Sam Darnold had a solid debut with the Carolina Panthers and his new team’s defense ruined New York Jets rookie Zach Wilson’s first NFL game in a 19-14 victory Sunday afternoon at Charlotte, N.C.
Darnold had a passing touchdown and rushing touchdown against his former team, with 279 yards passing by going 24 of 35 with no interceptions.
The outcome also upended the Jets head coaching debut of Robert Saleh, who had been a San Francisco 49ers assistant coach.
Wilson, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, ended up 20 of 37 for 258 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
The Jets managed only 252 yards of total offense while Wilson was sacked six times for minus-51 yards.
Darnold also made good use of running back Christian McCaffrey, the Carolina standout who was limited to three games last season because of injuries.
McCaffrey was Carolina’s leading rusher and receiver. He gained 98 yards on 21 carries on the ground, including a key 18-yard run on the game’s last possession to help the Panthers close out the victory. He also caught nine passes for 89 yards.
Wilson’s first touchdown pass went for 22 yards to Corey Davis with 1:35 remaining in the third quarter. Wilson ran in a two-point conversion as the Jets trimmed their deficit to 16-8.
Ryan Santoso’s 29-yard field goal for Carolina pushed the Jet’s gap to 19-8 with 8:44 remaining.
New York made it interesting when Wilson connected with Davis for an 8-yard touchdown with 2:00 left to get within the final margin. Wilson’s two-point conversion pass failed.
At the midway mark of the second quarter, the Panthers had outgained New York 153-51, yet held only a 3-0 lead on Santoso’s 22-yard field goal. Those points came after Carolina linebacker Shaq Thompson returned a Wilson interception 29 yards to the Jets’ 32.
Darnold threw a 57-yard TD pass to Robby Anderson on the first play of a possession and then ran 5 yards on a quarterback draw for a score as part of Carolina’s 16-point second quarter.
By halftime, Darnold had thrown for 234 yards and was on his way to erasing some of the misery that developed during his past three seasons with the Jets.
Davis had 97 yards on five receptions for the Jets.
–Field Level Media
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