HOUSTON, TX - Carolina moved to 3-0 on Thursday night and picked up their first road win of the season with a 24-9 win over the Houston Texans.
The Panthers opened the lid on the scoring on their second drive of the game putting together a 10-play drive that started from their own 12-yard line. Darnold established an early connection with DJ Moore combining for 55 yards which set the Panthers up shop inside the Houston 10. Darnold pulled the ball on a read option and walked into the end zone untouched from five yards out.
Carolina was threatening deep inside the red zone once again on their next drive but Chuba Hubbard got stuffed on 4th & 1 at the five-yard line. A few plays earlier, Christian McCaffrey exited the game after injuring his hamstring which is why Hubbard got the ball on 4th down. McCaffrey was ruled out for the game moments after that drive concluded.
Carolina's offensive line had a lot of issues in pass protection and with McCaffrey out of the game, the Panthers' offense went to sleep. Houston rookie QB Davis Mills had just 17 yards passing prior to their final drive of the half. Mills hit Brandin Cooks deep down the field for a 30-yard gain to help jumpstart the Texan scoring drive. Mills capped the drive off with a 1-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Anthony Miller in the back of the end zone. Former Panthers kicker Joey Slye missed the extra point attempt, allowing the Panthers to hold onto a 7-6 lead.
Matt Rhule wanted his offense to drive down the field to get into field goal range for Zane Gonzalez but only had 25 seconds and a timeout to work with. The offensive line collapsed once again, leading to a Sam Darnold fumble but Carolina hopped back on top of it. The Panthers took that 7-6 lead into the half.
To add to the bad news on the injury front, rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn fell down on the field with a non-contact injury and immediately signaled for the training staff. He was carted off the field and taken into the locker room for further evaluation.
Midway through the 3rd quarter, Sam Darnold had a beautiful throw to DJ Moore over the middle of the field and then followed that up with even a better ball to Alex Erickson for a gain of 25. With the ball on the 7-yard line, offensive coordinator Joe Brady caught Houston's defense by surprise and handed the ball off to tight end Tommy Tremble on a jet sweep for a touchdown.
Houston tacked on a 53-yard field goal from Joey Slye but the Panthers responded with a long, methodical drive that resulted in a touchdown on a Darnold QB sneak. That would be the final nail in the coffin as the Panthers would go on to win, 24-9.
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