Bills lose preseason opener to Carolina, 28-23

August 9, 2018

The preseason got started Thursday night for the Buffalo Bills with a 28-23 loss to the Carolina Panthers at New Era Field in Orchard Park.

Heading into the contest, many wondered who would start for the Bills at quarterback between the three-headed monster that is A.J. McCarron, Nathan Peterman and first round rookie Josh Allen. It ended up being Peterman who was given the start under center. 

Will not play today:
WR Cam Phillips, WR Zay Jones, WR Corey Coleman, LB Corey Thompson, DE Trent Murphy

Bills starting lineup changes:
-Peterman starting at QB
-Groy starting at C

— Buffalo Bills PR (@BuffaloBillsPR) August 9, 2018

Newly acquired wide receiver Corey Coleman was not active in this game, as well as fellow receivers Zay Jones and Cam Phillips. Defensive end Trent Murphy and linebacker Corey Thompson were also inactive on Thursday night, while running back LeSean McCoy also sat out despite dressing for warmups. 

The Bills defense started the game and got off the field quickly after allowing an early first down on a screen pass to Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey. This led to Peterman and the Bills offense making their preseason debut. The Bills' first drive was a rousing success for Peterman, who went a perfect 7-of-7 for 75 yards and a 28-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin had four catches on the opening drive for 59 yards and his touchdown to give the Bills a 7-0 lead. 

The Panthers responded with a touchdown of their own, as McCaffrey scored on a three-yard run to close a lengthy nine-play drive to tie the game at 7-7 in the first quarter. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton nearly threw a pick early in the drive to Bills safety Jordan Poyer, but Poyer could not reel it in. 

Peterman was with the starting offense again for the Bills for the team's second drive. However, after another two completions, Peterman threw a pass a bit behind running back Chris Ivory that was dropped and ended up as an interception by Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson. Peterman ended the first quarter and his nightby going  9-of-10 for 119 yards, one touchdown and one interception. 

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton's day was over after the first quarter as well. Garrett Gilbert came in and the Panthers went three-and-out after the Peterman interception. This led to A.J. McCarron's turn with the Bills offense. McCarron's first drive was almost as impressive as he completed passes of 19 and 16 yards on third downs to keep the drive alive. The drive ended with McCarron unable to scramble for a first down and Stephen Hauschka giving the Bills a 10-7 lead with a 26-yard field goal. McCarron went 5-of-7 for 46 yards on the first drive.

The Panthers went three-and-out under Gilbert once again with the drive ending on a third down sack by rookie defensive tackle Harrison Phillips. McCarron and the offense went back to work, getting back down the field with a big 59-yard catch and run by receiver Brandon Reilly on the second play of the drive. Running back Marcus Murphy finished the drive with a touchdown from seven-yards out to make the score 17-7 with 55-seconds left in the first half.

The Bills offense took to the field first in the second half, this time led by the rookie Allen. The seventh overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft went 0-of-2 on his first drive, but not from inaccuracy issues. Allen's first pass of the drive was a 52-yard bomb downfield that was caught by undrafted rookie Robert Forster, but the throw was well out of bounds. The second pass was dropped at the sideline by rookie receiver Austin Proehl for, what would have been, a first down. 

The Panthers marched down the field against the Bills backups on defense, as quarterback Garrett Gilbert tossed a 26-yard tochdown to receiver Mose Frazier to cut the Buffalo lead to 17-14. Gilbert was 3-of-4 on the drive. 

Allen's next drive was more successful, going 3-of-3 for 39 yards. The Bills went for it on a 4th-and-3 at the Carolina 10-yard line, but the play was snuffed out by the Panthers defense, leading Allen to have to make a panicked play to avoid taking a sack. The Panthers marched down the field for a touchdown off the turnover on downs, capped off by a four-yard run by running back C.J. Anderson to give Carolina its first lead of the night, 21-17. 

Allen and the Bills drove down the field on the next series, getting to the Carolina 42-yard line before three penalties torpedoed the drive and forced the Bills to punt the ball away. Allen had some highlights on that drive, hitting Ray Ray McCloud for a 25-yard gain and nearly connecting with Foster again on a ball that traveled 67 yards in the air. 

