a number of plays and held the ball too long at times, but was much improved on Friday night.

Running Back Depth

It’s no secret that the Bills are deep at running back. We saw some encouraging runs by C.J. Spiller and Bryce Brown. Anthony Dixon also looked strong getting some tough yards, including a one yard touchdown run. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Bills carry all four running backs this season.

Run Defense

One reason Jim Schwartz was brought in as defensive coordinator was to stop the run. At halftime, the Panthers have 10 rushes for 17 yards. If Buffalo can stop the run, opposing offenses will become one-dimensional and find themselves in 3rd and long situations.

Good Problem to Have

Buffalo is deep at defensive tackle. Behind starters Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, the Bills have Alan Branch, Corbin Bryant, Landon Cohen and Stefan Charles. There’s no way all four players make the final 53-man roster. This will be a tough decision for Doug Marrone, but it’s a good problem to have.


The Bills lead 13-6 following Dan Carpenter’s 42-yard field goal.


Buffalo ran three straight plays before punting the ball away. The Panthers took the field and on Blanchard’s second pass, he overthrew his intended receiver and put the ball right into the arms of Da’Norris Searcy. This is the second turnover of the night for the Panthers.


We’ve reached the two minute warning of the first half. The Bills will start the series on their 26 yard line after Nickell Robey muffed the punt.


The Bills defense has Blanchard looking uncomfortable. The QB makes a dangerous pass towards about three Bills, gets sacks by Corbin Bryant and then force an errant throw. The second team defense looked great on the series.


The Bills retake the lead 10-6. Following a Thad Lewis incompletion, Bryce Brown took two carries for 25 yards. Brown is an elusive back, but he doesn’t shy away from contact. Anthony Dixon finished the series by gaining three yards on two plays, the last going for a 1 yard touchdown.


Blanchard gets sacked by Landon Cohen and forces the quarterback to fumble. Manny Lawson recovered the fumble.


Dan Carpenter’s 45 yard field goal attempt hits the upright as the game remains 6-3. Thad Lewis had an up-and-down first series making strong passes to Marquise Goodwin and Robert Woods, but his third down pass was off to Woods. It’ll be interesting to watch Lewis and Tuel tonight as they’re neck and neck in regards to the backup quarterback job.


Thad Lewis is in so EJ Manuel’s night is over. Manuel went 9-of-13 for 96 yards. Manuel was guilty of staring down his receivers a few times as well as holding onto the ball a bit too long. Overall, it was a much better performance than his outing in the Hall of Fame game.


The Bills force a three and out after stuffing two runs for two yards. An incomplete pass later led to a Panthers punt. Nickell Robey returned a punt for 10 yards.

Buffalo’s first team defense did give up a touchdown, but they were terrific in terms of run defense. The Panthers rushed the ball nine times for 21 yards. This is exactly what Jim Schwartz was brought in for. If the Buffalo Bills can stop the run, it’ll make opposing offenses one-dimensional and force 3rd and long situations.


Buffalo’s starters stayed in the game to start the second quarter and the offense moved the ball from their twenty and into Panthers territory. A Lee Smith holding penalty stalled the drive.

The play of the drive was a 28 yard reception from Manuel to Mike Williams. The wide receiver pulled the ball down in traffic for a terrific gain.



Derek Anderson finds Kelvin Benjamin for a 29 yard touchdown reception. Carolina went 82 yards in 10 plays on the drive, but Jordan Gay’s extra point attempt is no good.

The Panthers converted two third downs during the series with Derek Anderson scrambles.


The first quarter ends with the Bills up 3-0. Carolina is driving and has the ball on Buffalo’s 29 yard line after Derek Anderson scrambled for a first down.


Dustin Hopkins, attempting to make the team as a kickoff specialist, booted his first kick into the end zone, but the Panthers were able to return the kick to their 18 yard line. There’s a chance the Bills asked Hopkins to not kick the ball through the end zone to get their special teams some work.


Buffalo’s second drive results in three points for the Bills. EJ Manuel threw his first incompletion at the end of the series and is currently 7-for-8 for 60 yards. He held the ball a bit too long on a sack early in the series, but looks very comfortable overall.


Buried near their end zone, the Panthers went three and out after gaining only two yards on three plays. The Bills will take over on the Panthers 32 yard line.


What a difference a week makes.

C.J. Spiller started with a terrific run and Sammy Watkins recorded his first preseason receptions.

EJ Manuel looked very sharp finding Watkins twice, Spiller once and Hogan for a 31 yard gain.

Buffalo was stopped on the one yard line by the Panthers, but it was an encouraging series for the Bills offense.


Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 reports that Duke Williams will start at strong safety over Da’Norris Searcy tonight. Mike Williams will also be starting over Robert Woods for the second straight game.


Cam Newton will not be playing tonight for the Carolina Panthers. The QB had offseason ankle surgery and starting participating fully at training camp towards the end of July. The Panthers know what they have in Newton, so there’s no reason to play him against the Bills tonight.


The Buffalo Bills have announced that the following players will not dress tonight:

Leodis McKelvin
Kenny Ladler
Derek Brim
Edawn Coughman
Cordy Glenn

Leodis McKelvin was also inactive against the New York Giants. Corey Graham or Nickell Robey will start in his place. Kenny Ladler has been limited at training camp with an injury and fellow defensive back Derek Brim is also out for tonight’s game. Two tackles, Edawn Coughman and Cordy Glenn, will also not be suiting up. Hopefully the latter of the two will play in at least one preseason game before the start of the 2014 season.


Tags: Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Doug Marrone, EJ Manuel, Preseason

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