Sunday's game could have been a comfortable win for the Carolina Panthers, similar to their 23-3 season opening victory over San Francisco.
Bills safety Jordan Poyer kept the Panthers from taking control by saving two touchdowns with end-zone breakups in the first half.
Poyer, who started just 10 games in the first four years of his NFL career, now has two straight superb performances as a new starting safety for the Bills. The 26-year-old former Cleveland Browns special teamer was the biggest reason the Bills still had a chance at the end of their 9-3 defeat.
Here were 10 plays that shaped the game:
1. Poyer lowers boom. Poyer's big hit on Kelvin Benjamin on the first drive of the game saved a touchdown. The 6-foot-5 Benjamin ran a skinny post from the right slot, and Cam Newton's perfect pass hit the receiver in the hands.
Poyer was the lone safety in the middle of the field and separated Benjamin from the ball with a big blow that knocked the air out of the wideout. Poyer didn't bite when Newton looked the other way on his drop-back. Perfect coverage.
2. Leaping rejection. Poyer had a pedestrian 30.5-inch vertical jump coming out of Oregon State in 2013. We suspect it has gotten better. Poyer showed athleticism and with a leaping break-up in the end zone on a pass for Russell Shepard on third-and-goal from the 8 in the second quarter.
It was a similar alignment as the-first quarter play, with three receivers to the right side, and the pass went to the middle target. Good job by Poyer reading Newton's eyes and breaking on the ball.
Without those two plays, the Panthers are up 14-0 at the half, not 6-0.
3. Pass interference. It was a fair call. Andre Holmes was flagged for offensive pass interference with 53 seconds left after catching an 11-yard pass to the Carolina 21. Holmes shoved off with his right arm against cornerback Daryl Worley. There's contact at the top of the route on a lot of plays. If Worley had just gone backward a step or two it probably was no call. But Worley stumbled to the ground. It wasn't an act. Kind of an unlucky break for the Bills.
4. Off the hands. The Bills' final incompletion was a good play call. With LeSean McCoy lined up as a receiver wide right, Worley (the wide corner) showed respect and didn't drop too deep in his zone. That left Zay Jones in the hole of the two-deep coverage on a corner route. Pretty good throw by Taylor. It was a tough, twisting catch for the rookie but the ball hit both of his hands.
5. Third and 1. The Bills crossed midfield for the first time in the game on the opening drive of the third quarter. On third and 1 from the Panthers' 44, Taylor ran a bootleg left and had Nick O'Leary open but didn't pull the trigger (there was pressure from safety Kurt Coleman). Instead he threw short to the sideline where Patrick DiMarco dropped what was not an easy ball to catch.
6. Fourth and 1. McCoy was stuffed for no gain on an option pitch to the weak side on the next play. The Panthers were playing run all the way with eight men in the box. Mario Addison defeated the block of left tackle Dion Dawkins but it wouldn't have mattered if the defensive end was blocked. Coleman and Thomas Davis were all over it.
7. Shady stuffed. Yet another drive was dead in the starting blocks when McCoy was stuffed for a 7-yard loss on the first play of a series at the end of the third quarter. The Panthers were playing run all the way, with the cornerback (Worley) crashing off the edge.
8. Hughes sack. The Panthers were threatening to score early in the second quarter with the ball on the Buffalo 22. Jerry Hughes had too much speed for left tackle Matt Kalil and sacked Newton for a 10-yard loss on second down. Another sack on third down took the Panthers out of field-goal range.
9. Cam misses. The Panthers could have iced the game if Newton hadn't overthrown Christian McCaffrey on the goal line with 2:40 to go.
10. Cam escapes. The Panthers got a field goal on their first drive because Newton scrambled for 15 yards on a third-and-7 play. Any other QB would have been stopped short.