Orchard Park, NY – EJ Manuel hardly looked like a rookie as he engineered a fourth-quarter comeback Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
Manuel hit a wide-open Stevie Johnson for the game-winning touchdown with two seconds remaining, lifting the Buffalo Bills to a 24-23 victory at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
"We knew the situation. I didn't feel nervous or anything like that," Manuel said. "We practiced it time and time again. I've been in too many situations before, not just in the NFL or in practice but also in college. We won games like that before. You've just got to go out there and operate the offense."
The only quarterback selected in the first round of this year's draft, Manuel contributed to the Bills falling behind with turnovers on consecutive second- half drives. Each giveaway led to a Graham Gano field goal, the second putting Carolina up 20-14 with 8:41 to play.
A 46-yard run by C.J. Spiller set up a 48-yard Dan Carpenter field goal on the ensuing Buffalo possession.
The Panthers were then able to chew up 5:35 on their next drive, with Gano converting a 39-yarder to restore a six-point lead with 1:38 left.
Minus any timeouts, Manuel orchestrated a 9-play, 80-yard drive that featured a game-sealing interception nullified by a defensive pass interference penalty. Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly, who picked off Manuel earlier in the fourth quarter, was flagged for the infraction on 3rd-and-6 from the Carolina 31.
After Manuel scrambled for nine yards to the two, he found Johnson in the end zone, giving Doug Marrone his first win as an NFL head coach.
Manuel completed 27-of-39 passes for 296 yards for the Bills (1-1), who lost on a last-second field goal to New England last week.
Cam Newton finished with 229 yards, two touchdown passes and one interception for Carolina, which has started a season 0-2 for the fourth time in five years.
"About as bad as it gets," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "We had an opportunity to win the game, an opportunity to close it out, and we didn't do it."
Carolina's opening drive looked promising, as Newton led the Panthers to the Buffalo 20-yard line. However, the Bills' defense made a stand, coming up with a sack before rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso picked off Newton's second-down pass.
Buffalo looked to turn the interception into points, but Carpenter was wide right on a 42-yard field goal try. Carpenter did nail a 55-yarder to put the Bills up 3-0 with 10:41 remaining in the second quarter.
The Panthers offense found some traction and ultimately the end zone before the end of the first half. Newton capped a 90-yard march by zipping a 13-yard touchdown pass to Greg Olsen on the 10th play of the drive with 13 seconds to play.
Buffalo advanced the ball to the Carolina 2-yard line to begin the third quarter. Carpenter kicked a 20-yard field goal after Manuel overthrew Scott Chandler in the rear corner of the end zone.
On the ensuing drive, a defensive holding penalty by the Bills gave the ball back to Carolina following a punt. Given new life, the Panthers increased their lead to 14-6 on Newton's 40-yard TD pass to Ted Ginn, Jr.
Buffalo countered on its next possession, with Fred Jackson's short TD run and a 2-point conversion tying the game at 14-14 with 4:15 left in the third.
Buffalo defensive end Mario Williams had a franchise-record 4 1/2 sacks ... Spiller totaled 103 yards on 16 carries ... Johnson had eight receptions for 111 yards ... DeAngelo Williams amassed 85 yards on 22 carries for Carolina ... Newton completed 21-of-38 passes ... Panthers safety Charles Godfrey left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury and did not return.