By Ted Fleming
BUFFALO BILLS BY THE NUMBERS
2012 Record: 6-10
2013 Record: 0-1
Record vs. Panthers: 3-1
Streak vs. Panthers: W1
Last Meeting: Bills 20, Panthers 9 (10/25/09) in Charlotte, NC
Next Game: Sunday, Sept. 15 at Ralph Wilson Stadium (73,079) @ 1:00 p.m.
A New Year, A New Team
When the Panthers roll into upstate New York this weekend to take on the Bills, they will find a club very much different from the one that finished 6-10 a year ago. Gone is head coach Chan Gailey along with coordinators Curtis Modkins and Dave Wannstedt, and the Ryan Fitzpatrick four-year experiment at quarterback is over as well.
The Bills have not made the playoffs this century. Since their last trip in 1999 with Doug Flutie under center, they have just one season above .500, which came in 2004 under head coach Mike Mularkey, so changes had to be made – again.
Doug Marrone is Buffalo’s sixth man at the helm since Wade Phillips was canned in 2000 and if there was one thing high on his list of things to do, it was becoming the first Bills head coach to win in his debut. It may be hard to believe, but there were 18 men before him that tried and failed.
Unfortunately he became victim No. 19 when his team lost a 23-21 heartbreaker to the Patriots on Sunday after Tom Brady pulled off yet another late-game drive that led to the game-winning field goal.
The Quarterback of the Future?
The defeat aside, the Bills may have found their quarterback of the future in E.J. Manuel, the only quarterback to come off the board in the first round of the last NFL draft. The 23 year old out of Florida State was taken 16th overall.
Manuel did not get many reps in the preseason because of a left knee procedure that limited him to just one preseason game. He showed poise and the ability to lead and despite missing the final two exhibitions he beat out another rookie Jeff Tuel and was solid in his NFL debut going 18-27 for 150 yards, two TDs with no interceptions and a rating of 105.5, a nice start against a perennial playoff team.
Many people will be looking at Manuel’s follow-up performance against the Panthers to see if his first one was a fluke or a peek into the future.
Manuel’s offense managed just 286 total yards on Sunday and they will have to do a lot more against the formidable front seven the Panthers will throw at him.
The Defense is Another Story
They gave up a whopping 431 yards and the score was only close because of repeated gaffs by the Patriots. The two most glaring miscues were a non-contact fumble which led to a touchdown and Tom Brady coughing up the ball on the goal line. That probably kept New England from stepping on Buffalo’s neck in a wipeout.
Cam Newton leads a Panthers offense that has the capabilities of putting up the same kind of numbers the Patriots did mostly because he has a stable of talented receivers, like veteran Steve Smith and speedster Ted Ginn to go along with the sure hands of Brandon LaFell. Carolina also found their ground game against one of the best defenses in the league. They had just 24 less yards than New England and could have a breakout game on Sunday if the Bills don’t find cure to their ills.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.