READ: Panthers star RB Christian McCaffrey tenses hamstrings
READ: Carolina first-round pick Jaycee Horn reportedly broke his foot
- ??Sam i am. Panthers quarterback Sam darnold got the job done in the win column for the third week in a row, looking sharp in the second half with big throws behind solid protection. It took Carolina’s offensive a few trips to find its place after Christian mccaffrey, but with DJ Moore opening up all night, Darnold anchored things with 304 passing yards. Still, the ball safety issues that plagued him as a Jet reappeared in the form of two fumbles. Darnold’s awareness as the pocket shatters around him is still lacking, but luckily for him, the Panthers center Matt Paradis recovered the two escaped.
- McCaffrey missing. The difference McCaffrey made for Carolina’s offense, compared to being absent after coming out with a hamstring injury, was striking. The Panthers had a trio of possessions three times in the first half – in the first half, McCaffrey didn’t touch the first disc, and the other two came after his injury. In between, Carolina put in a 10-game drive and 14-game drive as McCaffrey averaged 4.4 yards per carry and caught a few passes. He even threw an exceptional cut block in pass protection to allow Moore to complete the stick movement. Backup Chuba hubbard was solid in relief, but Carolina can’t get the CMC back soon enough.
- Cooking with gas. What a wide receiver Brandin cooks means the Texans’ offense cannot be overstated. For most of the first half, Houston couldn’t get him involved and his attack went nowhere. Rookie QB Davis Mills finally found him for four receptions in two minutes before halftime, including one from 30 yards, and the result was a TD. The Cooks finished with nine catches for 112 yards – or 53% of Houston’s 210 total violation yards. He’s the only truly dangerous playmaker the Texans can rely on.
- Meet at the quarterback. The Panthers’ athleticism in the pass race should be the envy of the league’s defensive coordinators. They aren’t too big in size on the edge, but the first step from multiple positions is lightning quick, either Brian burns, Haason Reddick or a blitz Shaq thompson. Sometimes it seemed like they could swallow Mills whole, especially late in the game when Houston couldn’t afford to throw the ball anymore. The Panthers scored three sacks and Burns added one for his fourth of the year.
- Mills intervenes. If the Texans didn’t learn anything else about the QB rookie Davis Mills on his first start to his career, they learned something about his tenacity. The three sacks he picked up don’t do justice to the strain he suffered from Carolina’s pass rush. Early in the game, the Texans kept him mostly straight with quick passes, but the offense couldn’t move the ball that way. Once Mills started taking deeper drops and holding the ball longer, the heat increased. He took a few big punches in the pocket, especially late in the game, and was pressured 10 times. Not only was his pass protection outdated, but his running game was non-existent. Check the box on its tenacity and, for now, don’t judge anything else.
Stat Next Gen of the Night: Panthers DE Haason Reddick had seven QB pressures, 1.5 bags on 27 precipitation snaps (25.9%).
NFL Research: Panthers TE Tommy is shaking (21, 113 days) became the youngest tight end to score a rushed touchdown in NFL history with a 7-yard second-half final round. The last tight end to score a rushed touchdown at the age of 22 or under was Rob Gronkowski for the Patriots in Week 13, 2011, against the Colts.