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Posted: Wednesday, 18 September 2013 1:11AM

Upon Further Review: Bills vs Panthers



(WGR 550) -- It was a hallmark day for the Buffalo Bills, signaling that the new era had begun with their flashy new rookie quarterback leading them to a come-from-behind victory over the Carolina Panthers. Before we turn the page on the victory over the Panthers to the upcoming contest against the New York Jets, first is a look at how each individual that took an offensive or defensive snap fared during Week 2.

The big names of the Bills certainly came to play in the statistical sense, but how did they do on a play-to-play basis that isn't reflected in the commonly accepted categories?

Every week, with the help of the All-22 film available through NFL.com's Game Rewind package, WGR will provide the standouts, the duds and everything in between from the game that was.

For each player that appeared in the game on offense or defense, you'll see their name in bold, with a set of numbers in parenthesis. Example: Rufus Scrimgeour (54, -2, 2.7). The first number (54) represents the snap count of that game, the second (-2) represents the individual players plus-minus of positive plays to negative plays in that game. The third number (2.7) represents the weighted Grade Point Average assigned to that player by the author.

(**Editor's Note: Aggregate plus/minus scores and GPAs will be added at some point on Wednesday.)

OFFENSE (75 total plays)

Quarterback
Highlighted by a drive no fan of the Bills will soon forget, EJ Manuel (75, +3, 3.0) had his second straight solid performance in which he made more good decisions than bad throughout the contest. You can't start anywhere else but the touchdown drive to win the game in the fourth quarter, where Manuel showed poise, an understanding of the offense and the physical ability to make a play when it doesn't go as planned.

There weren't any overwhelming throws by Manuel on the final drive. Instead, he took exactly what the defense was willing (or unwilling thanks to a blown coverage) to give him. Everyone will remember the touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson. He recognized the bust in coverage and made the easy throw to the wideout. It wasn't even close to the play that made that drive what it was, however.

The game very well could have ended if Manuel didn't have the physical ability to escape a muddied pocket not once, but twice down the stretch. Defensive end Greg Hardy rushed up the interior of the line and got into the pocket quickly as the Bills had just entered Carolina territory. Manuel was in Hardy's grasp and the rookie stumbled but escaped to extend the play, rolled to his right and found C.J. Spiller for a four-yard gain and a clock stoppage. Had he taken that sack, the probability of winning falls dramatically.

His other big play was the scramble down to the two-yard line, setting up the Bills for the game-winning play. He read the play, saw nothing downfield and escaped for six yards and got out of bounds to stop the clock.

It wasn't all fantastic for Manuel on that drive. On one play, he appeared a bit too eager for the play to develop even though he had a clean pocket. He forced a short throw when another route was going to come open. Then there was the interception called off due to a pass interference call. There is some debate as to whether Stevie Johnson would have gotten a hand on it had he not been interfered with, but the throw was high and caught about six yards past where Johnson had been running. It was an errant throw that at best would have been an incompletion. Despite the flaws, the game-winning drive was quite impressive.

Manuel had a very effective third quarter, finding both Johnson and Robert Woods on big gains that were more than just dump-offs. They were strong strikes to the intermediate areas, something he lacked as the game got started. He missed badly in the first quarter on a would-be 26-yard post to Johnson and was hesitant to make other intermediate throws when a safer, shorter option was available. On two separate occasions in the second quarter, T.J. Graham was wide open and Manuel instead opted to throw a swing pass.

Manuel showed strong ability in play-action fakes, even once getting both Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis to bite so hard that it left the entire left side open for a Robert Woods reception. The concern at this point with Manuel might be that he will stare down his receiver from time to time. He didn't look any other way on the interception to Kuechly that was intended for Graham. Then again in the fourth quarter Manuel was under duress, stared down Fred Jackson, and delivered a poorly placed ball that could have been intercepted by Thomas Davis.

All in all it was a positive day for Manuel, but not yet the "arrival" of the young quarterback in the NFL. He certainly shows signs and flashes of being a good professional player, but must limit the mistakes that could have very nearly cost the Bills the game.

