Bryce Young beats C.J. Stroud as Panthers claim first victory of season over Texans 15-13

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By STEVE REED | AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Bryce Young has heard the criticism, the suggestion that Carolina made the wrong choice by taking him No. 1 overall instead of C.J. Stroud, who has put up big numbers for Houston.

It hasn’t bothered the even-keeled Young.

He has been preoccupied with scenarios like the one he faced on Sunday: having a chance to lead his team to a victory in the fourth quarter.

The No. 1 overall pick did just that, moving the Panthers 86 yards in 15 plays to set up Eddy Pineiro’s winning 23-yard field goal as time expired, giving Carolina its first victory of the season over the Stroud’s Texans, 15-13.

“You love opportunities like that,” Young said. “You go in and have a chance to end the game on your terms and just try to take the game. Down by one, what else would hope for? That’s what we play for.”

The winning drive included a clutch 3-yard completion in tight coverage to Adam Thielen on a fourth-and-2 to keep the chains moving.

“It was a man look 1-on-1 and Adam did a great job of creating separation and making a tough catch there,” Young said. “That was a tough, contested catch with the game on the line. But it’s not surprising at all with Adam.”

The Panthers (1-6) snapped a 56-game losing streak in games they trailed at any point in fourth quarter, the longest in NFL since at least 1991. Carolina’s last fourth-quarter comeback win was Oct. 21, 2018, against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Stroud, selected second overall, finished 16 of 24 for 140 yards and ran for a touchdown for Houston (3-4).

But Houston’s offense sputtered for most of the game. It had just one play of longer than 20 yards against a Panthers defense that had been annihilated over the previous two games, allowing 84 points and 12 touchdowns.

Houston Texans defensive end Will Anderson Jr. (51) sacks Carolina Panthers quarterback Bryce Young (9) with the help of safety Jalen Pitre (5) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Erik Verduzco)

“I think with any quarterback, especially a young quarterback, defenses continue to game plan,” Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said. “You get more film on him and see what guys do well and you switch your game plan accordingly to put the quarterback in difficult spots. He’ll just have to keep growing and keep learning. C.J. will do well with it. He’ll bounce back.”

In the end Young got the best of Stroud, just as he did when they first met as eighth graders in a football game in Fontana, California, which sparked a childhood friendship that has continued until this day.

The two shared a pregame hug, and Young waited for Stroud outside of the locker room after the game where they talked briefly.

Young threw for 235 yards and a touchdown, but it was his poise on the game’s final drive which should give some confidence to playoff-starved Panthers fans that he might be the right man for the job.

Thielen said Young was confident and ready for the moment entering the final drive.

“It wasn’t what he said, it was the confidence that he put in his voice,” Thielen said. “When you feel the energy and that confidence, it gives you confidence that hey, he’s going to dish it. He’s going to find you. Just go do your job.”

As for that that fourth-down throw, Thielen said: “He put it only where I could catch it.”

Young’s teammates awarded him a game ball.

The ending was filled with drama, with Pineiro having to make the winning kick three times with the Texans intentionally trying to jump offsides in an effort to rattle him.
Pineiro made all three kicks.

“They didn’t want to lose that game, and they were trying their absolute best to get in my head,” Pineiro said. “Hopefully they have a safe flight back to Houston.”

Young overcame six sacks and three drops by his wide receivers to record his first win since coming into the NFL out of Alabama. Despite being under constant pressure, he had his two longest completions of the season — 40 and 31 yards.

Thielen, who is in the midst of a career season, had eight catches for 72 yards. Tommy Tremble caught a touchdown pass for the second straight game as the Panthers won in their first game with offensive coordinator Thomas Brown calling the plays.

The win kept Carolina from matching its worst start in franchise history. The Panthers were 0-7 to start the 1998 season.

The Panthers trailed 7-6 at the halftime after Pinero missed an extra point following Young’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Tremble.

But Young’s 40-yard strike to fellow rookie Jonathan Mingo set up one Pineiro field goal and Donte Jackson’s strip of Andrew Beck led to another field goal to give Carolina a 12-7 lead.

Stroud put the Texans back on top 13-12, completing a 31-yard pass to Noah Brown to set up a 1-yard TD run on a quarterback sneak.

The Texans had a chance to push the lead to four midway through the fourth quarter but a delay of game penalty on third down pushed them out of field-goal range and forced a punt, setting up Young’s winning drive.


Texans: Rookie C Jarrett Patterson was carted off the field midway through the fourth with a lower leg injury.

Panthers: OLB Justin Houston left the game with a hamstring injury.


Texans: Host Buccaneers on Sunday.

Panthers: Host Colts on Sunday.