Things are rarely easy for the Buffalo Bills. We are used to games going down to the wire that usually end. . . badly. All of that changed in the final six seconds of regulation, E.J. Manuel rocketing a touchdown pass to an open Stevie Johnson, putting the Bills up 24-23 over the Carolina Panthers. With only two seconds left, Bills players piled on Johnson, celebrating his left corner end zone reception.
Right after the touchdown, E.J. Manuel did his own solo celebration, dropping to his knee, as he brushed some tears from his eye. Manuel was one second away from his first NFL win, on a very fitting day: his father’s birthday. Manuel and his father celebrated with a post-game hug.
Said Manuel about his dad and the victory, as stated on sports.yahoo.com, “I think we were both crying and just elated about the situation, being that it’s the first win and like I said, it’s his birthday. My dad has been to all my games since I was six years old so nothing’s changed. To see his face up in there before the game is awesome. Like I said, to have him in this opportunity and this situation is great.”
Besides that last 80-yard drive, the Buffalo Bills had plenty of other things to celebrate. Here are some of the key factors that solidified the Bills’ first win.
Mario Williams. Bills’ DE Mario Williams broke a franchise record with 4.5 sacks on Cam Newton. Yes, folks, that is more than Bills’ Hall of Famer Bruce Smith. With only 10.5 sacks last year, his first season with the Bills, Williams seemed like a bust. Fans were wondering if “Super Mario” was worth that $100 million, 6-year contract. With his performance against the Panthers, Williams may be turning over a new sacking leaf.
Rookies Rally. The Buffalo Bills have the third youngest team in the league, average age of 25.3. What does that mean? The rookies need to step up, something they did against the Panthers. LB Kiko Alonso impressed with 10 tackles, an inception, and a game-ending sack.WR Robert Woods, with whom Manuel has established a Jim Kelly-Andre Reed-like-rapport was a major factor in the Bills’ first win. Woods caught a two-point conversion late in the third quarter to make it 14-14. Some fans thought the conversion was too early, still 4: 15 minutes left in the third quarter. Fortunately, Doug Marrone made the right choice, the conversion allowing the Bills to take the lead on their last scoring drive, versus going into overtime with a 23-23 tie.
The Veterans. C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, and Stevie Johnson worked their brilliance, Spiller and Johnson amassing 100-plus yards. Jackson’s 4-yard rushing touchdown helped, his intentional dropped pass during the Bills’ last scoring even more important. A completed pass in the middle of the field would have eaten away at precious clock time, possibly ending in a Panthers victory. Right said, Fred!
Week Three Hopes. To win against the New York Jets next week, The Bills need to nix the penalties and add more touchdowns in the red zone.
Erica’s prediction: Bills 27, Jets 17.