ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — With the Buffalo Bills’ past stars on hand, quarterback EJ Manuel provided a glimpse into the team’s future.
Shaking off two second-half turnovers, the first-round draft pick capped a nine-play, 80-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson with 2 seconds remaining in a 24-23 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
It was the first victory for the new-look Bills under Manuel and coach Doug Marrone. It came on a day when the Bills honored their 28-member Wall of Fame — a group that includes Hall of Famers Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Marv Levy — during a halftime ceremony.
And it came a week after the Bills squandered a last-second lead in a 23-21 season-opening loss to the New England Patriots.
Manuel showed poise in directing a hurry-up offense by completing 6 of 8 attempts for 51 yards. He also got help on third-and-6 from Carolina’s 29, when Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly was penalized for pass interference with 14 seconds left.
Two plays later, Manuel found Johnson alone in the left corner. Manuel was 29 of 37 for 296 yards and bounced back after throwing an interception and losing a fumble on consecutive possessions. Both turnovers led to field goals by Graham Gano.
Manuel became the fifth NFL rookie since 1960 to engineer a fourth-quarter comeback in his first or second game.
Bills defensive end Mario Williams set a team record with 4½ sacks. Fred Jackson scored on a 4-yard run.
The Panthers (0-2) lost yet another close game. They were coming off a 12-7 defeat to Seattle and dropped to 2-14 in games decided by 7 points or less in two-plus seasons under coach Ron Rivera.
Carolina had to settle for field goals on its three final possessions. The first two came when the Panthers were stopped on third down inside the Bills 10.