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Week 3 Game Preview: Panthers at Texans on Thursday Night Football

Donte Jackson

Game Reset

  • Carolina Panthers (2-0) at Houston Texans (1-1)
  • NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
  • Thursday, Sept. 23 | NFL Network | 8:20 p.m. ET
  • Roster | Depth Chart | How to Watch

History: Panthers vs. Texans

Notable Connections


  • Panthers cornerback A.J. Bouye played for Houston from 2013-16
  • A number of Panthers, including head coach Matt Rhule and players Bravvion Roy, Sam Tecklenburg and Clay Johnston spent time at Baylor in Texas


  • Wide receiver Andre Roberts is from Columbia, S.C., and went to The Citadel
  • Linebacker Joe Thomas is from Blackville, S.C., and went to South Carolina State
  • Lineman Charlie Heck played at UNC

Rookie quarterback Davis Mills is expected to make his first career start for Houston after entering Sunday's game to replace Tyrod Taylor. Mills went 8-of-18 for 102 yards and a touchdown and interception.

Mills was drafted out of Stanford in the third round of this year's draft with Houston's first pick in the draft. He only played in 14 total games in college, including just five in 2020 due to the pandemic. He struggled some in this year's preseason, posting a passer rating of 47.8 after throwing for 333 yards on 31-of-65 passing with two touchdowns and four interceptions.

The Panthers scouted him during the pre-draft process, and watched film of his preseason action, but there's a limited body of evidence.

Mills will rely on speedy wideout Brandin Cooks who caught his only touchdown in Sunday's second half. Cooks currently ranks 14th among active NFL players with 7,090 career receiving yards. Cooks has 14 receptions for 210 yards this year, while no other Texan has more than 70 yards.

Former Saint and Raven Mark Ingram is now in Houston where he has 125 yards rushing, averaging 3.0 yards per carry.

Table inside Article
Category Panthers Texans
Total Yards/Game 382.0 (14th) 375.5 (17th)
Rushing Yards/Game 100.0 (21st) 121.0 (11th)
Net Passing Yards/Game 282.0 (10th) 254.5 (13th)
Sacks Allowed 3 (t-8th) 2 (t-2nd)
Third Down Efficiency 41.4 (t-14th) 57.1 (2nd)
Points/Game 22.5 (t-18th) 29.0 (t-9th)
Total Yards/Game 190.0 (1st) 375.0 (17th)
Rushing Yards/Game 46.5 (1st) 116.0 (16th)
Passing Yards/Game 143.5 (1st) 259.0 (18th)
Sacks 10 (1st) 3 (t-20th)
Third Down Efficiency 25.0 (1st) 35.0 (9th)
Takeaways 3 (t-10th) 5 (t-2nd)
Points Allowed/Game 10.5 (1st) 26.0 (20th)

Stat Nuggets To Know


  • Carolina's defense leads the NFL in total yards allowed (190.0), rushing yards allowed (46.5), passing yards allowed (143.5), sacks (10) and points allowed (10.5). The last week that the Panthers led the NFL in total yards allowed was Week 10 of the 2017 season.
  • Carolina's 22 first downs allowed are the fewest through two weeks in franchise history.
  • The Panthers are first in the NFL with a +33 point margin in first halves this year, not allowing opponents to score yet in the first and second quarters. Carolina is the only team in the NFL that has yet to run an offensive play while trailing.
  • According to PFF, three Panthers rank in the top 12 of the pressures per pass rushing snap category, the most of any team. Carolina's 10 sacks are second-most through two games in franchise history (12, 1998), as the team is registering a sack on 16.9 percent (1st in NFL) of opposing pass plays and totaling 19 QB hits (1st in NFL).
  • Carolina's pass defense is second with an opponent passer rating of 62.0, and tied for third with 11 passes defended.
  • The Panthers are one of six teams averaging at least 100 yards on the ground and 280 yards in the air with a 44-56 breakdown in rush vs. pass play calls.
  • Against New Orleans, Carolina held the ball for 38:32, 10th-highest possession for a single game in franchise history. The season average of 34:56 ranks second in the NFL.
  • The Panthers last win on Thursday Night came in 2016 against the Saints. Carolina is 3-9 all-time on Thursdays and 14-25 in regular season primetime games.


  • Running back Christian McCaffrey leads the NFL with 324 scrimmage yards and 17 first downs. McCaffrey and DJ Moore are the only pair of teammates in the NFL with 14 or more receptions so far as McCaffrey has more catches than any other running back.
  • Since Week 1 of 2019, Moore has 2,527 receiving yards, fourth-most in the NFL over that span.
  • Quarterback Sam Darnold leads the NFL with 451 first-half passing yards. He has completed 68.5 percent (50-of-77) of his passes with a +5.0 completion above expected which ranks ninth in the NFL.
  • Linebacker Haason Reddick is tied for third in the NFL with 3.0 sacks. Since the start of 2020, Reddick has 15.5 sacks which ranks second among all NFL players.
  • Defensive end Brian Burns has 2.0 sacks this season and his 18.5 career sacks are second-most among the 2019 Draft Class (Maxx Crosby, 19.0), while his 41 career QB hits lead all players from that class.
  • Defensive end Morgan Fox had a pressure rate of 57.1 last Sunday, according to Next Gen Stats.

Milestones in Reach

Christian McCaffrey

  • Needs a game with a rushing and receiving TD to pass Minnesota's Chuck Foreman (9) for the most such games in a player's first five seasons in the NFL
  • Needs 22 rushing yards to pass DeShaun Foster (3,336) for fourth in Panthers history
  • Needs six receiving TDs to pass Devin Funchess (21) for fifth in franchise history
  • Needs five scrimmage TDs (rush + receiving) to pass Muhsin Muhammad (50) for fifth and needs 13 scrimmage TDs to pass Cam Newton (58) for second in franchise history
  • Needs 323 scrimmage yards to pass Greg Olsen (6,463) for fifth in Panthers history

DJ Moore

  • Needs 588 receiving yards to pass Wesley Walls (3,902) for fourth place in Panthers history

Haason Reddick

  • Needs 1.5 sacks to join Julius Peppers (2004) as only players in franchise history with at least 1.5 sacks in three consecutive games in the same season.

Haason Reddick, Brian Burns

  • Each need 1.0 sack at Houston to tie Mike Rucker/Mark Fields (2002, Wks 15-17) and Kevin Greene/Lamar Lathon (1996, Wks 14-16) for longest streaks of games (3) that Panthers teammates each recorded a sack.

Shaq Thompson

  • Needs 21 tackles to pass Chris Gamble (493) for fifth all time in Panthers history

Donte Jackson

  • Needs five interceptions to pass Richard Marshall/Doug Evans (14) for fifth all-time in franchise history

Brian Burns

  • Needs 2.5 sacks to pass Kris Jenkins (20.5) for seventh among defensive linemen in Panthers history

Jeremy Chinn

  • Needs 35 tackles to pass Will Witherspoon (157) for the most tackles in the first two seasons by a non-middle linebacker.

Carolina is 3-2 all-time against the Texans.

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