DETROIT (AP) — Bryce Young had plenty of excuses available for his performance against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
The Carolina Panthers rookie was playing just his fourth NFL game against one of the league’s hottest teams in one of the sport’s loudest arenas. Early in the game, he lost one of his offensive linemen to a scary injury.
Given all of those factors, going 25 of 41 for 247 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions doesn’t sound all that bad.
Young, though, wasn’t going down that road.
“This is 100 percent on me,” he said after a 42-24 loss to the Lions. “There were two times in the game where I took a drive away from us and gave Detroit great position to start a drive of their own. I put our defense in a terrible position, and I’d love to have those plays back, but that’s not how this works.”
Trailing 7-0 in the first quarter, the Panthers were facing second-and-7 at their own 31 when Young tried to set up a slip screen for tight end Ian Thomas.
“That’s a play where you want to push the (defensive) end out wide and then dip inside with the pass,” Panthers coach Frank Reich said.
Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, though, hadn’t been pushed as far outside as Young expected. He intercepted the pass 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage and returned it to the Panthers 20. Five plays later, Jared Goff’s pass to Sam LaPorta gave Detroit a 14-0 lead.
The next play from scrimmage — a routine-looking 1-yard gain by running back Chuba Hubbard — ended with left guard Chandler Zavala motionless, face down on the turf.
The game was delayed for 10 minutes before Zavala was strapped to a backboard and carted off the field, headed for a hospital. Reich said after the game that Zavala was believed to have suffered a stinger.
“That was really scary,” Young said. “He’s obviously a great player, but he’s also such a great dude. It has been really cool to come in as part of the same (rookie) class, so that’s the last thing you ever want to see.”
Young, though, got some important encouragement from Zavala.
“Even in that moment, he was telling me to keep playing well and telling everyone to keep pounding,” Young said. “That shows you what kind of man he is.”
Knowing his teammate was able to move his arms and legs — Zavala gave a thumbs-up as he was carted toward the tunnel — Young led the Panthers on a 14-play, 75-yard drive that finished with a 1-yard TD pass to tight end Tommy Tremble.
When the Panthers’ defense stopped the Lions on fourth down on their next possession, it looked like Carolina had grabbed the momentum.
However, Miles Sanders lost a fumble on the next snap and the Lions turned it into a touchdown. After the kickoff, Young’s deep pass was intercepted by Jerry Jacobs, and Detroit responded with a reverse flea-flicker for LaPorta’s second touchdown of the game.
In 29 seconds, the game had gone from 14-7 to 28-7 and the Panthers were headed directly for 0-5.
“Obviously, that’s another one I wish I had back, but I have to keep moving forward,” Young said. “I put us in a tough situation.”
Young improved in the second half, going 13 of 19 for 127 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
“At the end of the day, all we care about is winning or losing,” Young said. “We came up short, but we do have to acknowledge the positives so we can build off them. It’s hard right now, fresh off the loss, but we have to get back tomorrow and get this fixed.”
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