Coaching: B (Last week: C) There's one call that stands out here. After Dan Carpenter missed a 42-yard field goal in the first quarter, the coaching staff showed faith in their fill-in kicker, and it paid off. Carpenter was able to drill a 55-yarder in the second quarter, putting the Bills on the scoreboard. Otherwise, there weren't any challenges or clock management issues to dissect here. Seven penalties, including some in critical situations, is not a great reflection on the coaching, but cleaning up the two 12-men flags from last week was a positive.
Run Offense: B-plus (Last week: C) A week after the Bills could not muster any plays of more than 20 yards, C.J. Spiller provided a spark with two big "chunk plays" Sunday. His 46-yard run in the fourth quarter set up a Carpenter field goal that kept the Bills within striking position after going down 20-14. There were times, though, when Spiller got bottled up and looked like the Spiller of Week 1: seven of his 16 carries went for 3 yards of less, including three for negative yardage. But taken as a whole, it was a good bounce-back game for him.
Pass Offense: B-minus (Last week: C-minus) EJ Manuel showed an ability to open up the passing game Sunday, finding Steve Johnson for 45- and 19-yard gains, as well as Robert Woods for 28- and 19-yard gains. He talked about getting "chunk plays" going into the week, and he was able to make some of those happen. On the downside, there were times when he struggled. Headlining that list is his fourth quarter interception, but misfires to T.J. Graham (down the right sideline) and tight end Scott Chandler (in the end zone) are also notable. Pass protection, which factors into this grade, also slipped from last week, with Manuel strip-sacked in the third quarter.
Run Defense: B-plus (Last week: D-plus) Big-time improvement from this unit after struggling to stop the Patriots' ground game in the opener. DeAngelo Williams never got into a rhythm, finishing with 85 yards on 22 carries, a 3.9-yard average. Solid performance by the Bills. Two big plays here: Stopping Williams for no gain at the Bills 9-yard line early in the fourth quarter, and again for no gain on 2nd-and-5 on the Panthers' final drive, helping to force a field goal.
Pass Defense: B (Last week: B-minus) There were times when Cam Newton let loose some bad throws, helping a wounded Bills secondary. But a lot of his struggles in the game can be attributed to a consistent pass rush, headlined by a 4.5-sack performance by Mario Williams. There were some breakdowns by the safeties, notably on a 40-yard pitch-and-catch touchdown from Newton to Ted Ginn. Also have to flag this unit for unnecessary roughness penalty by Aaron Williams that was, well, unnecessary. Not the way to get off the field on third down.
Special Teams: B-minus (Last week: B-plus) Shaky first half for this unit. Ginn opened the game with a 29-yard return and added a 36-yard return in the second quarter. Carpenter's missed 42-yarder in the first quarter also knocks this grade down. In the second half, though, the unit did what it needed to do to put the Bills in position to win.