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Carolina Panthers

Bryce Young gets his first comeback, first win, first game ball

Bryce Young

CHARLOTTE — Throughout his time in college and his short time with the Panthers, Bryce Young has exuded calm.

And while he was clearly relieved with getting his first NFL win, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft quickly went back into "get back to work" mode in his postgame press conference.

But before that came the joy, the release, and they saw a peek of the Bryce Young who said some words people don't ordinarily imagine hearing from the mild-mannered rookie, as he celebrated Sunday's 15-13 win over the Texans.

There might have been some expletives, according to his teammates, as all the frustration of the fruitless first six weeks of the year came out all at once.

But when you ice the game with a last-minute drive for your first NFL win, how are you supposed to react?

"Really, it's just excitement for that opportunity," Young said of having the game on the line and the ball in his hands. "You know, you love opportunities like that. You go in, you have a chance to end the game on your terms and to try to go out and take the game. Down one, what else would you hope for? It's why we play the game.

"So that was all of our response. All of our attitudes were being able to see the opportunity, and really embrace it and make sure we're listening to coaches trust in our training, but embrace the opportunity, and again, I'm super proud of this team for stepping up. Super grateful to be playing with the guys I'm playing with."

Young was a clean 22-of-31 for 235 yards and a touchdown, hitting Tommy Tremble for a touchdown pass in the second quarter. His 103.6 passer rating was the highest of the season, and included in the total was a 40-yard shot to Jonathan Mingo, his longest completion of the year.

There's still a lot of stuff to work on, and there's time to work on it all.

But at the moment, he had this moment, and let loose for a bit behind closed doors when he was given a game ball by linebacker Frankie Luvu (with an assist from Luke Kuechly, because it was that kind of day what with the Hall of Honor and all the legends in the house.).

"Shoutout to Luke Kuechly," Luvu said. "We were talking about this; he was in Detroit, and he said, 'I can't wait until we get the dub, we come in the locker room, and you just handing that first win to the rookie.' So, I've been planning on that for a while now, and we got it done.

"So, shoutout to Bryce and holding it down and his leadership he took on offense."

These were the kind of moments the Panthers drafted Young for, and there were small plays throughout the game that head coach Frank Reich said embodied his qualities.

There was a scramble for a first down that included an awkward not-quite-a-slide, but it worked. There was a fourth-down strike to Adam Thielen (which was nearly broken up by Miles Sanders, but Sunday was a day in which things worked out), which kept the game-winning drive alive. There were a number of small moments which added up to something larger (even though it was just one).

"I mean, I think it's a big confidence builder for our whole team," Reich said. "Especially for the offense and Bryce obviously as our leader, making the plays in that drive that we needed was clutch. And I thought Bryce made a bunch of those during the day, but when we needed him the most, he made the biggest plays."

Thielen counts in that category as well, as the veteran receiver has become Young's target of preference — primarily because he's proven himself trustworthy.

"Adam won," Young said of the play in question. "It was a man look, one-on-one, and Adam did a great job creating separation and making a tough catch there. Ended up being a lot of people there and a tough contested catch with the game on the line.

"Not surprising at all for Adam."

Thielen talked about another throw earlier in the game, when Young showed his ability to escape a congested pocket (he was sacked six times) and keep plays alive.

"I think it's the things he did all game long," Thielen said. "The long completion down the sideline that I didn't see it, obviously. I was running my route, but now you see the play back, and you see that he's getting pressure, almost sacked, wheels out, and throws up a ball that gives me an opportunity to go make a play.

"It's those kinds of plays that make a quarterback from a good quarterback to a great quarterback. He has the ability to do that, and it's those things that help us win games."

But, and this is very important to point out, it was just one game. They're still 1-6, and that's not good.

And if they needed anyone to remind them of that, their rookie quarterback was first among them, in no uncertain terms.

"Yeah, even though it felt like one win, again, it's great," Young said. " Obviously, we didn't have to start we wanted. But again, we also understand this is one win. In Week 8. And it's great, we enjoy it, but it felt like that.

"We have stuff to clean up, stuff to build on. So we all know that we all understand it. It's great. Again, these don't come easy. It was a really good team. So, we definitely respect that, and we celebrate it. It's good, and then we're going to get ready to turn the page tomorrow."

View all the action from the Panthers' game against the Houston Texans in Week 8.

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