Before Sunday’s game against the Broncos, it had been a long time since Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold had started a regular season game and a lot changed in that time period.
When Darnold started in Week 18 of last season, Matt Rhule was the Panthers head coach, Baker Mayfield was a member of the Browns, and Christian McCaffrey was on Carolina’s injured reserve list. On Sunday, Rhule was settling into his new job in Nebraska, Mayfield was backing Darnold up, and McCaffrey was playing for the 49ers.
Darnold’s long layoff didn’t stop him from playing well enough to win, however. Darnold was 11-of-19 for 164 yards and a touchdown while also being credited with a rushing touchdown on a play where he recovered his own fumble and rolled into the end zone. After the game, he was asked how much validation he took from the 23-10 win and his role in it given his lack of playing time.
“Yeah, I mean listen, you know it truly isn’t about me,” Darnold said. “There are so many guys that had a hand in this, for me to just go out there, do my job and find some completions, move the chains a couple of times. Like I said our run game was stout today. Whenever our running backs, our offensive line, our receivers, tight ends can block like that, you know we can just stay ahead of the chains and keep it rolling, have a couple good drives, and our defense can play the way that they played, I would be silly to sit up here and take all the credit. It was truly a team effort. I made my plays when I could. Just super proud of the guys in the locker room.”
Panthers head coach Steve Wilks said after the game that Darnold will start when the Panthers return from their bye in Week 14 and he’ll be hoping that Darnold can repeat all he did right on Sunday.