Mario Williams feels ‘great’ after big sack day

jjones@charlotteobserver.comSeptember 15, 2013 

— Buffalo defensive Mario Williams is a former No. 1 overall pick with two Pro Bowls under his belt.

After a 4.5 sack performance Sunday, he said it was the best he’s felt in a long time.

“I don’t think I’ve felt that way in the last five years, so that’s great,” Williams said. “I finally feel like I’m at peace just as a person.”

Williams terrorized the Panthers’ offense Sunday en route to not only a career-high sack total but also a Buffalo team record. His career day came 18 games into his career in Buffalo after he spent his first six seasons in Houston.

The former N.C. State standout had a tumultuous preseason with a foot injury suffered at training camp and a lawsuit involving an engagement ring with his ex-fiancee.

“I feel great,” Williams said. “Everyone’s talking about this and that but I know the deal. I know how I feel. I know my mental state. I’m definitely the best mentally, the best feeling of peace.”

The Panthers expected Williams to switch sides on the Buffalo defensive line, but stopping him was another issue. Cam Newton was under consistent pressure from Williams, whose 4.5 sacks produced a 24.5-yard loss for Carolina.

Newton said there was nothing that surprising him or the Panthers offense about Williams, but he complimented Williams after the game

“It still comes down to us and what we have to do,” Newton said. “At times him as well as Kyle Williams played an unbelievable game with being very hard to block. But even with these types of games you have to find a way.”

Right tackle Byron Bell said he felt like he held his own against Williams.

“There was a play here and there,” Bell said. “When Cam was scrambling he’d come in on the back side late. Those things are going to happen. I could stay on him longer but I mean, it wasn’t a match that difficult. I’ve played against better guys.

“Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good player. I feel like I played well against him for the most part. You try to go out there and win every block but it’s the National Football League. That man gets paid just like I get paid. I’m going to go out there and keep battling and get ready to work. I know what I’m capable of.”

LaFell close: Wide receiver Brandon LaFell took the blame for a Newton pass that went off his hand and out of the end zone in the fourth quarter.

Newton, who struggled with placement for much of the game, had LaFell in the back of the end zone on a second-and-9 from the Buffalo 25 early in the fourth quarter. LaFell reached out with his right hand but couldn’t secure the ball.

“It was a good throw and I should have made the catch,” LaFell said. “The defense was banged up and we knew we had to pick it up. And to get six points on those two drives was unacceptable.”

LaFell finished with four catches for 13 yards after not getting a catch last week against Seattle. No wide receiver other than Steve Smith and Ted Ginn Jr. was targeted against the Seahawks, but Sunday, Smith, Ginn, LaFell and Armanti Edwards each had at least two targets.

Observations

• Buffalo linebacker Kiko Alonso got some redemption on Newton Sunday. Alonso, who intercepted Newton on the first drive of the game, played on an Oregon team that lost to Newton’s Auburn Tigers in the 2011 BCS National Championship.

• For as many overthrows as Newton had Sunday, one that went over the arms of Ginn in the second quarter should be chalked up to Ginn’s alligator arms more than Newton.

• E.J. Manuel is the fourth quarterback in the past six regular season games to throw for at least 295 yards against the Panthers (joining Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson).

• Jon Beason continued his early-season struggles Sunday as he adjusts to live action at weakside linebacker. He settled into his role in the second half.

• The Panthers chewed up 5 minutes and 13 seconds of time on eight plays before the two-minute warning. They got three plays in 18 seconds after the Bills used all three of their timeouts following a defensive stop.

By the numbers

0 First-quarter points by either the Panthers or their opponents through two games.

12 Losses, compared with one win, when Newton attempts at least 35 passes.

149 Rushing yards allowed by the Panthers, the most since Week 13 of the 2012 season.

8 Receivers targeted by the rookie quarterback Manuel.

3 Sacks for the Panthers’ defensive line this year.

Quotes

• “This is like going to the dentist, getting several teeth pulled without any anesthesia, laughing gas, nothing” – Panthers WR Steve Smith.

•  “Unfortunately, we say it all the time — it's more so what we didn’t do as opposed to what they did.” – Panthers linebacker Jon Beason.

• “I’m going to be able to tell my grandkids about that (last-minute touchdown) 20 to 30 years from now.” – Manuel.

•  “We will continuously push forward to become a better team and as far as quitting, there will be none of that, at all.” – Newton.

Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9

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