Peppers, Panthers' defense stymies Bills 9-3
By STEVE REED
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Julius Peppers has played 17 seasons in the NFL for pretty good defensive teams.
But he said none compares to this year's Carolina Panthers.
"This is the best one I have ever played on," Peppers said emphatically Sunday.
Carolina's defense allowed only three points for the second straight week, and Graham Gano converted three field goals as the Panthers held on to defeat the Buffalo Bills 9-3 to remain unbeaten.
The Panthers (2-0) held Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy in check all day, limiting the Bills (1-1) to 176 yards and 10 first downs. McCoy had 9 yards on 12 carries and Taylor had 125 yards passing. The Panthers had three sacks, two by Peppers in his first home game since re-signing with them.
"I have all of the confidence and trust and belief in these guys," said Peppers, who has 146 career sacks. "We all play for one another. I feel like the sky is the limit."
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Peppers was simply awesome and is turning out to be a great fit in Carolina with three sacks in two games.
"He has found a niche with the way we rotate these guys to keep them fresh," Rivera said.
With Carolina's offense struggling to move the ball and tight end Greg Olsen out with a broken right foot, the Panthers didn't put the game away until 9 seconds remained when Taylor's fourth-and-11 pass sailed off diving rookie Zay Jones' fingertips.
"It was a great call by our coaching staff and a good throw by Tyrod," Jones said. "I just didn't make the play to help my team win this game."
The Panthers beat San Francisco 23-3 in Week 1.
"We'll take three points a week - that's a good showing for us," Peppers said.
Cam Newton was 20 of 32 for 228 yards but was sacked six times by Sean McDermott's defense and overthrew an open Christian McCaffrey at the goal line with less than three minutes remaining that could have sealed the victory. McDermott was Panthers defensive coordinator for the previous six seasons before taking over as head coach of the Bills earlier this year.
"We knew the skill set of Cam Newton coming in," McDermott said. "Our staff did a phenomenal job (with a game plan), and I just helped. We pressured him and confused him a little."
Newton, who twisted his ankle in the third quarter but stayed in the game, said he can't afford to "miss layups."
It was the second straight week he overthrew an open receiver in the end zone.
"I'm disappointed in myself but happy for the overall team just to see how we battled to win a football game," Newton said. "It wasn't pretty at all. But anytime you can get a win in this league, you take it and run with it. But I know I have to be better."
Said coach Ron Rivera: "It is tough to win in this league when all you do is kick field goals. But you have to give the Bills credit because they played hard."
REPLACING OLSEN: The Panthers' offense now will have to find a way to fill in for Olsen, who is coming off three straight 1,000-yard seasons. Olsen injured his foot in the first half. He will see Dr. Robert Anderson on Monday, but said he expects to be out a while.
McCoy had 34 yards receiving on six catches but couldn't break loose for any big gains.
"I'll give them credit, their team, their defense," McCoy said. "We just didn't get it done. I didn't get it done."
GETTING HIS KICKS: Gano was locked in a kicking battle in the preseason, but is 6 for 6 on field goal attempts so far this season.
"I'm feeling pretty good," Gano said. "Just trying to chop away."
TAYLOR MOVES UP: With his 9-yard completion on the opening drive, Taylor moved into seventh place on the team's all-time passing yards list, passing Dennis Shaw (6,286). Taylor now has 6,291 passing yards.
Olsen left in the second quarter. Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin left after taking a brutal hit to his left shoulder in the end zone from Bills FS Jordan Poyer, but did return. Two-time All-Pro center Ryan Kalil developed a kink in his neck before the game and didn't play. He was replaced by Tyler Larsen.
Bills: Host Denver next Sunday.
Panthers: Host New Orleans next Sunday.
More AP NFL: pro32.ap.org and twitter.com/AP-NFL
Updated September 17, 2017