The Carolina Panthers opened the 2021 season with a 19-14 home victory over the New York Jets on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.
Here are some observations from their Week 1 win.
Darnold deliversPlaying a regular season game in a Carolina uniform for the first time, new Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold put together a strong showing against the team that drafted him.
Darnold, who was selected No. 3 overall by New York in the 2018 NFL Draft, completed 24-of-35 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown against zero interceptions and also ran in another touchdown.
Carolina outgained New York, 272-82, in the first half. The big play of the game came in the second quarter, as Darnold found Robby Anderson for a 57-yard touchdown. This was Anderson’s first touchdown reception from Darnold as a Panther after catching 11 touchdowns from him during the duo’s time in New York. On Carolina’s next possession, Darnold scored on a five-yard quarterback sneak to push the lead to 16-0.
Darnold threw for 234 of his 279 yards in the first half. Carolina only managed three points over the final two quarters as the Jets began to pressure the Panthers quarterback.
Carolina’s defense opened the season impressively. The Panthers held New York to 45 yards rushing on 17 carries and sacked Jets rookie Zach Wilson six times on the day.
Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson had one of the best games of his career with 10 tackles, a sack, three passes defensed and an interception. Carolina held the Jets scoreless in the first half.
Defensive tackle Derrick Brown, the Panthers’ 2020 first round pick, had four tackles, a sack and a pass breakup and newly-acquired linebacker Hassan Reddick had 1.5 sacks in addition to a forced fumble.
Panthers rookie defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon, a fifth-round pick, shared a sack in his first NFL game.
Nixon and starting cornerback Jaycee Horn, the Panthers’ 2021 first round pick, were the only Carolina rookies who played on defense in the opener.
On special teams, Carolina got rookie contributions from tailback Chuba Hubbard and tight end Tommy Tremble — both had a 21-yard kickoff return.
Rookie receiver Terrace Marshall Jr., a second round pick, caught three passes for 26 yards.
Carolina is carrying 10 rookies on its active roster. Three of them did not dress out on Sunday, including injured receiver Shi Smith. Offensive lineman Deonte Brown and defensive tackle Phil Hoskins were inactive in the opener.
What’s nextThe Panthers will face New Orleans at home Sunday in a matchup of 1-0 teams. The Saints defeated Green Bay, 38-3, in Week 1 behind five touchdown passes from quarterback Jameis Winston, who used to play for Tampa Bay.
In 10 career games against Carolina, Winston is 5-5 and has completed 61.1% of his passes for 2,467 yards, nine touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He was also sacked 34 times and fumbled the ball eight times across those 10 games.