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Points after: Bills 24, Panthers 23

Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin breaks up a pass intended for Carolina's Steve Smith. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

By Tim Graham

Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' thrilling victory over the Carolina Panthers in Ralph Wilson Stadium ...

What it means: The Bills were staring at an 0-2 start but came back to even their record. The Bills lost to the New England Patriots by one point on opening day and could be 2-0 with a bounce or two. There's a lot to feel good about.

Bills player of the game: Mario Williams was a boss. He set a Bills record and a new career-high with 4.5 sacks, three of them in the first half. Williams' previous personal-best was 3.5 sacks for the Texans in December 2007. Bruce Smith had four sacks for the Bills twice, Cornelius Bennett once.


Panthers player of the game: Panthers quarterback Cam Newton completed 21 of his 38 throws for 229 yards and two touchdowns, including a gorgeous, 40-yard strike to Ted Ginn in the end zone. Newton also kept several plays alive with his feet and ran for 15 yards.

Turbulent second half for the rookie: EJ Manuel committed two turnovers in a three-play span in the second half. Two plays after his first lost fumble, he threw his first interception. Carolina turned each short-field giveaway into a field goal. But Manuel led the Bills on a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in 96 seconds. He finished 27 of 39 for 296 yards and a touchdown.

Plays of the game: The Panthers appeared to seal the game with safety Colin Jones' interception with 21 seconds to play. But Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly was called for pass interference, and the Bills kept the ball. Two snaps later, Manuel threw a 2-yard TD toss to Stevie Johnson for the victory. 

Preliminary injury report: Buffalo made it through without any injuries significant enough for a press-box announcement. Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus appeared to have a right knee issue in the first quarter but soon returned. ... A grenade went off in Carolina's secondary. It lost cornerback Josh Thomas (University at Buffalo) and safeties Charles Godfrey and Quintin Mikell. Carolina cornerback Charles Norman also missed time in the third quarter.

Coming up: The Bills will play their first road game next Sunday against the New York Jets at the Meadowlands.

Second-quarter analysis: Conservative playcalling fails

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills elected to play the field position game near the end of the first half, and it came back to bite them.

Facing a fourth and 3 from the Carolina 45-yard line, the Bills elected to punt. The decision backfired.

The Panthers took the ball from their 10-yard line and marched 90 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Cam Newton went 7 of 8 for 70 yards on the drive, finishing it with a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Greg Olsen. The Panthers took a 7-3 lead into halftime.

Making amends: Dan Carpenter redeemed himself for a miss from 42 yards in the opening quarter by drilling a 55-yard field goal toward the scoreboard end of the stadium. Carpenter’s kick opened the scoring.

Missing Andy: Colin Brown isn’t doing anything to make the Bills forget Andy Levitre. The Bills’ left guard completely whiffed on a block in the first quarter that led to Fred Jackson being dropped for a 4-yard loss. Brown was then called for a false start in the second quarter, the first penalty of the game.

Short homecoming: Panthers cornerback Josh Thomas suffered a concussion and will not return to the game. Thomas, a University at Buffalo product, was hurt making a tackle of Bills receiver Robert Woods on a reverse early in the second quarter.

How the locals fared: Week One

By Jay Skurski

Our weekly rundown on the Press Coverage blog of the players from Western New York (along with the University at Buffalo) currently in the NFL:

Steven Means: The Buffalo native and Grover Cleveland and University at Buffalo product made his NFL debut for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, playing five snaps on special teams in an 18-17 loss at the New York Jets. Means did not register any statistics. The rookie defensive end was a fifth-round draft pick in June.

Mike Williams: The Buffalo native and Riverside product was targeted eight times by Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman, making four catches for 52 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Jets.

James Starks: The Niagara Falls native is in his fourth season as a running back for the Green Bay Packers. He caught one pass for 8 yards and did not attempt any rushes in a 34-28 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Continue reading "How the locals fared: Week One" »

Where the Western New Yorkers are after final cuts around the NFL

By Jay Skurski

Five local players could not survive final roster cuts over the weekend, leaving a total of seven from Western New York on active rosters (or in one case, a physically unable to perform list) heading into the 2013 NFL season. Another two players from the University at Buffalo are also in the NFL. Here is an update on each of them:

Steven Means: The Buffalo native and Grover Cleveland and University at Buffalo product is listed as the backup right defensive end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who drafted Means in the fifth round of April’s NFL Draft. Mean impressed the Bucs earlier in the preseason with his athleticism.

James Starks: The Niagara Falls native is entering his fourth season with the Green Bay Packers. He’s listed as the starter at running back on the depth chart, but has promising rookies in Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin behind him.

J.C. Tretter: The Akron product, a fourth-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in April, will start the season on the team’s physically unable to perform list after he broke his ankle in May. He will miss at least the first six weeks of the season.

Continue reading "Where the Western New Yorkers are after final cuts around the NFL" »

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |