BUFFALO, NY (WAVY) - Almost immediately after watching what had just unfolded, EJ Manuel dropped to his knees and appeared to sob, seemingly overwhelmed with emotion.
With only six ticks left on the clock and his team trailing by six, Manuel needed a touchdown. The Virginia Beach native and Bayside High School alumnus, with the Buffalo Bills home crowd holding its collective breath on second down, heaved a fade pass to the corner of the endzone.
That collective breath suddenly started cheering before the play even ended. They realized a miscommunication in the Carolina Panthers' defense left Bills receiver Stevie Johnson all alone. Johnson made the catch, giving Buffalo the 24-23 win, and Manuel his first win as an NFL rookie quarterback.
The Bills sealed the win after the ensuing kickoff, when they sent Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to the turf as the last second on the click ticked away.
After a few ceremonial post-game handshakes, Manuel jogged to the sideline, and found the man who helped nurture him from the very beginning...his father. Eric Manuel watched his son deliver the game-winning touchdown pass in those final dramatic seconds from the stands, throwing his hands to the sky and shouting, "Thank you, Lord!"
They both let their emotions pour out, as Eric Manuel embraced his son, leaning over the wall of the first row in the stands. As if the win didn't seem emotional enough for Manuel, it was a penalty flag away from never happening.
Manuel aimed for Johnson on third down just two plays earlier, and threw what seemed to be a game-clinching interception for the Panthers. The officials instead called linebacker Luke Kuechly for pass interference, giving Manuel and the Bills offense a first down on the Carolina 11.
Manuel, playing in just his second NFL game, completed 27-of-39 passes for 296 yards and the lone game-winning strike.
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