Panthers-Bills Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 11, 2013
EJ Manuel earned a lot of praise after his NFL debut. Cam Newton can certainly relate given his marvelous rookie year, though his season debut didn't go so well. Both two-dimensional signal-callers look to help their teams bounce back from tantalizingly close losses to playoff teams from last season as the Buffalo Bills host the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. The only quarterback selected in the first round of this year's draft, Manuel very nearly led the Bills to a stunning upset of New England last Sunday. He completed 18 of 27 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, but Buffalo lost 23-21 on a late field goal. "Obviously with every play I was continuing to get more and more confidence in myself and continuing to relax, stay calm throughout the whole thing and stay poised as a quarterback," said Manuel, who had three carries for 23 yards and didn't take a sack. Though he had just 47 total yards as the Bills (0-1) went scoreless on their final five drives and blew a six-point lead, Manuel did help Buffalo overcome an early 10-point deficit and received mostly positive reviews. "I thought he was pretty phenomenal," tight end Scott Chandler told the team's official website. "Protected the ball, threw the ball well." Manuel could only hope to have the type of rookie season Newton did when he earned NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2011. Newton joined Drew Bledsoe as the only 22-year-old players in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards, and he rushed for 706 with 14 touchdowns. Newton and the Panthers (0-1) didn't look so electric in Sunday's 12-7 home loss to Seattle. He did complete 16 of 23 passes but for a career-low 125 yards, and he gained 38 yards on five carries as Carolina fell to 4-14 when he fails to rush for 50. "We did some things that were very exciting, but as an offense and as a team we just have to be more thorough to a degree and finish drives," Newton said. The Panthers had three fumbles and lost two, including one by DeAngelo Williams eight yards from the end zone on what turned out to be their final possession. "Offensively, we have to score more than seven points, that's what it all comes down to," offensive tackle Jordan Gross said. Though Carolina averaged an impressive 5.2 yards per carry, coach Ron Rivera wasn't happy with how conservative the offense looked under first-year coordinator Mike Shula. After his team attempted only three passes of 10 yards or more Sunday, Rivera said his team needed to "look at getting the ball vertical." "We have to create more of those opportunities," Rivera said. Newton and the Panthers will look to take advantage of a depleted Bills secondary. Already without two starters in cornerback Stephon Gilmore (wrist) and safety Jairus Byrd (feet), Buffalo lost Ron Brooks Sunday. Used as a third cornerback in passing situations, Brooks was scheduled to have surgery Tuesday on a broken right foot. That's bad news for a Bills unit that struggled to get off the field Sunday, letting the Patriots convert 11 of 20 third-down opportunities, including two on the game-winning drive. Buffalo, meanwhile, went 4 for 13 on third down and possessed the ball for 22:17 - its lowest total since Nov. 6, 2011. "Obviously, you've got to get that fixed," running back Fred Jackson said. "We can't leave our defense out there. We can't go three-and-out and put them out there and make them have a long day." While Jackson ran for 67 yards, Buffalo hopes for more from C.J. Spiller after he was held to 41 along with 14 yards on five catches. Spiller had 1,703 total yards last year. Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson also had a rough day. After saying "I don't think (the Patriots) have got nobody to stop me," Johnson was held to three receptions for 39 yards. Though it was Johnson who put the Bills ahead 21-17 with a third-quarter touchdown catch, he also dropped a short pass in the fourth quarter when he was wide open on third-and-1 from Buffalo's 49-yard line. The Bills would not approach midfield again. "When you don't win a game, at the end of the day, that's when you get negative attention," Johnson said. "And I deserve it." Carolina lost starting right guard Garry Williams for the season to a torn ACL and MCL in the opener, so Chris Scott will likely move into that spot as he faces a Bills team that cut him July 27. Scott made his first NFL start at left guard last Sunday and that position could be filled by former starter Amini Silatolu, who sat out Week 1 with a hamstring injury. The Panthers haven't visited Buffalo since 2005, when they picked up their only win in five tries against the Bills.
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