The Carolina Panthers took their third win in their third game of the season. At the Houston Texans, the guests prevailed 24:9. Presumably, however, the NFC team paid dearly for its success.
Houston Texans vs. Carolina Panthers highlights
Christian McCaffrey (7 ATT, 31 YDS, 2 REC, 9 YDS) had to leave the field with a thigh injury in the first half and never returned. At the beginning of the second half, Jaycee Horn was also out. The cornerback had to be driven into the cabin with a foot injury. According to information from ESPN Horn broke his foot and should therefore be out longer.
Even without the two star players, the Panthers’ victory was never really in danger. The guests were never behind in the entire encounter.
After a three-and-out from both teams at the beginning of the game, Sam Darnold (23/34, 304 YDS, 8 ATT, 11 YDS, 2 TD) brought on the Panthers with a quarterback keeper in an option play in the first quarter 7-0 in the front. DJ Moore (8 REC, 126 YDS) had previously brought his team into the Red Zone with two big plays.
The Texans had no offensive success for a long time. Houston scored on his first four drives, and the hosts also had just three first downs. Davis Mills (19/28, 168 YDS, TD, ATT, -1 YDS), who was initially practically hidden by his team, and his teammates hardly got the ball moved at first.
Head Coach David Culley’s team had an important fourth-down stop in their own red zone to thank for the fact that the Panthers did not take the lead any more: Carolina’s offensive coordinator Joe Brady Chuba Hubbard (11 ATT, 52 YDS, 3 ATT, 27 YDS) run through the middle, but the running back was stopped at the line of scrimmage without gaining any space.
It wasn’t until just before the break that the Texans got deeper into the opposing half: In their two-minute drive, Houston Mills let pass more often – and the quarterback led his team with several passes to Brandin Cooks (9 REC, 112 YDS) into that End zone. There the rookie found a wide open Anthony Miller (4 REC, 20 YDS, TD) from an empty set. Joey Slye (1/1 FG, 0/1 XP) gave away the extra point that followed, so the Panthers went into the break with a 7: 6 lead.
Sam Darnold ensures the preliminary decision with a second touchdown
In the second round, the Texans marched to the opposing 39-yard line, but opted for a punt in a fourth-and-four. In return, Carolina extended his lead to 14: 6, Tommy Tremble (REC, 30 YDS, ATT, 7 YDS, TD) carried an endaround into the opposing end zone.
After a field goal on each side, Darnold’s second touchdown made the preliminary decision four minutes before the end. In a third-and-goal from the one-yard line, Darnold was pushed over the goal line by a quarterback sneak from his own offensive line. The Texans’ last drive ended in a turnover on downs.
The Panthers will face the Dallas Cowboys away from home next week. The Texans travel to the Buffalo Bills.
Houston Texans vs. Carolina Panthers – The most important statistics
- In the third game of the season, Sam Darnold hit at least 300 passing yards for the second time – he is already drawing level with his previous career high in one season.
- The Panthers quarterback also scored two rushing touchdowns. No player in the NFL has more than Darnold’s three Rush TDs.
- The Panthers flashed around 40 percent of the opposing passing plays – almost ten percent more than in the first games of the season. And Carolina was successful: only one of the four Panthers sacks came about without Blitzing.
- Carolina won the first three games of the season for the fifth time in its team history. In the previous four seasons, the Panthers won at least eleven games three times and each made it to the playoffs. Only once did the franchise miss the playoffs with a 7-9 record.
Panthers corner Jaycee Horn suffered a broken foot Thursday against Houston, per source. No firm timetable on return for Panthers’ top pick.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) September 24, 2021
The star of the game: DJ Moore (Wide Receiver, Panthers)
Moore should make the step from a good receiver to an elite receiver this season. Against the Texans, he showed that he has what it takes. Darnold was looking for his best passport recipient from the start, seven of the first ten passes went in Moore’s direction. And: The Panthers’ successful drives were largely carried out by the 24-year-old. Moore used the free space in the middle of Houston’s Tampa-2-Defense again and again and thus ensured easy completions. He finished the game with eight catches for 126 yards.
Flop of the game: David Culley (Head Coach, Texans)
Davis Mills really didn’t leave a terrible impression on his first start, also because offensive coordinator Tim Kelly repeatedly enabled the rookie to give clear reads and simple completions. The Texans held on to their running game at early downs for an infinite amount of time, which didn’t work at all, and thus unnecessarily weakened their own offense. In addition, there was Culley’s completely incomprehensible decision to punt a fourth-and-four on the opponent’s 39-yard line at the beginning of the second half. Both a field goal and playing the down would have been a much better decision.
Houston Texans vs. Carolina Panthers – The tactics board
- In defense, the Texans mostly relied on their Tampa 2 coverage with two very deeply positioned safeties and a lot of space across the middle, often even from their base defense with three linebackers. Carolina kept getting easy throws across the middle, and Darnold even missed some good opportunities.
- The Panthers gave Darnold a lot of time in the passing game, also through the frequent use of play action and rollouts. However, the quarterback held the ball far too long several times and made two fumbles in the pocket. Darnold was lucky that none of his fumbles resulted in a turnover.
- The Panthers were defensively aggressive. Carolina flashed a lot and played the run aggressively. A tactic that worked, since the Texans obviously wanted to let Mills throw as little as possible. Shortly before the break, however, defensive coordinator Phil Snow switched to a preventive defense and waived his Blitzes. Mills immediately played his best drive by far, with Houston scoring his only touchdown of the game.
- Whenever they let Mills pass, the Texans always relied on passing concepts in which the quarterback can get rid of the ball as quickly as possible. Mills held the ball in the first half on average for significantly less than two seconds – and with great success. The rookie brought eight of his eleven passes to his teammate in first half.
- After Christian McCaffrey’s failure, the Panthers relied primarily on Chuba Hubbard in the backfield. However, the running back was not used quite as creatively in the passing game and ran fewer option routes than McCaffrey usually did. Shortly before the end of the game, Darnold Hubbard was looking for a route out of the backfield into the flat, but the rookie dropped the pass.