Norman injured as Carolina lets one slip away in Buffalo

The Carolina Panthers lost three key pieces of the defensive secondary to injury, including Coastal Carolina alum Josh Norman, then suffered an even more painful loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Buffalo quarterback E.J. Manuel threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson with 2 seconds left as the Bills (1-1) defeated the winless Panthers 24-23 at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday.

The Panthers lost Norman to a thigh injury, corner Josh Thomas to a concussion and free safety Charles Godfrey to an ankle injury. The Bills took advantage of the dinged-up defense to put together the game-winning TD drive in the final seconds.

Manuel was 27 of 39 for 296 yards and one touchdown. Bills running back and Clemson product C.J. Spiller rushed 16 times for 103 yards, while Johnson caught eight passes for 111 yards. Buffalo defensive end Mario Williams established a team record with 4.5 sacks.

Carolina’s Cam Newton completed 21 of 39 passes for 229 yards and two scores and was intercepted once. D’Angelo Williams rushed 22 times for 85 yards and Panthers tight end Greg Olsen caught seven passes for 84 yards and one touchdown.

The Bills went up 3-0 with 10:41 remaining in the half on a 55-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter. The score capped a 10-play, 43-yard drive that featured a 19-yard pass from Manuel to Stevie Johnson.

Newton struggled early, completing just seven of his first 17 attempts and throwing an interception. The Bills pressure obviously got to him, as defensive end Mario Williams sacked him three times.

It wasn’t until Carolina’s final drive of the half that Newton began to find his rhythm. He completed seven of eight passes for 70 yards as the Panthers drove 90 yards to take a 7-3 lead. Newton capped the march with a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Greg Olsen with 13 seconds left in the second quarter.

The Bills closed the gap to 7-6 with 10:49 left in the third quarter on a 20-yard field goal by Carpenter. Manuel completed passes of 15 and 28 yards to fellow rookie Robert Woods during the drive.

The Panthers increased their lead to eight points on their next possession as Newton rifled a 40-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn, Jr.

The Bills came back to tie the game on the next series on a 4-yard touchdown run by Fred Jackson and a two-point conversion pass from Manuel to Woods.

After forcing the Panthers to punt, the Bills gave the ball away late in the third quarter when Manuel was sacked and fumbled. Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards recovered at the Bills’ 16. The turnover resulted in a 27-yard field goal by Graham Gano that put the Panthers up 17-14.

Manuel was picked off on the Bills ensuing series, as linebacker Luke Kuechly stepped in front of T.J. Graham on a slant. That resulted in a 25-yard field goal by Gano that put the Panthers up by six.

Spiller broke free on a 46-yard run on Buffalo’s next possession, setting up a 48-yard Carpenter field goal with 7:13 left in the game that cut Carolina’s lead to 20-17.

Photo by Joel Beachum, Carolina Clicks Photos

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