The Buffalo Bills pulled out a victory over the Carolina Panthers for their first win of the season and first career wins for rookie quarterback EJ Manuel and head coach Doug Marrone. It took a 1:36 final minute touchdown drive by EJ Manuel to pull out the victory, but the game could’ve been lost if an earlier decision by Marrone had not gone their way.
Halfway through the third quarter the Bills were able to score a touchdown on a four yard Fred Jackson run to bring the score within 14-12 pending the extra point. In most cases, with a quarter and a half to go, the scoring team would kick the extra point and make it a 14-13 game. Marrone instead decided to roll the dice and go for the two-point conversion. Manuel was able to complete a pass to fellow rookie Robert Woods and tie the game at 14-14. The choice to go for two paid off in more ways then tying the game and shows Marrone can make risky selections that could benefit the team as the season progresses.
It was a decision that game analyst Ronde Barber questioned. If the conversion fails then the Bills would be chasing those two points for the rest of the game. The trust and faith Marrone had in Manuel and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was outstanding. Head coaches are often criticized by either being too conservative or too aggressive in their play calling. This was a timely call that balanced the teeter-totter of uncertainty well.
Assuming everything happens as it did, let’s review the possible outcomes. First, if the Bills decide to kick the extra point instead of the two point conversion then Marrone would have had the choice after the Stevie Johnson touchdown catch to either kick another extra point for overtime, or go for two and the win.
Continuing that decision would have most likely been the extra point for overtime and then hoping to win the coin toss, a 50/50 proposition, to win the game. Overtime rules state that until both teams have a possession then only a touchdown drive by the receiving team can win them the game without the opponent then taking a turn. If the Bills on their first possession scored only a field goal, then the Panthers would be allowed an opportunity to respond, and possibly win.
If the Bills went for two after that final touchdown under this scenario and it was completed then jubilation through the city and Marrone and company are heroes with guts. If they failed, then Marrone catches the fans and media’s ire for taking a unnecessary chance.
Even if Marrone would have gone for the two point conversion in the 3rd quarter and failed, then his only option later would have been to go for two again to force overtime. So no matter what the outcome would have been, Marrone made the smart decision and play call that ended up being the winning point.
The amount of conservative coaching that has been in Buffalo since Marv Levy retired has been stifling. Even Marrone suffered a defeat at being too conservative a week ago for not going for it on a 4th & 2 in New England territory late in the fourth quarter.
Coaches that are decisive and full in their conviction are typically the ones that win the most. Marrone took a step forward with his bold call Sunday, and if it continues to pay off then fans can expect more wins from this team.