Problem-solving has become paramount for the Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers.
The team that best discovers solutions is bound to be in a better situation when they meet Sunday in Orchard Park, N.Y.
The Bills (7-6) were projected to be among the AFC’s top contenders, but losses in four of their last six games have raised concerns. With that in mind, recovery in its many forms has been part of the preparation for Buffalo going into the next game.
“What they need the most is to get themselves back mentally, physically and spiritually,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said of his players.
Last week’s 33-27 overtime loss at Tampa Bay is one of only three Buffalo defeats by more than four points this season.
“The confidence is obviously sometimes questioned,” McDermott said. “I think we have overall a confident football team.”
The Panthers (5-8) are on a three-game losing streak, all coming since Cam Newton became the starting quarterback. P.J. Walker has been called upon for some extensive backup duties the past few games, so that seems to be an unsettled situation.
“They had a package for him and he went out there and did a pretty good job executing,” Newton said of Walker.
Carolina coach Matt Rhule said, “Buffalo has to prepare for both guys.”
While Carolina’s quarterback snags have been well documented, Bills quarterback Josh Allen has encountered recent glitches. He has thrown eight interceptions in the past six games.
Allen also is dealing with a foot sprain. He was limited for Wednesday’s practice, which was reduced to a walk-through.
McDermott said that could mean more practice repetitions for backup quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
If Carolina’s offense is going to get cranked up, this would seem to be an unlikely week for that to happen. The Bills rank first in the NFL defensively by limiting opponents to 288.9 yards per game.
Yet Newton, who has been full of self-criticism after recent games, said there’s reason for optimism with the Panthers.
“Just because you don’t get what you want, you don’t stop going to work,” Newton said. “I think we’re growing as a team, without a doubt.”
Aside from the recent struggles, there are numerous connections between the teams. Most of those involve personnel.
It begins with McDermott, who left his role as defensive coordinator with the Panthers under coach Ron Rivera to become the Buffalo coach. Bills general manager Brandon Beane was the Carolina assistant general manager before changing jobs.
The duo used some of the knowledge of the Panthers to pad the Buffalo roster with many ex-Panthers. They include Mario Addison, Vernon Butler, Bryan Cox Jr., A.J. Klein, Star Lotulelei, Efe Obada, Andre Smith and Daryl Williams. Klein came off the COVID protocol list Wednesday.
“There is time that has passed,” McDermott said of his years with the Panthers. “I certainly had a great experience there in Carolina. (That was) one step on the journey.”
Despite all the familiarity, these teams rarely meet. Buffalo leads the series 5-2.
–Field Level Media
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