The Panthers came into this game desperately needing a win to avoid having a losing season for the fourth straight year, and things weren’t looking good for them before the game even began. Kicker Zane Gonzalez injured his quad during warmups and was ruled out of the game, and the Panthers had to play the entire game without a kicker. That affected their game plan as they had to go for it on fourth downs and two point conversions instead of attempting field goals, and it cost them chances to score points a few times throughout the game.
The Panthers were simply outmatched by a better team in this game, and while they fought valiantly and did the best they could do in an unusual situation, they simply weren’t good enough to win this game today. The Panthers fall to 5-9 on the season, guaranteeing themselves another losing record, and now have to face the Saints and the Buccaneers twice to close out the season.
The Panthers return home next week for the final time in 2021 to play the Bucs, who will be looking to fine tune their team as they prepare for a playoff run. I don’t know where the Panthers will go from here, but now that they’re all but officially eliminated from the playoffs, I suspect we’ll start to see the coaching staff begin to evaluate the talent (or lack thereof) they have on the current roster so they know what moves need to be made in the offseason.
If you’re interested, you can read a more in-depth recap of the game, broken down by quarter, below.
The Panthers lost the coin toss but received the opening kickoff after the Bills deferred to the second half. The Panthers opened the game with a three-and-out that gained a measly two yards. The Panthers defense responded by forcing a punt on their own after four plays to give the ball right back to the offense. Brian Burns just missed recovering a fumble forced by Haason Reddick that would have given the Panthers a touchdown, but forcing fourth-and-long was a nice consolation prize for the Panthers’ defense.
The offense showed some signs of improvement on their next drive, making it down inside the Bills 30-yard line, but had to go for it on fourth-and-9 instead of attempting a 43-yard field goal due to Zane Gonzalez being unavailable due to a quad injury suffered pre-game, and the Bills were able to take over on downs after an unsuccessful play on fourth down. The defense held strong and forced the Bills to punt again from inside their own 30-yard line.
The Panthers made it to midfield again but failed to convert on a fourth-and-1 play and turned the ball over on downs to the Bills for the second straight drive. The Bills ran a few plays before time expired on the quarter with the game tied at 0-0.
The Bills continued their drive from the end of the first quarter and put the game’s first points on the board thanks to a 16-yard touchdown run by Devin Singletary. The extra point was good to give the Bills a 7-0 lead with 14:13 left in the half. The Panthers failed to get anything going on their next drive and punted the ball back to the Bills after Newton was sacked on third-and-8 to set up fourth-and-long.
The Bills took advantage of a shorter field thanks to a 14-yard punt return and extended their lead to 14-0 after Josh Allen found Stefon Diggs for an 11-yard touchdown pass. The extra point extended the Bills lead to 14-0 with 9:41 left in the half.
The Panthers’ offense faltered again at midfield and had to punt on fourth-and-7 to give the ball back to the Bills offense with 5:14 left in the half. The Panthers defense came up with a huge turnover on a Jeremy Chinn interception at the Bills 36-yard line to give the ball back to their offense with a chance to put points on the board in the final 2:45 of the half. The Panthers were able to put the plays together to find the end zone and scored on a 4-yard rush by Newton. The Panthers went for two and converted to make it a 14-8 game with 1:48 left in the half.
The Bills were able to get into field goal range with 0:05 left in the half and added a 26-yard field goal to extend their lead to 17-8 at the half.
The Panthers started the second half on defense and Zylstra’s kickoff put the Bills at their own 26-yard line. The Panthers defense managed to hold their ground and forced a fourth-and-7 situation where the Bills had to punt the ball away. The Panthers offense couldn’t generate anything during their time with the ball and had to punt it right back to the Bills.
The Bills managed to score on their next drive, thanks in part to a questionable penalty on the Panthers for unnecessary roughness that turned fourth-and-9 into first-and-10 and kept the drive alive. Josh Allen found Gabriel Davis for the score, and the extra point extended Buffalo’s lead to 24-8 with 5:52 left in the quarter.
The Panthers put together a pretty solid drive in their attempt to get back in the game, and they faced a fourth-and-4 inside the red zone as time expired on the quarter.
The Panthers failed to convert on fourth-and-4 and turned the ball over on downs back to the Bills. The Panthers defense stepped up and forced the Bills to punt the ball without allowing them to add to their lead or drain too much time off the clock to keep the Panthers alive in the game.
The Panthers took advantage of their defense getting them the ball back with a touchdown drive that ended with Cam Newton finding Ameer Abdullah for a touchdown strike. The Panthers went for two and failed to convert to make the score 24-14 Buffalo with 11:01 left in regulation.
The Panthers defense once again forced the Bills to punt and got the ball back into the hands of their offense with a chance to make it a one-score game. The Panthers couldn’t convert on a fourth-and-9 after Efe Obada sacked Newton, and the Panthers turned the ball over on downs again at midfield. The Bills drove down the field and scored a game-sealing touchdown on fourth-and-2 to give themselves a 31-14 lead with 2:07 left in regulation after a successful extra point.
The Panthers couldn’t score a garbage time touchdown as Newton threw an interception to seal the game. The Bills ran the victory formation to run the final 51 seconds off the clock to end the game at 31-14.