NFL

Panthers lose key players but remain unbeaten in defeat of Texans

By Sports Desk September 23, 2021

The Carolina Panthers lost key players on both sides of the ball to injury Thursday but managed to maintain their perfect record to start the season with a 24-9 defeat of the Houston Texans. 

The win was some consolation for Carolina on a night when they saw All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey depart in the second quarter with a hamstring injury and their top draft pick, cornerback Jaycee Horn, leave in the third with a reported broken foot. 

Carolina entered the game as the only NFL team not to trail in a game this season, and the Panthers once again struck first, with Sam Darnold capping a 10-play drive in the opening quarter by running it in himself for a five-yard touchdown. 

Their defence did surrender its first points in the first half this year, as Texans rookie quarterback Davis Mills hit Anthony Miller for a one-yard TD with 29 seconds left in the opening half, but Joey Slye missed the extra point to leave Carolina in the lead entering half-time. 

Darnold had decent numbers, completing 23 of 34 passes for 304 yards, and DJ Moore caught eight passes for 126 yards, but the Panthers could not find the end zone with their passing game. 

That led to some creativity, as rookie tight end Tommy Tremble ran the ball in from seven yards out to give Carolina a 14-6 lead in the third quarter.

After the teams traded field goals in the fourth, the Panthers put the game away when Darnold ran it in from one yard out with 4:07 remaining. 

This marks the fifth time in Panthers history they have started 3-0. They made the playoffs three of the previous four times, most recently their 2015 team that went 15-1 and lost to the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. 

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    Allegri introduced Dybala and Chiesa from the substitutes' bench with Juve trailing in Sunday's match at San Siro, and the former netted a late penalty to rescue a 1-1 draw.

    Despite only being brought on in the 65th minute, Dybala led the way among Juventus players for shots (four), shots on target (two) and big chances created (two).

    The Argentina international, who was returning from a four-game injury lay-off, has been directly involved in more goals (six) than any team-mate in all competitions this term.

    Chiesa's 12 chances created this term, meanwhile, has been bettered by only Alvaro Morata (13) and Juan Cuadrado (15).

    Juventus head coach Allegri explained the decision to overlook the pair for Derby d'Italia selection was down to fitness issues, with both set to be recalled against Sassuolo on Wednesday.

    "Paulo and Chiesa will play, so everybody is happy. You write and I make you happy," Allegri, who was criticised for his team selection, said at his pre-match news conference.

    "Dybala has important technical qualities. He is different from [Dejan] Kulusevski, but Kulusevski played a good game in Milan in the first 60 minutes.

    "Chiesa is a top player. He's played many games already. On Sunday, I was wrong, but I had read the game in a different way, with Kulusevski man-marking [Marcelo] Brozovic.

    "It's not a problem if a player starts on the bench, there are many games. Chiesa didn't drop to the bench because he deserved it. I had read the game in a certain way.

    "Eventually, when he was introduced, we needed more quality and he had a great impact.

    "Federico is a reference point for the national team and Juventus, but if I use the same players all the time, I'll need 20 new players in January.

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    Allegri also confirmed Adrien Rabiot is back and available, but Moise Kean and Federico Bernardeschi are ruled out for the visit of Sassuolo to Allianz Stadium.

    Juve have taken 13 points from their last five Serie A matches – only Milan (15) are in better form – but they still sit down in sixth after a poor start to Allegri's second tenure.

    The Bianconeri trailed leaders Napoli by 10 points heading into the weekend games, while Inter were also seven points off top spot, but Allegri still rates the defending champions as favourites to win the Scudetto.

    "[Simone] Inzaghi won't admit it, but Inter are the favourites to win Serie A," Allegri said. "Anything can happen in football, but they remain the favourites.

    "We had a bad start, so there is no room for mistakes. The draw against Inter is important, but only if we win tomorrow."

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    "It's the whole package that means our front players get into good positions. The front three look like raptors in Jurassic Park! 

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    "Our priority is to put on a good display," Lijnders added. "That is the case from the start of the season until the end.

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    Koeman has endured a difficult start to the new season, with Barca ninth in LaLiga and suffering back-to-back Champions League group stage defeats for the first time since 2000-01.

    The Catalan side went down 2-1 to Real Madrid on Sunday, Koeman becoming just the second manager to lose all three of his opening El Clasico meetings.

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    "I am older in this, I want to enjoy the atmosphere that there was the other day on the field [for El Clasico]," Koeman told reporters at Tuesday's pre-match news conference.

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