The Panthers marched down the field with another touchdown drive against the Bills backups, ending with a 21-yard pass from quarterback Taylor Heinicke to receiver Elijah Hood to make it 28-17 in favor of Carolina.

Allen's last two drives involved a lot of running out of the pocket to avoid sacks. On the last drive, Allen ended it with a 14-yard touchdown throw to Ray-Ray McCloud. The two-point conversion failed, but the Bills cut into the Carolina lead, making it 28-23. 

After a failed onside kick attempt, the Panthers sealed the game with a couple of kneel downs to close out the 28-23 win. Allen finished the game going 9-of-19 for 116 yards and one touchdown. 

First Quarter:

  • 7-0 BILLS (7:17) - Nathan Peterman 28 yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin
    • Drive info: 8 plays, 85 yards, 5:14
  • 7-7 TIE (2:16) - Christian McCaffery 3 yard touchdown run
    • Drive info: 9 plays, 75 yards, 5:01

Second Quarter: 

  • 10-7 BILLS (5:41) - 26 yard field goal by Stephen Hauschka 
    • Drive info: 15 plays, 66 yards, 8:29
  • 17-7 BILLS (0:55) - Marcus Murphy 7 yard touchdown run
    • Drive info: 5 plays, 74 yards, 2:27

Third Quarter: 

  • 17-14 BILLS (11:15) - Garrett Gilbert 26 yard touchdown pass to Mose Frazier 
    • Drive info: 6 plays, 69 yards, 2:53

Fourth Quarter: 

  • 21-17 PANTHERS (12:41) - C.J. Anderson 4 yard touchdown run 
    • Drive info: 13 plays, 89 yards, 7:12
  • 28-17 PANTHERS (5:05) - Taylor Heinicke 21 yard touchdown pass to Elijah Hood 
    • Drive info: 9 plays, 75 yards, 5:28
  • 28-23 PANTHERS (1:10) - Josh Allen 14 yard touchdown pass to Ray-Ray McCloud 
    • Drive info: 6 plays, 68 yards, 1:14




Buffalo Bills:

Nathan Peterman: 9-of-10, 119 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT 

AJ McCarron: 7-of-10, 116 yards 

Josh Allen: 9-of-19, 116 yards, 1 TD 

Carolina Panthers:

Taylor Heinicke: 7-of-9, 121 yards, 1 TD

Garrett Gilbert: 7-of-12, 93 yards, 1 TD

Cam Newton: 6-of-9, 84 yards


Buffalo Bills:

Marcus Murphy: 7 carries, 35 yards, 1 TD

Josh Allen: 3 carries, 29 yards

Keith Ford: 5 carries, 20 yards

Carolina Panthers:

C.J. Anderson: 4 carries, 16 yards, 1 TD

Christian McCaffrey: 4 carries, 11 yards, 1 TD

Cameron Artis-Payne: 5 carries, 1 yard



Buffalo Bills:

Kelvin Benjamin: 4 receptions, 59 yards, 1 TD 

Brandon Reilly: 1 reception, 59 yards

Ray-Ray McCloud: 3 receptions, 50 yards, 1 TD

Marcus Murphy: 4 receptions, 30 yards 

Chris Ivory: 1 reception, 29 yards

Carolina Panthers:

D.J. Moore: 4 receptions, 75 yards

Curtis Samuel: 4 receptions, 43 yards

Christian McCaffrey: 2 receptions, 29 yards

Mose Frazier: 1 reception, 26 yards, 1 TD

Elijah Hood: 1 reception, 21 yards, 1 TD



Buffalo Bills:

Harrison Phillips: 2 tackles, 1 sack 

Tre'Davious White: 2 tackles 

Jordan Poyer: 2 tackles, 1 pass breakup

Mike Love: 2 tackles for loss

Carolina Panthers:

Shaq Thompson: 3 tackles, 1 interception

Jermaine Carter: 3 tackles, 1 sack, 2 QB hits 

Vernon Butler: 1 tackle, 1 sack

Total Yards:

Bills: 430
Panthers: 342

Passing Yards:

Bills: 338
Panthers: 289

Rushing Yards:

Bills: 92
Panthers: 53

First Downs:

Bills: 23
Panthers: 21


Bills: 10 for 69 yards
Panthers: 8 for 67 yards

Time of Possession:

Bills: 31:18
Panthers: 28:42