Bills power past Panthers to set up clash for AFC East lead

Buffalo Bills

Bills take care of business to set up another big clash with the Pats

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — After the Patriots lost on Saturday night, all the Bills had to do was win their final four games and their up-and-down season would end with an AFC East title. Step one, complete.

The Bills took care of business against the Panthers with a 31-14 win at Highmark Stadium. The Panthers were shorthanded, playing without their kicker Zane Gonzalez was injured during pregame warmups.

The Bills were without left tackle Dion Dawkins, who was placed on the COVID list on Friday as well as offensive guard Jon Feliciano who joined him on the list on Sunday.

Sean McDermott said he found out between nine and ten AM. It was difficult for the Bills to find a way to replace two starting offensive linemen last minute but the Bills handled it well and it was a big part of why they scored the very important win.

“I saw Jon last night, in fact, around meetings and he was fine, that I could tell,” said McDermott. “We got the heads-up this morning so we went into action and I credit the players, the coaches, the next man up approach and they went out there and executed.”

“Last couple of days, I know it hasn’t been easy on some of those guys, Darrell, Cody, and Spence, all having to change positions,” said Josh Allen. “Super happy those guys stepped up and played really well today.”

Allen had a solid day, throwing for three touchdowns. He finished with 310 yards on 19 for 34 passing. He also threw an interception.

With Dawkins out of the lineup, Spencer Brown was switched over to left tackle. The rookie struggled mightily, getting beat all day and having five penalties called against him. Allen was sacked four times total, with the offensive line not quite playing up to the level of Allen’s praise.

Devin Singletary had his best game on the ground this season, rushing 22 times for 86 yards and a touchdown. Gabriel Davis caught two touchdowns and Stefon Diggs had one, with Davis finishing with 85 receiving yards and Diggs having 35.

Cam Newton did most of his work on the ground, rushing 15 times for 71 yards and a score. He struggled through the air, completing just 18 of his 39 passing attempts, throwing for 156 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.

“These last two weeks have been hard. We’ve got a lot of competitive guys in that locker room,” said McDermott. “They want to win and to come up short the last two weeks, against two good football teams, especially with the chance to win it in the fourth quarter, those are tough. So hopefully, down the stretch, we will have learned from those situations and gotten better as a football team.”

The win sets up a showdown with the Patriots, with first place in the AFC East on the line.

“We all know who we have next week, it’s not a secret,” said Allen. “We’ll get on to them tomorrow and enjoy this one. From here on out, I talked about it earlier, every game from here on out is a playoff game and we’ve got to treat it as such.”

“I think a lot of guys had the game on last night and watched the Colts go up early on and kind of force them to get one-dimensional and throw the ball that way,” said defensive tackle Harrison Phillips. “We have some good film to break down, we know what we did against us so if they want to copycat that again, we’ll try and be more prepared.”

“I know guys will be excited, obviously, based on what happened last time just to have another go-around at it,” said linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. “We know it’s going to be a good challenge for us and guys are going to be ready.”

“We’ve got to keep it about us. They came in here and beat us two weeks ago so obviously, we have some adjusting to do and we’ve got to have a good week of preparation,” said McDermott.

The game got off to a sluggish start, with the first five possessions ending without points. The Bills got on the board early in the second quarter as Devin Singletary had a nice run from 16 yards out for a touchdown.

After the Bills defense got a three and out, Josh Allen connected with Stefon Diggs for an 11-yard score to make it 14-0 with 9:41 left in the second quarter.

The Panthers found some life on defense when Jeremy Chinn intercepted Allen with the Bills QB not seeing Chinn in coverage. Carolina quickly took the ball 37 yards in three plays, capping off the drive with a short run by Cam Newton from four yards out. Newton connected with DJ Moore for a one-handed catch on the two-point conversion.

The Bills were able to get into field goal range on the final drive of the half to make it 17-8 at the break.

After each team failed to score on their first drive of the second half, Allen hooked up with Gabriel Davis for a 20-yard score to push the lead to 24-8.

A long 15-play drive by the Panthers proved fruitless as the Bills’ defense came up with a fourth down stop on their own 10-yard line.

After the Bills went three and out, the Panthers took advantage of another short field, starting the drive at Buffalo’s 43-yard line. They cashed in on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Newton to Ameer Abdullah as the running back was covered by linebacker Matt Milano. The two-point conversion was not successful and the Bills were up 24-14.

After another three and out, the Efe Obada got sacks on second and fourth downs to thwart the Panthers’ comeback efforts. Gabriel Davis capped off the game with a wide-open touchdown reception on fourth and two to make the final score 31-14.

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