Welcome back to this week’s edition of “Buffalo Bills Rivalry History”, as we take on the Carolina Panthers. Despite the general failings of the Bills over the course of the past 20 years, they hold a sizeable lead in the brief all-time series against the Panthers 5-2. When we first met, Carolina had but two NFL games under their belt in their inaugural season. It was 1995.
The Inaugural Meeting
Buffalo didn’t open the game well on offense. They’d been defensively sound, but were unable to move the ball early in the game. Additionally, the Panthers were forcing turnovers with impunity. It seemed the Bills were destined to become the first ever team to lose to Carolina. To start the 3rd quarter, the Panthers kicked a field goal to make the score 9-0, but those would be their last points of the day. From the moment that kick went through the uprights, Buffalo caught fire.
In under a minute, they’d score their first touchdown of the day, a 77-yard reception by Russell Copeland. Over the next 10 minutes, they’d score another three more TDs (28 unanswered points), concluded by a 32-yard pick-six from Kurt Schulz. Carolina was reeling and failed to find a rhythm, going home empty-handed after losing 31-9. The Panthers’ quarterback, former Bills backup Frank Reich, was unable to put on a repeat performance of “The Greatest Comeback”.
|Car 9-31 Buf||Buf 30-14 Car||Car 24-25 Buf|
That first meeting came at the end of an era, as the Bills bid farewell to many of their greats and future Hall of Famers, preparing for some tough times. As Buffalo began to slowly trend down, the Panthers rocketed to the top of the league, going all the way to the NFC Championship game in only their second season.
|Car 13-9 Buf||Buf 20-9 Car|
Stevie: Our Saviour
Since then, things have been dull between the two sides. The Buffalo Bills dove around the league’s dumpsters in their playoff drought. Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers enjoyed a rollercoaster of highs and lows. They won their division five times, earned a Wild Card spot twice, and visited two Super Bowls, both of which were losses. For an expansion team, they enjoyed remarkable early success, but not against the Bills.
In 2013, the Panthers tied their at-the-time best record in franchise history at 12-4, but one of those losses came in heartbreaking fashion in Week 2. In a thrilling back and forth, which saw both Bills rookie E.J. Manuel and Panthers QB Cam Newton air it our plenty, the game-winning score came with only two seconds left on the clock, as Stevie Johnson caught a perfect touch pass in the back corner of the end zone. Check out the video below:
|Car 23-24 Buf||Buf 3-9 Car|
Last Time We Met
The Buffalo Bills owe a lot to the Carolina Panthers over the years. From prominent players to the very coaches and general managers that made us who we are today. But we also owe them a beatdown after what happened the last time we played in 2017. In a close, hard-fought defensive battle, the Panthers came away with a narrow 9-3 win in which Buffalo was always one play away from winning.
LeSean McCoy was bottled up, gaining only nine yards on 12 rushing attempts, and neither offense got the ball going anywhere all day. This loss had a lot of people losing faith in the Bills’ ability to end the 18-season playoff drought, but they turned the season around in the end.
If you’re enjoying the series, check out last week’s issue detailing our history against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Next week, we go toe to toe with the New England Patriots once again. You can read about our sordid past against them here, and come back on Friday to revisit our recent 2020 matchup on Monday Night Football!