National Football League
Panthers QB Bryce Young has season-best performance, tops Texans, C.J. Stroud
National Football League

Panthers QB Bryce Young has season-best performance, tops Texans, C.J. Stroud

Published Oct. 29, 2023 7:04 p.m. ET

In the second quarter of the Panthers' first victory of the season, with Carolina in Houston territory, Bryce Young dropped back to pass. He faced immediate pressure, after a blitzing Jalen Pitre bulldozed his way through running back Chuba Hubbard. But the No. 1 overall pick spun out of the would-be sack, rolled to his left and fired an off-balance, 31-yard pass down the sideline to his favorite target, Adam Thielen, to put the Panthers in scoring position. 

It marked the best play of his young career to this point. 

And it highlighted the best overall performance of Young's rookie season. 


The former Alabama star completed 70.9% of his passes (22-of-31) for 235 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions and a season-high 103.6 passer rating for the Panthers (1-6), who ended their winless streak to beat Houston (3-4) at Bank of America stadium 15-13

Facing off against his close friend and No. 2 overall pick C.J. Stroud, Young clinched his first NFL victory after guiding Carolina to a 15-play, game-winning drive that took off the final 6:17 on the clock, ending with Eddy Pineiro's 23-yard field goal.

"I thought Bryce really played smart with the football," coach Frank Reich said. "I just think he was in a good rhythm. I thought in the first half we did a good job in some of our play-actions, getting the ball down the field. You could just tell he was comfortable making the plays."

After taking a nine-yard sack with 5:09 left, making it second-and-19 in Panthers' territory, Young scrambled for seven yards, then hit Thielen for a 10-yard screen pass to set up fourth-and-short just inside midfield. That's where the top pick again connected with Thielen, who ran a short out route for a contested catch to move the chains, after a near collision with teammate Miles Sanders

In the first game with offensive coordinator Thomas Brown as playcaller, the Panthers gave Hubbard six straight touches to force the Texans to use up their timeouts and set up Piniero's game-winning field goal. 

"Really resilient win," Young said. "It took all 11, all 22 on both sides of the ball. All three phases. It took everyone."

It wasn't a spotless performance for Young. He held the ball too long at times, which played a role in him taking a season-high six sacks. But as the game came down to the wire, he displayed the calmness and composure under pressure that we saw at Alabama. He went back to receivers who dropped passes earlier in the game. He empowered them with trust. 

"I think his ability to just stick with it," Thielen, who had a team-high eight catches for 72 yards, said of Young. "Like, don't try to do too much. Just know what he's good at and trust it and no matter what's happening throughout the game, he's going to go out there and just do it. There's no panic. There's no stress. There's no down look on his face. You could tell, he's just ready to get back out there and go to work. And that's not an easy thing to do. So that's impressive, especially with a rookie." 

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While Young was excited to get his first win, he acknowledged that it's just a game and there's more to be done. 

"Wins aren't easy to come by in this league," Young said. "It's great to get on the board, great to get a win. Right now, obviously we're fresh and everybody is enjoying it and we're super happy about it.

"Right now is time for us to enjoy it and have fun, but tomorrow, we come back and watch film," he continued. "There's a lot of stuff that we still can get better at, still can improve at. … We have to keep building off of this. It's a long journey. It's a long road. That's going to come with the work that comes throughout the week."

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.


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