4 keys to victory for the Carolina Panthers at Texans in Week 3

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey /
3 of 5
Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

Carolina Panthers must protect the football

Sam Darnold has done an exceptional job of protecting the football during the early going of his Carolina Panthers career, with the exception of a couple of fumbles and a wacky interception, none of which were entirely his fault.

This was something Darnold struggled mightily with in New York, totaling 45 touchdowns against 39 interceptions. However, Carolina is a change of scenery and a massive switch in responsibility.

Darnold doesn’t have to push the ball downfield to make up for a less than star-studded supporting cast with the Panthers and he can simply get the ball to whoever is open on that particular play.

“Game Manager” is considered a bad word among NFL fans at large. It’s perceived and conceding your quarterback doesn’t have the skill to do anything special.

However, this can be a compliment in some cases.

Darnold is one of those quarterbacks that could be considered a game manager but that is a very surface-level analysis. If you look a bit deeper you find that those statistics don’t come from a lack of skill, arm strength, or fear of throwing it deep, he just hasn’t had to take those risks as of yet.

But as I talked about during my matchups to watch article, this Houston Texans defense is a different beast altogether, simply because of the amount of traffic Darnold will be throwing into.

Their 4-3 scheme keeps at the least three players back in coverage without a specific man to follow which allows them to break on bad throws. After all, an untimely interception helped keep Houston in the game against the Browns.

An overthrown ball or one behind its target is a lot riskier when the area is crowded with defenders. Darnold will have to be on his game and accurate if he wants to get out of this game spotless and with a 3-0 record for the first time in his career.