It’s easy to be caught up in what Carolina Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen accomplished in his first start of the season.
But there’s an accomplished quarterback on the other side for Sunday afternoon’s game with the Houston Texans. Deshaun Watson has been on a notable roll.
The teams meet at NRG Stadium in Houston.
Allen will make his third career start Sunday as the Panthers put aside any mystery about their quarterback at the beginning of the week. Cam Newton needs more time to recover from a mid-foot injury, so the Panthers (1-2) take the momentum developed in Allen’s winning efforts at Arizona into this matchup.
“He has got a lot of swag, which is kind of interesting when you watch him,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. “He has been able to back it up. He did it in high school, did it in college and the two times he has played for us, he has played pretty well. Hopefully, we can continue that.”
Allen tossed four touchdowns as part of a 261-yard outing through the air at Arizona. Newton had not been running with the ball often in the first two games of the season and his overall health was in question.
“It will have to shift our game plan a little bit,” Texans safety Justin Reid said. “... Especially with a guy who doesn’t have a whole lot of experience in NFL games, you want to (disguise coverages).”
Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey said that Allen is in some ways an extension of Newton.
“He has been learning from Cam over the last two years,” McCaffrey said. “And Cam knows how to lead.”
A week ago, Allen went to near his hometown when the Panthers played at Arizona. This week, it’s to his college town — he played his final two amateur seasons for Houston.
Allen said he knew it would be important to fit in and allow the talent around him to flourish. McCaffrey did his part in a starring role, including a 76-yard TD run.
“We understand the talent we have,” Allen said. “We understand that we are able to do these things on a consistent basis. I knew we knew it, we just had to go out and do it.”
While the Texans avoid dealing with Newton, Allen looked crisp for one week.
“He presents his own sets of challenges,” Houston coach Bill O’Brien said of Allen
But the Texans have a quarterback who’ll test defenses. Watson was the AFC Player of the Week after his three touchdown passes and 351 yards through the air against San Diego
“I can see all the work and hard work throughout the week,” Watson said. “We’re going to continue to grow together and make it happen.”
O’Brien, rattling off names of Carolina’s defenders, said the Panthers can be formidable because of their defense. Among the chief concerns early in the season for Houston is pass protection. Watson no doubt took notice of the Panthers’ battering Kyler Murray in Arizona last week.
“This is a big, big challenge,” O’Brien said.
Even with the protection issues early as the team adjusts to a new left tackle, the Texans (2-1) are feeling much better than a year ago, when they began 0-3.
“It’s a huge difference,” Houston safety Justin Reid said. “There’s a bigger buzz going through the building.”
Reid, the younger brother of Panthers safety Eric Reid, comes into the game nursing a shoulder injury. Depth is not a strength in the Texans’ secondary, an area Allen and the Panthers could look to exploit with speed on the edges.
O’Brien likes the direction but hasn’t jumped to any conclusions.
“I think it shows that our team is learning that it takes 60 minutes,” O’Brien said. “It is early. You’re only as good as your next game. There’s a long way to go.”
The series is tied 2-2, with Carolina winning the past two meetings (most recently in 2015). The Texans are the most infrequent opponent for the Panthers in their franchise history.
—Field Level Media