CHARLOTTE – After everything went so horribly wrong against the 49ers, everyone was eager to see how the Panthers were going to respond against the Titans.
And really, a lot of that attention was on quarterback Kyle Allen, who was coming off his first ever loss (5-1) and the first three interceptions of his career. Oh, and he was sacked seven times.
“I think we were all waiting to see,” former Panthers quarterback and current radio analyst Jake Delhomme said. “He hadn’t lost a game yet and certainly the San Francisco experience wasn’t good. I wanted to watch him play against that Tennessee team that was going to try a lot of disguising and show different looks to a young quarterback.”
The pressure started mounting again with how things started for Allen and the offense.
After four possessions, Allen was just 4-of-14 passing with an interception, but the Panthers were still in front 3-0 midway through the second quarter.
That’s when cornerback Donte Jackson’s interception allowed Allen and the offense to set up shop at the Tennessee 15-yard line. After throwing an incompletion on third-and-2, Allen connected with running back Christian McCaffrey for a 7-yard touchdown on fourth down.
That gave the Panthers a 10-0 lead and kickstarted a run of nine straight completions by Allen to end the half.
The next possession started on the Carolina 10-yard line and Allen went 8-for-8, engineering a 12-play, 90-yard touchdown drive that ended with Curtis Samuel hauling in a 12-yard score when Allen gave him a chance to go up and get it.
“To get off to a slow start and then go on that 90-yard drive, I was like, ‘Man, that’s impressive,’” Delhomme said. “He understood the situation – didn’t press – and made multiple throws. It was big-boy football.”
Check out a film breakdown of some of those throws in the video below.
“I started to see it a little better in the second quarter,” Allen explained. “Really, we just got in a rhythm.
“They’re a team that’s going to rolodex their coverage and keep going to (cover) three, going to (cover) two, playing man. I just felt like as an offense we were in a rhythm on that drive. We understood what coverages they were running and we got the ball out quick, which is huge for us.”
The 90-yard drive was huge, but the work wasn’t done. Allen needed to make some more big throws in the second half.
His 32-yard pass to DJ Moore set the Panthers up with first-and-goal at the 1, which Christian McCaffrey quickly turned into a touchdown for a 24-7 third quarter lead.
As you'll see below, Allen got the pass over outstretched cornerback Logan Ryan and the ball placement gave Moore the space he needed to get both feet down.
And there was another big-time throw in the fourth quarter after Tennessee cut the deficit to 10. On third-and-12 from the Carolina 28, Allen calmly dropped back and fired a strike to Moore between defenders for 14 yards.
McCaffrey took a carry up the middle for 58 yards to the house on the next play –the true backbreaker.
In the end, Allen completed 17-of-32 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns.
“Obviously, last week’s loss was embarrassing and it wasn’t what we wanted to do, but we understand how talented we are when we do the right things, when we don’t hurt ourselves, and when we play clean football,” Allen said. “I think you felt that sense of urgency from everyone.”
It was the kind of bounce-back performance Carolina needed from its young quarterback.
“The only guys in this league in who don’t face adversity are the guys who don’t play,” tight end Greg Olsen said. “If you are going to make it in this league – at any position – you better learn to bounce back when things don’t go right. That’s especially true at quarterback. You can’t let bad experiences affect your mentality – you won’t last long. Kyle has shown he has a short memory and does a good job bouncing back.”