GLENDALE, Ariz. – Since most of the focus this past week was on Cam Newton’s ailing left foot, few paid attention to what the Panthers were saying about their backup quarterback.
Head coach Ron Rivera said it. So did offensive coordinator Norv Turner and multiple players. It seemed like every time someone talked about Kyle Allen, they mentioned his ability to remain unfazed no matter what the situation.
On Sunday, Allen backed up that talk, tossing four touchdowns to lead the Panthers past the Cardinals for Carolina’s first win of the young season. Allen even remained unflappable afterward when a reporter wondered what people who didn’t know much about him learned from the performance.
“Watch the tape and ask them,” he said. “I don’t know. I’m just doing my job and playing football.”
For the most part, it looked as easy as Allen made it sound. He went 19-of-26 for 261 yards with a 144.4 passer rating — the second-highest total in franchise history behind the 153.3 Newton put up against the Falcons in Week 14 of the magical 2015 season.
But how does a guy making just his second career start, someone who didn’t even have a job last year at this time after the Panthers initially cut him, play so seemingly under control?
“I think he’s real confident in who he is as a football player,” Rivera said. “He was a very heralded player coming into college, he had a good college career, and I think he’s just confident that he has that kind of ability.
“He’s got a lot of swag, which is kind of interesting when you watch him, and he’s been able to back it up. That’s probably the biggest thing because he did it in high school, did it in college and the two times he’s played for us he’s played pretty well.”
He sure has.
Combine Allen’s stats Sunday with his Week 17 gem in New Orleans last year and he’s 35-of-53 for 489 yards, six touchdowns, no interceptions and an average passer rating of 127.9 as a starter. Those numbers could have potentially been even better if the Panthers had finished off their opening possession with a score instead of a strip-sack inside Arizona’s red zone.
“(Allen’s) got a good demeanor to him, good or bad,” tight end Greg Olsen said. “On the first drive, we started good, and then it ended bad, but you would have thought we scored a touchdown. He’s got a great disposition.”
After the Cardinals converted the turnover into a 74-yard touchdown drive, a trend began. Allen and the Panthers immediately countered with points, just like they did after each of Arizona’s subsequent three scores. Stuff like that does seem to point to a quarterback who doesn’t scare easily.
Down 7-0 to begin his second drive, Allen faced a third-and-5 from the Carolina 46-yard line. The Cardinals sent a blitz, but just before it got there, Allen whizzed a dart to Olsen for a 13-yard gain.
“He made an awesome throw on that third down,” Olsen said, “threw it right behind that guy’s head in the middle of the field.”
Six plays later, Allen and the Panthers had another third down, this time from the Arizona 6. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs came bearing down on Allen as he rolled right, but he cooly found Curtis Samuel in the back corner of the end zone for a tying touchdown.
“We knew what he was capable of, and our job is to go out there and win, give him the best chance to complete a pass for us,” Samuel said.
After Arizona regained the lead late in the first half, Allen hit on the Panthers’ biggest pass play of the day. DJ Moore caught a dig route at the Cardinals 35 and took it from there for a go-ahead 52-yard score.
Arizona took the lead once again early in the third quarter, only to be matched by another Allen touchdown drive that was capped off by the first of two scores by Olsen. The Panthers never trailed again and tacked on two more touchdowns: a 76-yard sprint by Christian McCaffrey and a gorgeous, backpedaling 5-yard toss by Allen to Olsen in the back of the end zone.
As calm as he appeared, the day had to be somewhat of a dream for Allen. Again, he wasn’t in the league last September. Instead, he was home in Scottsdale hoping for another shot. So this was quite the homecoming.
“It’s cool to have all my family and friends here and go out to dinner with them last night, but at the end of the day, I kept telling myself this: ‘Have a plan when you come to the line of scrimmage every play.’ Don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be, so one play at a time. It’s a long game,” Allen said.
“As a quarterback, you can look at the clock, you can look at what happened before, you can look in the future, and your mind is just kind of going different ways. For me, I literally talk out loud and I tell myself, ‘Have a plan, have a plan, have a plan.’ You don’t need to make it more difficult than it needs to be.”
Neither will the Panthers right now. Allen appears to give them a solid No. 2.
“When you have a guy like (Derek Anderson) for seven seasons, we had a little bit of uncertainty and we really didn’t know,” Rivera said of the Panthers’ backup situation. “Now having a guy that may be assuming that role, I think that helps us in terms of our confidence going forward knowing that if something were to happen again, we can obviously have a guy that can go out there and play and play very well for us.”
But No. 2 is what Allen will be once No. 1 returns.
“(Newton’s) our quarterback and he’s who we rely on,” Rivera said. “But for now we’re going to stick with Kyle and we’ll keep rolling and see how things unfold as we go forward.”
View photos from Carolina's Week 3 game at Arizona.