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Panthers will only go as far as Sam Darnold takes them

Panthers will only go as far as Sam Darnold takes them

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If Thursday’s game against the Houston Texans proved anything, it is that the Carolina Panthers’ success hinges on the play of quarterback Sam Darnold.

The Carolina Panthers had the opportunity to select one of the top five quarterback prospects in this year’s NFL Draft. Instead, they chose to give a call to the New York Jets to acquire Sam Darnold, and they did so at the price of a 2021 sixth-round pick and a second-rounder and a fourth-rounder in 2022.

So far, the trade has paid off through the first two weeks. While Week 3 was not pretty, the Panthers cruised to a 24-9 win over the Houston Texans. But with star running back Christian McCaffrey going down with an injury, Thursday showed that the Panthers will go as far as Darnold takes them.

Panthers: With Christian McCaffrey injured, it is all on Sam Darnold

Early in the first half, McCaffrey pulled up during a run and was instantly ruled out with a hamstring injury. Without his top running back to lean upon, Darnold stepped up for the Panthers to deliver the victory.

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Darnold completed 23-of-34 pass attempts for 304 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions, but did account for two rushing touchdowns in the red zone against Houston. It was a good game for Darnold, but there is an area of concern that is not related to McCaffrey’s absence — the offensive line.

There were moments in the game where Darnold’s pocket collapsed on him, and he actually fumbled the ball on two occasions, both of which were recovered by his teammates. But if there is one thing that helps Darnold, it is that he has a plethora of pass-catching options to help bail him out of precarious situations. That is something he did not have during his time with the Jets.

Darnold has a tough task ahead of him. In Week 4, as the Panthers return to Texas to face the Dallas Cowboys. If the Panthers are to win that game, Darnold will need to go pass-for-pass with Dak Prescott, who has been incredibly impressive through the first two weeks of the season, specifically in the season-opener against the Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Yet, Carolina does have a defense that held the New Orleans Saints to 128 yards of total offense in Week 2, so that could help make Darnold’s day easier in Dallas.

It is up to Darnold to continue to rack up the wins for the Panthers with McCaffrey out. Three weeks into the season, Panthers fans have to like what they have seen from the former third-overall pick.

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