Running Back
After a one-week hiatus, C.J. Spiller (44, +4, 3.3) got back to his normal self. Whatever the New England Patriots did to Spiller, it worked in a big way because the running back was as frustrated as he's been in the past two years following that loss. Spiller displayed excellent vision and explosiveness in his moves, finding the cutback lanes that evaded him in Week 1. His big run came in the third quarter on a 46-yard gain that he had been waiting on for some time. He whiffed on one pass protection that needed a Houdini act from Manuel to not take a sack, but otherwise had a very solid day. Fred Jackson (30, +3, 3.0) was merely average through the first half, but then became indispensable down the stretch of the game. He scored a touchdown in the third quarter and had two big receptions on the game-winning drive, one in which he broke a Luke Kuechly tackle to obtain a first down. Frank Summers (22, 0, 1.7) had two receptions that went for solid yardage but had two of the worst plays on the field. He took a very bad holding penalty on a punt play that extended a Carolina drive and helped them score another touchdown, and then also missed the block on the player that stripped Manuel of the football in the second half which resulted in a turnover.

Wide Receiver
As the quarterback goes, so do the receivers. And with an opponent lacking both depth and talent in the secondary, the main duo of the Bills had tremendous efforts throughout the contest. Stevie Johnson (75, +7, 3.3) was the recipient of the headlining catch, atoning for his crucial third-down drop in the first game of the season. His day was so much more than that though. That was his third reception on the game-winning drive, with the first two featuring sideline catches that gave him the opportunity to get out of bounds and stop the clock. Johnson delivered one of his trademark shakedowns, crossing over cornerback Josh Norman so badly it left the second-year player in the dust on a red zone slant in the third quarter. His big play was the run-after-catch he had on a third down play that set the Bills up in the red zone for a field goal. Starting beside him in Week 2 was not T.J. Graham (47, +2, 2.3), but rather it was rookie Robert Woods (71, +7, 3.7). Not only was Woods one of Manuel's favorite targets, but he provided a few key blocks when plays reached the second level and even prevented a momentum-shifting turnover by playing defense and taking a penalty. On that particular play, Manuel eyed down Woods on a slant and cornerback D.J. Moore knew it was coming and jumped it. If Woods hadn't grabbed Moore and whipped him around, that play very nearly could have resulted in an interception returned for a touchdown. Graham was open a few times but Manuel didn't have his eyes down the field on those plays. Graham did make his first reception of the season, however. Chris Hogan (3, 0, 2.3) was the decoy that pulled both defenders away from Johnson on the game-winning reception.

Tight End
During the second contest of the season, Scott Chandler (71, -2, 2.3) made some receptions, but failed to impress in some areas. Chandler dropped what would have been a first-down pickup during the second quarter upon contact with a defender. He made a couple of key blocks throughout the game. The first came in the first quarter against linebacker Thomas Davis on a C.J. Spiller run, allowing the runner to get into open field and then letting go at the perfect time to avoid a holding call. He also made a big block on a Spiller cutback run that went seven yards in the third quarter. Chandler missed a few blocks throughout the contest, where his man ended up making the play to hold the rush for little to no yardage. Lee Smith (11, -1, 1.3) didn't have a huge role in the game, but kept the Bills from a potential big gain in the second quarter. Spiller had finally busted a run outside and ran down the left sideline for a big gain, only to be called back on a holding penalty on Smith. It was the right call, but one that likely wasn't needed with Spiller already having made his cut.

