Here is how the three matchups that we focused on before the game panned out:
Panthers DBs vs. Bills WRs.
The Bills' wide receivers have 11 catches through two games. Not good enough. There are not any weaknesses in the Panthers' fantastic defense. It's hard to throw to the middle of the field where Luke Kuechly patrols, and it's hard to hit the running back on swing passes because outside linebackers Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson are so fast. But cornerback isn't a huge strength. James Bradberry is pretty good. Daryl Worley is OK. Last year, Atlanta's Julio Jones went for 300 yards in receiving yards in one game on the Panthers. New Orleans' Brandin Cooks went for 173. Oakland's Michael Crabtree went for 110. Washington's DeSean Jackson went for 111. But those guys all are top-end wideouts. But the Bills don't have a true No. 1 receiver without Sammy Watkins in the fold. They couldn't get enough done outside the numbers.
Bills LBs vs. Christian McCaffrey.
The speed of the Bills' linebacking corps was a big question mark entering the season. Would the group be exploited against the Panthers' speedy rookie rushing and receiving threat? The answer was a decisive no. McCaffrey managed just 44 yards on 12 offensive touches, a 3.6-yard average. Old man Lorenzo Alexander teamed with cornerback Leonard Johnson to chase McCaffrey down for a 1-yard gain on a third-and-3 play in the second quarter. Alexander stuffed him for a 3-yard loss on the fourth drive. Johnson had a superb run-force on the edge to thwart a toss sweep to McCaffrey in the second quarter. Ramon Humber covered a lot of ground to keep McCaffrey to a 4-yard gain on a screen pass in the third quarter. The linebackers got plenty of help from the front four, which didn't get shoved around by the Panthers' two burly guards.
Bills edge rushers vs. Panthers OTs.
Jerry Hughes and Lorenzo Alexander were too good for Carolina tackles Matt Kalil and Daryl Williams. Hughes had two sacks and Alexander one, and both harassed Cam Newton much of the game. This was a matchup the Bills had to win to have a chance. Kalil and Williams are weaker links in the Panthers' offense. Four of the Bills' six sacks came on four-man rushes. Hughes whipped Kalil with a speed rush around the corner for his first sack. In the fourth quarter, Hughes set Kalil up to the outside then used a spin move to blow by him to the inside for a sack. Alexander showed off his spin move in the second quarter, undressing Williams for a sack. A little later, Williams was flagged for holding Alexander to prevent a sack. Eddie Yarborough got his first sack, too. So far so good for the Bills' edge rushers.