NEW ORLEANS – Kyle Allen makes Ron Rivera laugh.
Young guys who don’t know any better are refreshing in that way.
And Sunday against the Saints, the undrafted rookie quarterback showed his head coach that he can play.
“He showed us that he’s capable,” Rivera said with a wide smile.
In his first career start, Allen completed 16-of-27 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns before bowing out in the fourth quarter with a right shoulder injury. He also ran the ball five times for 19 yards and a score.
“I just wanted to come in and give these guys a win,” Allen said following Carolina’s 33-14 triumph. “I’ve seen a lot of struggle and a lot of long faces. It was just about winning the game for everyone who has put so much work in this year."
After the Panthers decided to shut down franchise quarterback Cam Newton, they turned to backup Taylor Heinicke, who injured his left elbow during his first career start last week against Atlanta.
That left Allen as the starter for the season finale, and he was outstanding throughout.
“He made some big-time throws,” veteran wide receiver Torrey Smith said.
His best was a beautiful 53-yard deep strike down the middle to wide receiver Curtis Samuel, which gave Carolina a 30-0 lead late in the third quarter.
“It was amazing. He played with as much confidence as anybody,” Samuel said. “To command the huddle and throw those perfect passes and lead us to a win, it was very impressive.”
The arm talent was on display, and so was poise in the huddle and the pocket.
“He’s one of those guys that can take a moment and make it what it is. Some guys get moments like that and they just seem to blow it all out of proportion,” Rivera said. “Kyle always seems to have the same steady approach. I appreciate that.”
Teammates describe Allen as calm, cool and collected. He came into Sunday’s game with a clear plan, and it showed.
“I just felt right at home when I got on the field,” Allen said.
The Saints may have looked at him as a young kid they could take advantage of. But looks can be deceiving.
Allen proved to everyone that the kid they call “Love Dovey” has got some game. And some confidence.
“I knew I could have success in this league,” Allen said. “I just think that, especially at the quarterback position, if you don’t have confidence you don’t have anything.”