Manuel's pretty 2-yard scoring strike to Stevie Johnson -- who was all alone in the left corner of the end zone -- capped an afternoon in which Buffalo leaned more on its defense for three-plus quarters than anything the offense accomplished.
Taking over with 1:38 left and no timeouts, Manuel operated exclusively out of the shotgun, victimizing an injury-riddled Carolina secondary that allowed him to connect on 6 of 8 passes for 51 yards.
A little bit of help from the officials didn't hurt, either. A Manuel interception was wiped out by a pass-interference call on Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly. Two plays later, the Bills' first-round draft pick found Johnson in the end zone, and Ralph Wilson Stadium melted.
A closer look at Manuel's afternoon reveals plenty of room to grow. He was off target for much of the first half in a game in which both offenses muddled around. A franchise-record 4.5 sacks by Mario Williams easily was the story of the day heading into the game's final minutes, but Manuel's heroics flipped the script.
It's been forever since a quarterback in Buffalo made your heart race, but Johnson put it best: "I can't say it was the Super Bowl," he told reporters. "But the feeling was great."