ORCHARD PARK, NY (WKBW) - For the second straight week at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Bills fate was decided in the final seconds of the game.
With just 1:38 left in the game and no time-outs, rookie QB EJ Manuel led his young offense on an 80-yard touchdown drive to beat the visiting Carolina Panthers by a point.
"We knew the situation. I didn’t feel nervous or anything like that. We practiced it time and time again. I’ve been in too many situations before, not just in the NFL or in practice but also in college. We won games like that before. You’ve just got to go out there and operate the offense," said Manuel after the game.
The heroic drive came after two turnovers by Manuel earlier in the half and on a day where the rookie struggled at times, missing open receivers and making poor reads.
"Those are the mistakes, as I said early on that we’ll see. That happens. The turnovers are the one thing that we don’t accept and he understands that. He’s in a good place mentally knowing that he has a long way to go," said Head Coach Doug Marrone of his quarterback's early struggles.
Still, Manuel made several good throws and finished the day 27 for 39 with 296 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. His longest completion was a 45 yard hook-up with Stevie Johnson in the 3rd quarter that led to a Fred Jackson 4-yard touchdown run that would tie the game.
Manuel completed 6 passes on the final drive and had a would-be interception overturned because of a pass interference call that set the Bills up with a first down from the 11. After a scramble out-of-bounds to the 2-yard-line, Manuel hit a wide-open Stevie Johnson in the end-zone with 2-seconds left on the clock.
"I can’t even tell you how I felt. Honestly I just don’t know, I started crying there," said Manuel about the game-winning touchdown drive.
"I’m not usually an emotional guy. I want to enjoy those types of things because that’s what you’re (here for). I’m going to be able to tell my grand kids about that 20 to 30 years from now. It’s definitely a momentous part of my young career but moving forward I’m glad we got the win and we have to get ready for New York now."
The Bills defense rose to the challenge on Sunday, holding the Panthers to 308 yards of total offense and containing the always dangerous Cam Newton.
The defense kept Newton under pressure all day, sacking him 6 times for a loss of 46-yards. Mario Williams set a new single game sack record for the Bills with 4.5 sacks.
"I felt great. Physically I feel great and mentally I’m better than ever," said Williams.
"Just going out there and playing ball, staying calm. I’m probably one of the calmest persons you’ll ever meet. I just go out there and try to make it happen."
Newton finished the day 21 of 38 for 229 yards, 2 TD's and 1 INT.
C.J. Spiller bounced back after a tough outing last week against the Patriots. Spiller ran for 103 yards on 16 carries, an average of 6.4 yards-per-carry. Fred Jackson added 30 yards on 12 carries along with a touchdown.
The Bills avoid dropping their first two games at home and move to 1-1. The team is on the road against AFC East division rival the NY Jets next Sunday.
The Bills and Jets each enter the contest with a division loss while the Patriots and Dolphins are 2-0.