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Panthers 24, Texans 9: Top 10 Observations

With its rookie quarterback going against the NFL's No. 1 defense, the Texans' offensive looked predictably punchless in a loss to the Panthers Thursday night
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The Houston Texans started rookie quarterback Davis Mills in place of the injured Tyrod Taylor as they hosted Sam Darnold and the Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football.

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The 1-1 Texans had somewhat of a 'Jekyll & Hyde' performance through two games. One game they looked polished and experienced; the next clueless and unprepared.

The Panthers came in 2-0 and looking like the second-best team in the NFC South behind the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Darnold is having an unfamiliar season since the New York Jets traded him to Carolina, as he's not used to a winning record.

Let's look at some observations from Thursday's game:

10. FIRST QUARTER OFFENSIVE FOLLIES: The Texans managed just 21 yards in the first quarter, and held the ball just 4:32. Carolina held the Houston offense to only eight plays over two series, resulting in two punts. 

9. THE POTENTIAL OF THIS DEFENSE: The Texans' defense came up with a huge red zone fourth-down stop that prevented a Carolina score.

8. CAN THEY RUN THE 2-MINUTE OFFENSE ALL THE TIME? The Texans' offense had not seen the Carolina side of the 50-yard line all night until the final drive of the half. Mills and the Houston offense went 64 yards on seven plays for its only touchdown of the game. 

7. CAN THEY GO FOR TWO AFTER EVERY TOUCHDOWN? The good news is the Texans scored a touchdown right before the half to potentially tie the game. The bad news is Houston kicker Joey Slye missed the extra point. To be fair, Slye later made a 53-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

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6. OFFENSE IS FUTILE: Before the Texans scored just prior to the end of the first half, Houston and Carolina had combined for just seven points and seven punts. They were a combined 2-of-9 on third downs. The Texans averaged 2.6 yards per play and just 2.1 yards per pass, resulting in just three first downs. 

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5. NOTABLE TOUCHDOWN: With the Mills-to-Anthony Miller touchdown just before the end of the half, Davis Mills became the first Texans quarterback to throw a touchdown pass in his first career start since Arkansas Razorback-ex Ryan Mallett did so in Week 11 in 2014. 

4. WATTS HIS NAME? The Texans' defense showed they can pressure the quarterback, even without ol' 'Watts his name?' Whitney Mercilus, Jonathan Greenard, and Ross Blacklock combined for three sacks of Darnold, and the team combined for another five quarterback hits.

3. M.I.A.: The Houston rushing game belongs on the back of a milk carton right now. Since the Week 1 win over Jacksonville, when the Texans running back corps combined for 120 yards, Houston running backs have run for 68 yards against Cleveland and just 37 yards against Carolina.

2. JUST STAY DOWN: Mills was hit hard and hit often. A few he didn't see coming. While the Panthers' sack total will read four on the stat line, Mills was hit at least another 8 times on dropbacks. 

1. CAN THE PUNTER PLAY OFFENSE TOO? Texans' punter Cameron Johnson had quite a game, punting six times for an average of 44.5 yards, dropping three of them inside the 20-yard line.

The Texans will try to right the ship on Sunday, Oct. 3 in Buffalo against the Bills.

CONTINUE READING: Texans' Tytus Howard: 'We're a Great Football Team'