Bills end 2-game skid with 31-14 win over spiraling Panthers

Dec 18, 2021, 11:39 PM | Updated: Dec 19, 2021, 3:32 pm
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the first hal...

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the first half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus )

(AP Photo/Adrian Kraus )

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Josh Allen says his sprained left foot felt fine — still, he was grateful for how his Buffalo teammates helped carry the load.

Devin Singletary sparked what had been a pedestrian running attack with a season-best 86 yards. A much-maligned and COVID-19-depleted offensive line delivered in both run blocking and pass protection.

And the Bills’ defense had four sacks and an interception in a 31-14 win over the offensively challenged Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

“We’re just trying to find ways to win games, and we did that today,” said Allen, who stayed mostly in the pocket in going 19 of 34 for 210 yards passing with three touchdowns and an interception a week after getting hurt in a 33-27 overtime loss at Tampa Bay.

“We’re going to need that going forward,” he added. “We all know who we have next week. It’s no secret.”

Allen and the Bills (8-6) are already looking forward to an AFC East showdown at division-leading New England (9-5). They meet for the second time in three weeks following the Patriots’ 14-10 win at Buffalo.

For the moment, the Bills can take some satisfaction in snapping a two-game skid. Still, inconsistent Buffalo has won just four of its past nine games.

“It wasn’t so much of proving the doubters wrong, because there’s always going to be doubters,” Singletary said. “It was just doing what we needed to do to go 1-0.”

Gabriel Davis, taking over the No. 3 spot from injured receiver Emmanuel Sanders, essentially sealed the win by scoring twice in the second half. Stefon Diggs also scored in a game the Bills never trailed.

The Panthers (5-9) dropped their fourth straight and lost for the ninth time in 11 games. In a what-else-can-go-wrong season, Carolina was dealt a blow a little over an hour before kickoff when kicker Zane Gonzalez had to be helped off the field after hurting his quadriceps.

The injury left Carolina minus a real kicker. The Panthers passed up a field-goal attempt and failed to convert fourth-and-9 from Buffalo’s 24 to end their second possession. Carolina went for 2 after both touchdowns and converted once. It also went just 1 for 5 on fourth downs.

“That’s not something we expected. If anything, I would’ve come into this game typically saying, `Hey, it’s windy weather, let’s kick short field goals to take points,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said. “We really thought our defense was going to play well.”

The defense was stout for the most part in limiting the Bills to 17 points in the first half, sacking Allen four times. Jeremy Chinn’s interception set up Cam Newton’s 4-yard TD run to cut Buffalo’s lead to 14-8.

Discipline, however, became a factor. Though Carolina was penalized just five times for 55 yards, personal fouls against defensive linemen Phil Hoskins (face mask), Brian Burns (roughing the passer) and Bravvion Roy (unnecessary roughness during a sideline scuffle) each extended Buffalo scoring drives.

“I don’t feel like it was super late … but dumb penalty,” Burns said after his 15-yard penalty helped set up Tyler Bass’s 26-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter. “It’s frustrating when a lot of things aren’t going your way and, you know, we are beating ourselves”

The Bills took control with six minutes left in the fourth quarter, when Allen, facing third-and-12, hit Davis for a 20-yard TD to put Buffalo ahead 24-8. Davis also scored on a 14-yard catch in the fourth quarter.

The Panthers eventually cut the lead to 24-14 when Newton hit Ameer Abdullah for a 23-yard touchdown with 11:01 remaining.

Former Panthers defensive end Efe Obada ended Carolina’s last real chance for a comeback by sacking Newton for an 8-yard loss on fourth-and-10 from his own 46 with under six minutes left.

Newton finished 13 of 39 for 156 yards and an interception, with 15 carries for a team-leading 71 yards. He extended his NFL record by scoring a TD rushing and TD passing for the 44th time of his career. Newton also extended his streak of scoring a TD rushing to five consecutive games, matching the NFL record for a quarterback set by Arizona’s Kyler Murray last year.

0 FOR 12

Newton has lost 12 consecutive starts for Carolina, a skid that began before he spent last season with New England. Newton re-signed with the Panthers last month and hasn’t led Carolina to victory since a 42-28 win against Tampa Bay on Nov. 4, 2018.

LINEUPS

Panthers: RG John Miller returned after missing two games with an ankle injury.

Bills: Were down two offensive line starters after RG Jon Feliciano was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list hours before kickoff. LT Dion Dawkins landed on the list Friday and was not cleared to play.

UP NEXT

Panthers: Close home schedule hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

Bills: Close road schedule at the Patriots on Sunday.

___

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Bills end 2-game skid with 31-14 win over spiraling Panthers