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Panthers 24, Texans 9: Insta-reaction as Carolina loses McCaffrey but moves to 3-0

Scott Fowler, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Football

Without him, Carolina lost its way offensively for a while, as running back Chuba Hubbard couldn’t make a critical 4th-and-1 from Houston’s 5 and the offensive line woes were far more apparent without McCaffrey to paper them over. In the final 12 minutes of the first half, without McCaffrey, Carolina made only one first down. The second half, though, was much better for the offense, which scored 17 of its 24 points after halftime.

McCaffrey missed 13 of 16 games in 2020 with three separate injuries.

Darnold does a Cam Newton impression

Darnold is never going to be as powerful a runner as Newton was in his prime, but he had two huge rushing touchdowns Thursday night. The first one was relatively easy, on a run-pass option where he scored standing up. The second was very difficult, as Darnold lost his helmet on a third-and-goal from the 1 and got pushed into the end zone by his teammates in a human tug-of-war. That fourth-quarter score put the Panthers up by an insurmountable 24-9 score.

In the meantime, Darnold had his second straight 300-yard passing game, too. He was awfully good for the third straight week.

Slye gonna Slye

You just knew former Panther placekicker Joey Slye was going to do something worth mentioning in this game, and of course he did. Twice.

After Houston scored its first points with some fine two-minute offense at the end of the first half, it appeared they had tied the game. However, Slye pushed the extra point wide right, leaving Carolina with a 7-6 lead at halftime.

 

Houston coach David Culley had a chance to send Slye out for a 57-yard field goal, down by a point, in the third quarter. He didn’t have enough faith in Slye to do that, though, and Houston punted instead, also conservatively passing up on a 4th-and-4 opportunity from Carolina’s 39.

Slye then had a 53-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter and drilled it through the uprights, briefly cutting Carolina’s lead to 17-9.

Zane Gonzalez, meanwhile, had a strong game kicking for the Panthers, making a short field goal attempt and all three extra points and also booting several of his kickoffs for touchbacks, which was a problem the week before.

Defensive flags hurt Panthers

For the Panthers, this was uncharacteristic.

The Panthers had some iffy calls on them defensively Thursday night, but they also had some bad errors. Defensive end Brian Burns was flagged for two of Carolina’s four defensive offsides calls, and Donte Jackson had a third-down pass interference call (this was one of the iffy ones) in the third quarter. Daviyon Nixon also had a deserved roughing-the-passer call. We’re judging this defense at a very high standard now, but this wasn’t one of their cleaner performances even though they held Houston to only nine points.

Still, Carolina mostly held rookie quarterback Davis Mills in check, sacking him four times and harassing him many more.

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