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Darnold, defense lead Panthers past Texans; McCaffrey hurt

Darnold, defense lead Panthers past Texans; McCaffrey hurt

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HOUSTON (AP) — Sam Darnold threw for 304 yards and ran for two touchdowns, and the Carolina Panthers eased past the Houston Texans 24-9 on Thursday night despite losing Christian McCaffrey to an injury early in the second quarter.

The Panthers are 3-0 for the first time since 2015 when they opened the season 14-0 and reached the Super Bowl.

Carolina’s top-ranked defense put the squeeze on Houston rookie Davis Mills in his first career start, sacking him four times and holding him to 168 yards passing. Mills was pressed into action after Tyrod Taylor suffered a hamstring injury last Sunday and was placed on injured reserve.

Darnold was efficient as he continues to revitalize his career with the Panthers after being cast aside by the New York Jets. But he could face some serious adversity if McCaffrey, who left with a hamstring injury in the second quarter, is forced to miss significant time.

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McCaffrey came in leading the league in scrimmage yards, the same thing he did in the 2019 season. But he missed all but three games last year with various injuries as the Panthers sputtered to 5-11 in coach Matt Rhule’s first year.

Darnold rushed for Carolina’s first score in the first quarter and put the game away when he bulled in from 1-yard out for to make it 24-9 with about four minutes left, losing his helmet in the process.

Mills threw for a touchdown and avoided big mistakes after he threw an interception in the second half of Sunday’s loss at Cleveland.

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More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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