TNF Recap: Panthers Defeat Texans, But Lose Two Key Starters

The Carolina Panthers had a solid outing Thursday night, defeating the Houston Texans 24-9, but the contest didn't end on a happy note.

Carolina had control on both sides of the football for the majority of the contest, but could not prevent starting running back Christian McCaffrey and cornerback Jaycee Horn from exiting the game with injuries.

Panthers coach Matt Rhule briefly touched on his star running back's injury, anticipating further details on the injury before giving a timeline on his return.

"Christian strained his hamstring. I don't know the severity level of it, to be quite honest with you, but when it happened they said he was out for the game," said Rhule, also commending first-year Panthers QB Sam Darnold for taking the reins of the offense following McCaffrey's exit.

Sam Darnold completed 23-of-34 passes for 304 yards — throwing zero touchdowns and interceptions but running the ball in for two scores. Darnold stuck to a fairly conservative game plan for the night, and aside from an errant deep ball that missed DJ Moore in the fourth, had a decent showing in his third straight win.

Carolina reaches the 3-0 mark for the first time since 2015 — the same season that resulted in a Super Bowl 50 loss to the Denver Broncos, 24-10.

Thursday's most talked about storyline centered around third-round rookie Davis Mills helming the Texans' offense. The Texans were down to Mills, their third-string play caller, after a Week 2 hamstring injury kept veteran Tyrod Taylor on the sidelines. Deshaun Watson has remained inactive three weeks into the regular season.

Mills threw a dart to Anthony Miller in the second quarter, inching the Texans closer to a tie after placekicker Joey Slye missed the extra point. The Stanford product's night was mostly error-free. He didn't throw any interceptions, but he lost his grip on the ball during a couple of fourth quarter hits from the Panthers' defensive line. Mills ended the night completing 19-of-28 passes for 168 yards and a single score.

Carolina sacked Mills four times and kept Houston's running game shelved for the night with 42 total yards. The game proved rewarding for the Panthers' defense, but a late-game injury to 2021 first-round pick CB Jaycee Horn dampened the high spirits.

Horn went down in a non-contact injury, which was later confirmed as a broken foot, contrary to initial concerns of an Achilles rupture. OutKick's ProFootballDoc tweeted out that Horn's fracture will require surgery, likely ending the No. 8 pick's season.

Follow along on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela

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Alejandro Avila lives in Southern California and previously covered news for the LA Football Network. Jeopardy expert and grumpy sports fan. Known for having watched every movie and constant craving for dessert. @alejandroaveela (on X)