Offensive Line
Against a solid defensive line, the offensive tackles of the Bills were quite effective. Left tackle Cordy Glenn (75, +3, 3.3) kept Greg Hardy in check all game long. He's been quietly spectacular against two very good young edge rushers throughout the first two weeks, displaying good footwork when the players try to go wide. If someone elects to bull-rush him, he has the weight to anchor and keep them at bay. The only move that has gotten him to this point was an outside-in move by Hardy that didn't result in a sack, but put the heat on Manuel. Glenn must be careful with his hands, though. He could have gotten called twice for illegal hands to the face, but got away with it each time. Erik Pears (75, +2, 3.0) had an even tougher assignment in Charles Johnson and performed better than expected. He more than held his own, and in a brief matchup with Frank Alexander, Pears looked totally in control in pass protection. It was an even day for both Eric Wood (75, 0, 2.7) and Kraig Urbik (75, 0, 2.7) with each making an equal amount of positive and negative plays. Wood's best play came on the Fred Jackson touchdown run, where he pulled and crushed the would-be tackler to pave the way for the runner. Urbik had the key block for C.J. Spiller's 46-yard explosion of a run in the fourth quarter. Once again, it was a day to be forgotten for left guard Colin Brown (75, -9, 1.0). He actually performed a bit better, not taking as many negative plays in Week Two as opposed to Week One, but rookie Star Lotulelei had Brown's number all game long. The left guard really struggles in hand-to-hand combat, which led to most of Lotulelei's positive rushes up the field.

DEFENSE (79 total plays)

Defensive Line
If you want one of the biggest reasons why the Bills held up late in the game when it appeared the Panthers were going to run out the clock, look no farther than to the play of Kyle Williams (58, +7, 3.7). He was a force inside all game long, no matter if it was Amini Silatolu, Chris Scott or Travelle Wharton blocking him. His key plays were undoubtedly a batted pass in the second quarter that would have gone for a big gain to a wide open receiver, and the late fourth quarter stop on DeAngelo Williams. During the latter play, Williams was still semi-engaged with his blocker, turned his body to plug up the gap and then brought down the runner for one yard on second-and-five. Marcell Dareus (58, +1, 2.7) was solid, but not as overwhelming as the second half of the Patriots contest. His best play came on his half a sack, when he fought through a double-team to help bring down Cam Newton. In the fourth quarter, Dareus was easily pushed aside in the run game on two separate occasions. Alex Carrington (50, +1, 2.7) had one of the more unheralded plays of the game. Newton had nothing open down the field, and the pocket was collapsing to his right. The mobile quarterback started running left, with only a dropped back Kyle Williams in coverage on that side of the field. If it weren't for Carrington keeping his body position and containing the edge, Newton would have gotten to the left and had a humongous gain on the ground. Instead, Newton rushed it back to the right and gained seven yards. Alan Branch (26, -1, 2.3) really didn't have much of an impact on the game in his time on the field.

Rush Linebacker
Many fans of the Buffalo Bills have been waiting for this type of day from Mario Williams (68, +8, 3.7). He was borderline unblockable for much of the contest. The key to his efforts was his bull-rush against right tackle Byron Bell, which helped him get to Cam Newton fast enough to help a struggling secondary throughout the contest. Everyone knows about his 4.5 sacks by now, but one non-sack play really showed a difference from his approach last season. In the first quarter, the Panthers ran the read-option to Williams' side. Rather than crashing the running back like he did against Seattle in 2012, Williams stood in place and stared down Newton, forcing the quarterback to throw the ball instead of taking off and running with it. If Williams is going to continue to be that dominant, the Bills will need more production out of Jerry Hughes (36, -1, 2.3). He was brought in to help the pass rush and looked very good all throughout the spring and summer. He had one play in the third quarter where a bull-rush at Jordan Gross helped collapse the pocket on a third-down sack, but the production has been too little to speak of at this point.

Middle Linebacker
Following a strong first showing, rookie Kiko Alonso (79, +4, 3.3) had an equally impressive day that provided more 'flash' plays. Among his eight positive plays throughout the contest, two stick out like a sore thumb. In the first quarter, the Panthers stacked their receivers on the right side of the formation and were targeting Brandon LaFell on a comeback route. It's a play they had run the previous week, and a route Cam Newton gravitates toward. From film study, Alonso recognized the formation and as soon as he saw LaFell start his breakdown, he rushed over to that side of the field. As he was running he turned his head, saw Newton was about to throw the ball and completed the interception. On Carolina's attempt to run out the clock, it was Alonso that provided the wall and tackle that prevented the Panthers from picking up the first down they so coveted, forcing them to instead kick a field goal. The rest, as we know, is history. Arthur Moats (33, +2, 2.7) really showed well in his efforts against the run, although the play-action pass burned him early on a big gain to tight end Greg Olsen.

