GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP)Kyle Allen takes pride in staying calm during big moments, reminding himself on every play that it’s just football and he doesn’t have to do anything spectacular to have success at the NFL level.
Turns out that’s true.
In his second career start, he simply made good reads, good throws and good decisions over and over again to lead the Carolina Panthers over the Arizona Cardinals 38-20 on Sunday.
The only thing spectacular was the final result.
”That’s how you win football games,” Allen said. ”You do your job. That’s what we’ve been preaching all week. Do your job, you don’t have to do too much, and when your number is called, make plays.”
The 23-year-old Allen was solid in place of the injured Cam Newton, making several big throws – even when there was tight coverage. He was 19 of 26 for 261 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Two of the touchdowns went to veteran tight end Greg Olsen and one each went to Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore.
Christian McCaffrey had 24 carries for 153 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown , which came in the third quarter when he darted straight through the middle of Arizona’s defense.
Newton was ruled out by the Panthers earlier this week because of a mid-foot sprain. The Panthers were confident Allen would be an adequate replacement and Sunday’s performance was validation.
”He’s a guy who really keeps his composure,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. ”He understands. He’s smart. He’s got a good football mind.”
Allen outplayed Arizona’s Kyler Murray, who was his former college teammate at Texas A&M. Murray also had some good moments, especially early, including a few long runs and a couple of short touchdown passes to Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson.
But Murray’s costly interception late in the third quarter helped the Panthers (1-2) pull away for their first win. He finished 30 of 43 passing for 173 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for 69 yards.
Murray was sacked eight times by Carolina’s defense, which improved as the game progressed.
”We’ve got to get better in every phase,” Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury said. ”We’ve got to coach them better, play better, so there’s a lot to learn from that.”
The Allen vs. Murray quarterback matchup was intriguing since they were college teammates 2015. The highly rated recruits split time under center before both eventually transferred. Murray went on to win the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma.
Allen – who was playing near his hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona – looked comfortable from the moment he stepped on the field. His only other start last season was also a win, but that one came with a bit of an asterisk. The Panthers won in Week 17 against a New Orleans team that was already looking toward the playoffs.
This time, both teams were desperate for a win and Allen delivered.
He was 13 of 18 passing for 173 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, including a 52-yard score to Moore, which pushed the Panthers ahead 14-10 just before halftime.
The Cardinals (0-2-1) went ahead 17-14 in the third quarter on Murray’s 3-yard pass to Johnson, but the Panthers responded with Allen’s 3-yard touchdown to Olsen.
Carolina pulled away in the second half when McCaffrey ran straight up the middle for his long touchdown and a 28-20 lead.
”We will take a look at the tape and figure out how to get better, but I expect it is everybody,” Arizona defensive tackle Corey Peters said. ”Not one person. Not just the players or the coaches. Everybody. We will be honest about it and we will try to get it fixed.”
On the ensuing drive, Murray was picked off by Donte Jackson and the Panthers took advantage of the short field when Allen hit Olsen for another touchdown and a 35-20 lead.
Olsen said Allen did a nice job of staying calm and improvising.
”He threw on time, bought time, found second options,” Olsen said. ”He just did a lot of different things. In this league, things aren’t always pretty. It’s not 7-on-7. There are guys getting close to you.”
JONES BIG AGAIN
For the second time in three games, Arizona’s Chandler Jones forced a fumble and then recovered it.
Carolina was easily driving downfield in the first quarter before Jones sacked Allen, stripped the ball and recovered it on the Arizona 26.
Jones’ 43 sacks since joining the Cardinals in 2016 are the most for any NFL player over that span.
TIGHT END TROUBLE
An opposing tight end had another big game against Arizona’s defense. Olsen finished with six catches for 75 yards and the two scores.
Detroit’s T.J. Hockenson had six catches for 131 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. Baltimore’s Mark Andrews had eight catches for 112 yards and a touchdown last weekend.
”That’s three weeks in a row that we weren’t able to slow down the tight ends,” Kingsbury said. ”They’re premier players, but still we’ve got to do a better job with that.”
Panthers: Carolina travels to Houston to face the Texans.
Cardinals: Arizona hosts the Seahawks on Sunday for its third home game in four weeks.
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