It’s about time.
After 300 days, the sounds of “Sweet Caroline” pumped through Bank Of America Stadium into the Charlotte skyline.
The Carolina Panthers finally won a game after beating the Houston Texans 15-13 Sunday. The win ensured that the Panthers, at 1-6, avoided tying their worst start in franchise history. Here are some takeaways from Week 8.
Houston’s defense sacked Bryce Young six times. Most of those sacks came off of the blindside. Panthers LT Ikem Ekwonu continues his season struggles in Week 8-surrendering a game-high 2.5 sacks to Texans’ defensive end Jonathan Greenard.
Ekwonu isn’t alone in his struggles. The entire unit has been underwhelming and overwhelmed by opposing d-lines all season. The pocket collapses quickly, because defenses outmuscle the line and push them back. When a defense has speedy rushers on the edge, the Panthers’ struggles in the trenches become magnified.
Despite the Texans’ pressure and the sacks, Young showed toughness and grit. On the day, Young completed 22 of his 31 attempts for 235 yards and a touchdown. With the game on the line, Young orchestrated an 86-yard drive to set up Eddy Pinerio’s game-winning field goal. His poise throughout the game was impressive, but it was the confidence that went with it that made his performance stand out as his best so far.
Panthers WR Adam Thielen explained after the game.
“I don’t exactly remember when it was either on the sideline or the huddle, but it was like ‘Hey guys, this is what we do.’,” he said. “It’s not exactly what he said. It was the confidence that he put in his voice and in his mindset.”
The Panthers’ defense allowed only 229 yards of total offense and contained Texans’ rookie QB CJ Stroud to only 140 passing yards. Panthers’ LB Frankie Luvu was a disruptive force all game long-recording 12 tackles and a sack.
They also held the Texans’ receiving duo of Tank Dell and Nico Collins to a combined 46 yards.
Luvu wasn’t the only Panther disruptive on defense. Cornerback Donte Jackson forced a fumble on Houston’s Andrew Beck to eventually set up a field goal to give Carolina a 12-7 lead with 7:58 remaining in the third.
Panthers head coach Frank Reich relinquished offensive play-calling duties to OC Thomas Brown Sunday. While the offense struggled during the first half with a missed red-zone opportunity most notably, the offense began to settle down into a manageable rhythm. There is a desire for more passing under Brown. During the game, Carolina averaged 7.6 yards per passing attempt -a 2.1-yard jump from their previous average of 5.5 yards under Reich’s play calling.
In addition to an uptick in passing yards, the transition of duties between Reich and Brown made for more defined roles.
“As far as the game management side, being able to talk to the guys upstairs a little bit more, Reich said when asked about how the change freed him up during the game. “There wasn’t a whole lot of crazy stuff that came up in the game, but what did come up I thought we handled it well. I thought the communication was good. I was able to keep in tune with what the defense and what special teams were doing a bit more. So I definitely felt the difference.”
The Panthers look to build off of this win in Week 9 as they host the Indianapolis Colts.