Weakside Linebacker
Based on the matchup, it was a mostly quiet day for both Nigel Bradham (1, +1, 3.0) and Jamaal Westerman (3, -1, 2.0). On Bradham's lone play, he was left totally unblocked and made a tackle on a DeAngelo Williams rush attempt that went one yard. Westerman was a pass-rusher on the 40-yard touchdown to Ted Ginn, not even getting close to Newton as he delivered a strike to the end zone.

Strongside Linebacker
It was more of the same from Manny Lawson (59, +1, 2.7), although in Week Two he saw much more time on the field than he did against the Patriots. Lawson once again excelled in containing the edge, although he had a couple of missteps that led to a pair of big gains for DeAngelo Williams on rush attempts. He also displayed good patience in coverage, not rushing after Newton when the running back was on a delayed route.

Cornerback
The starting cornerback duo for the Bills made some very solid flash plays throughout the contest, but were bailed out by the consistent pass rush getting to Cam Newton through much of the game. With Stephon Gilmore still injured, it was Leodis McKelvin (79, -3, 2.7) pegged to cover Steve Smith. McKelvin made a couple of very important pass breakups, one coming in the first quarter on a single coverage matchup deep down the left sideline where he played the ball perfectly, and the other in the fourth quarter as the Panthers went to Smith in the red zone only to be thwarted by the former first-round pick. There were also times that Newton had looked for Smith, and then went on with his progressions because McKelvin had him covered up. McKelvin did however struggle in staying with Smith within the first three to three-and-a-half seconds of the wideout's routes. The cornerback was helped out by the pressure provided by the Bills' pass-rushers which forced some errant throws intended for an open Smith. The wide receiver had five catches for 52 yards, but a pass interference call on McKelvin matched with some inexcusable errant throws on Newton's part could have made it become a much bigger day for Smith. McKelvin's clutch pass breakups were notable, however. Justin Rogers (74, -5, 1.7) struggled for much of the day, giving up the biggest pass play of the game. Ted Ginn snuck behind him for a 40-yard touchdown reception, and that wasn't the only time Ginn got the best of Rogers. There were seven different times where Ginn had beaten Rogers on a play that was heading their way. Some were overthrows, but Ginn consistently won the matchup. Rookie Nickell Robey (43, +2, 3.0) continued his strong play. He very nearly had an interception returned for a touchdown when he instinctively broke on a third quarter throw to Armanti Edwards. It was a great play, and now Robey just has to finish that play to become a playmaker for the defense.

Safety
When you talk about potential at the safety position, some plays Aaron Williams (78, +1, 2.7) makes leads you to believe he can become a very solid starter. Early on in the contest, Ted Ginn was coming free over the middle of the field. Steve Smith was running deep down the left sideline and Williams was responsible for the deep left half. He instead read Cam Newton's eyes, recognized the open Ginn and broke on the ball with all the athleticism he has. If it was a well-thrown pass, there is little doubt that the play would have resulted in an interception. The potential is there, but the inexcusable unnecessary roughness penalty in the third quarter needs to be tucked away and never come back for him to be seen as dependable. Williams hit Brandon LaFell a good two yards into the sideline area on a third-down play that was already stopped. Da'Norris Searcy (74, -2, 2.3) took a defensive holding penalty, was slow on a reaction to a deep throw in the first half, and overran a DeAngelo Williams rush attempt in the fourth quarter. However, it was his blitz effort that helped Mario Williams collect his third sack of the game, and he covered up Steve Smith near the goal line in the fourth quarter when Cam Newton was scrambling right.

'Upon Further Review' Game MVP: RLB Mario Williams
'Upon Further Review' Game LVP: LG Colin Brown

(Coming soon, aggregate plus/minus scores and GPAs)

Previous Installments:
Week 1 - New England 23, Buffalo 21

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

All photos courtesy of AP
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