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Wayne Post
  • Buffalo Bills stun Panthers, 24-23, in final seconds

  • The Buffalo defense made several big stops.
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  • The Buffalo Bills defense picked up E.J. Manuel and the rookie delivered a fantastic finish.
    Manuel marched the Bills 80 yards with no timeouts, tossing a two-yard touchdown to Stevie Johnson with two seconds left in the Bills' 24-23 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
    After turnovers on consecutive drives helped Carolina take a six-point lead with under two minutes left, Manuel orchestrated a nine-play drive that nearly ended with a Colin Jones interception. However, a pass interference call on linebacker Luke Kuechly kept the drive alive and put the ball at the Carolina 11 with 14 seconds left.
    Manuel scrambled to the 2, jumping towards the end zone before getting knocked out of bounds with six seconds left. On the next play, Manuel connected with a wide-open Johnson in the far left corner of the end zone to tie the game.
    "That's how you draw it up when you're outside playing with your buddies in the sandlot," said Manuel. "With three seconds left, you want to make the game-winning catch or throw and to have it happen in the NFL, it doesn't get any better than that.
    "We knew the situation," added Manuel. "I didn't feel nervous or anything like that. We practice it time and time again."
    Dan Carpenter added the go-ahead extra point and rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso sacked Cam Newton on the game's final play to seal the victory.
    "I don't think we ever lost faith when the defense held up like that to come back and score," said Bills head coach Doug Marrone, who earned his first NFL victory. "We prepare and go out on the field expecting to win. It's good to get the first one but one of the main things that when you're talking about winning and trying to change the culture, I think when you're talking about during the week what you need to win you have to expect to win."
    Marrone got choked up, even pausing briefly to compose himself, when talking about the death of Onondaga Community College athletic director and former Syracuse associate athletic director Rob Edson.
    "It's difficult for me because when I was at Syracuse, Rob would always come in after the games and kind of cheer me up and pick me up and keep things in perspective," said Marrone, the former head coach at Syracuse, of Edson who died at age 45 of an apparent heart attack on Saturday while mowing his lawn. "It hurts, and I know that Rob was watching and I can't stop thinking about that when that game was coming down to the end."
    Mario Williams had a day worthy of his $100 million contract from the Bills with a team-record and career-high 4 1/2 sacks.
    Page 2 of 3 - "I don't think I've felt that way in the last five years, so that's great," said Williams. "I finally feel like I'm at peace, just as a person."
    Manuel finished 27-of-39 for 296 yards and Johnson caught eight of those passes for 111 yards.
    "We invest so much into this game, as far as being on the sideline, talking, communicating with each other coming from last week and how things went," said Johnson. "I think we grew up in a week. I'm proud of this team."
    C.J. Spiller also rebounded from a rough opener against New England with 103 yards on 16 attempts, including a 46-yard run midway through the fourth quarter which set up Carpenter's 48-yard field goal to cut Carolina's lead to 20-17.
    "It's one game, but it does feel good to start getting back into the groove," said Spiller, who had only 41 yards in the loss to the Patriots. "Last week I was very frustrated and they just took me out of my game."
    It was a thrilling finish in a game with an uneventful first half.
    Newton's 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Greg Olsen at the end of the second quarter gave Carolina (0-2) a 7-3 lead. Newton marched the Panthers 90 yards on 10 plays, completing his first six passes of the drive.
    After Buffalo had forced a punt in the middle of the third quarter, a holding penalty on fullback Frank Summers gave Carolina a first down. Four plays later, Newton threw a 40-yard touchdown to Ted Ginn, Jr., to give the Panthers a 14-6 lead.
    The Bills answered with a Fred Jackson 4-yard touchdown run set up by Johnson's 45-yard catch and run. Robert Woods made a diving catch on the two-point conversion to tie the game with under five minutes left in the third.
    Manuel fumbled and threw an interception to Kuechly in a three-play span late in the third quarter, but the Bills' defense held Carolina to a pair of field goals.
    "The defense showed up," said Johnson. "This is the second week in a row where they've showed up. We've still got to catch up to them. That's our challenge as an offense."
    Graham Gano's 39-yard field goal with 1:38 left gave Carolina a 23-17 lead.
    Newton threw for 229 yards on 21-of-38 passing, but it is another bad start for the Panthers, who are 0-2 for the fourth time in five seasons.
    "That's about as bad as it gets," said Carolina head coach Ron Rivera. "You have an opportunity to win the game, an opportunity to close it out, and you didn't."
    The one season during this stretch the Panthers did not start 0-2, they lost six of their first seven. Carolina will host the winless New York Giants on Sunday.
    Page 3 of 3 - DeAngelo Williams rushed for 85 yards on 22 carries and Olsen caught seven passes for 84 yards. Newton targeted Steve Smith 11 times, but the former All-Pro receiver had only five catches for 52 yards.
    "This isn't about learning any hard lessons," said Smith. "This is like going to the dentist, getting several teeth pulled, without any anesthesia, laughing gas, nothing. It's tough and it's sickening."
    Manuel's big day highlighted a strong game from Buffalo rookies.
    Woods had four catches for 68 yards, plus that game-tying two-point catch, while Alonso had 10 tackles and an interception to go with his game-ending sack.
    "We're out here to win games and all we want to do is just keep working hard," said Alonso.
    After Carpenter missed a 42-yard try on the Bills' first possession, he hit a 55-yard field goal in the second quarter to give the Bills a 3-0 lead.
    Buffalo (1-1) heads to MetLife Stadium on Sunday to take on the New York Jets in a 4:25 p.m. start.
    Notebook: The Bills honored all 28 members of the Wall of Fame at halftime … Bills safety Aaron Williams had a team-high 12 tackles … Panthers CB Josh Thomas, a University at Buffalo product, left the game in the first half with a concussion … Panthers safety Charles Godfrey was carted off the field with an ankle injury in the third quarter … Jackson became the 7th player in Bills' team history with 20 career rushing touchdowns and five receiving touchdowns … The Bills announced attendance as 67,819 … Kuechly finished with a game-high 14 tackles.

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