by Darrell Horwitz
Expectations are difficult to live up to, and often not the fault of the one that is failing to live up to them.
Bryce Young had the weight of the world on his shoulders last Sunday, or at least of the Carolinas as the Panthers were 0-6 and he was facing the quarterback in CJ Stroud for Houston that the Panthers passed over to take Young.
Part of that weight was also felt by first year head coach Frank Reich. Brought in to nurture a young quarterback, Reich, a former NFL quarterback, brought in a staff with lots of NFL experience. He was hired before the Panthers had the first pick in the NFL Draft, but the organization’s plans were to draft and develop a rookie QB, and Young turned out to be their choice.
The Panthers paid dearly to acquire the first pick from the Chicago Bears, not only trading their first round pick last year and this season, but they gave up their best receiver in DJ Moore, and a couple of seconds. Part of Young’s troubles have been caused by an offensive line that hasn’t done a good job of protecting him, and not having enough weapons on offense to accelerate his growth, which is where Moore would have been a great help to a young quarterback.
That’s why last Sunday’s game at Bank of America Stadium was so important, not only for the team, but for Young and his confidence, and Reich and his job. Stroud had outplayed Young so far this season and was considered the frontrunner for offensive rookie of the year, while people were questioning Carolina for choosing Young over him.
Houston was a surprising 3-3 coming into the game, even though they were just 3-13-1 last year while the Panthers were 7-10 and seemed to have more horses than the Texans coming into the season. New Texas coach DeMeco Ryans along with Stroud were hailed for their resurgence while in the same position as Reich and Young as first year coach and quarterback for the Panthers.
A loss at home last Sunday, with Stroud topping Young and leaving the Panthers 0-7 would have been disastrous in so many ways.
It wasn’t pretty, but Carolina squeaked out a 15-13 victory for their first win, and Young led a long 4th quarter drive to set up the winning field goal and made a key 4th down pass to receiver Adam Thielen to keep the drive alive. He also outplayed Stroud despite being sacked six times by Houston, completing 22-31 for 235 yards and one touchdown and no turnovers.
Young played big when he had to, despite size being the one question he had to repeatedly answer. You can’t measure heart, and Young’s was unquestionably big enough.
Sometimes one win is all you need to change your trajectory. And sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Young had the worst game of his young career on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, throwing three interceptions and two were returned for touchdowns, leading to a 27-13 beatdown on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Stroud had a historic performance Sunday, throwing for 470 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions in a rookie record-setting performance. So, while Young came out on top last week against Stroud, his performance on Sunday has all the whispers starting again, except this time they’re much louder.
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