Bryce Young faced a stiff test for his Carolina Panthers home debut Monday night against a stout Saints defense under primetime lights.
For most of the night, it was a struggle.
The draft’s No. 1 pick faced constant pressure as New Orleans ground out a 20-17 win to secure a 2-0 start. The Panthers found moderate success on their first possession with a 31-yard drive that stalled out after a false start penalty and concluded with a field goal. It was mostly downhill from there until Carolina found the end zone for the first time on its final possession of the game.
Young finished the game completing 22 of 33 passes for 153 yards (4.2 yards per attempt) with a late touchdown and no interceptions. He was sacked four times including a critical strip sack deep in Saints territory that led to a turnover.
Saints keep pressure on without blitzing
New Orleans routinely applied pressure with a four-man front, forcing Young into mistakes against a backloaded Saints secondary. When the Panthers found themselves in good field position, they failed to capitalize, mustering three points on two possessions that started in Saints territory.
Young found himself behind the sticks early and often with Carolina’s second and third possessions ending in three-and-outs after finding themselves in first-and-20 and third-and-13 situations. Carolina’s second possession ended when Young forced a throw to Adam Thielen in tight coverage that was nearly intercepted by Alontae Taylor.
The Panthers kept things close thanks to a defense that likewise gave Saints quarterback Derek Carr fits. They faced a chance to take a lead into halftime after Carr threw an interception to set the Panthers up with the ball at the Saints’ 37-yard line.
But Young fumbled on a third-and-six strip sack that the Saints recovered to go into halftime with a 6-3 lead.
The second half started then with near-disaster for Young and the Panthers offense. The Saints forced another strip-sack turnover that was thwarted by a defensive holding penalty deep in the New Orleans secondary. Carolina maintained possession, but punted four plays later.
It wasn’t all bad for Young. He flashed his playmaking upside with a 26-yard scramble in the fourth quarter to convert on third-and-11.
The run was the first play of longer than 15 yards in Carolina’s season. But the drive ended in another field goal to cut Carolina’s deficit to 13-9 after the Saints defense sacked Young on third-and-three in the red zone. Young lined up up in shotgun behind right guard prior to the sack before running back Miles Sanders nudged him behind center.
New Orleans responded with a six-play, 79-yard touchdown drive to take a 20-9 lead with 3:14 remaining. Rookie running back Tony Jones Jr. punched it in with a two-yard run, his second touchdown of the night filling in for Jamaal Williams, who left the game early with a hamstring injury.
The Panthers kept the pressure on late thanks to a a 75-yard touchdown drive that ended with a pass from Young to Theilen. The touchdown was the first of the season against a Saints defense that kept the Tennessee Titans out of the end zone in Week 1.
But it was strictly a moral victory for Carolina, which failed to convert on an the ensuing on-side kick, allowing the Saints to run out the clock.