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Week 4 Game Recap: Carolina Panthers 16, Houston Texans 10


What you need to know

Carolina Panthers

The Kyle Allen Show rolls on for the Panthers - and to good effect, at that. Allen's composure was evident in this game as he kept the Carolina offense on schedule. Taking the easy check downs when required, Allen was not afraid to test the Texans downfield, albeit many of those passes were incomplete. He lost three fumbles, however, a statistic that will concern the coaching staff. Christian McCaffrey's touch count remains sky-high, but he is manufacturing space with every tote and bamboozling linebackers in coverage. Among the receivers, Curtis Samuel made a handful of impressive catches and appears to have the best rapport with Allen, while D.J. Moore and Jarius Wright moved the sticks with catches in traffic. Greg Olsen was, after a dominant display against Arizona, the odd man out this time around. Allen distributes the ball evenly across his array of targets, however.

Houston Texans

Kenny Stills appears to be out for the upcoming week with a right hamstring injury. Stills injured his right hamstring on a catch and run in the first quarter.

With Stills dealing with a hamstring injury, which means Keke Coutee will move back into his role of the slot.

Darren Fells remains the Texans top tight end getting the most snaps. He and Akins are the top two options at the position at the moment.

Carolina Panthers

QB Kyle Allen, 68 offensive snaps, Pass: 24 - 34 - 232 - 0 TD / 0 INT
Kyle Allen remained the picture of poise and precision as he kept the Carolina offense in rhythm throughout. Houston's defensive front caused some problems at times, but Allen generally got the ball out on time and had a good feel for where he wanted to go. However, at times he held the ball a second too long and, while trying to escape the pocket, had the ball knocked loose. Houston recovered that fumble, and two more along with it, as Allen's carelessness cost him. Allen remained focused when forced to scramble, delivering catchable passes on the move to Christian McCaffrey and others. He was also not afraid to test the Houston defense downfield, with one deep shot to Curtis Samuel drawing a 40+-yard pass interference foul. The other targets in Samuel's direction, most of them deep, fell incomplete, but they were not far off the mark. The young gunslinger's best play came on a Houdini act in the final minutes of the game. With interior pressure given up instantly on the play and J.J. Watt rushing at his face, Allen nonchalantly ducked under the sack, kept his focus downfield and fired a pass to Jarius Wright for a game-clinching first down. It was a moment of inspiration that Allen could not have risen to had he not been so cool in the moment.

RB Christian McCaffrey, 68 offensive snaps, Rush: 27 - 93 - 1, Rec: 10 - 86 - 0 (10 targets)
Christian McCaffrey was once again the workhorse for the Carolina offense. With Kyle Allen starting his second game of the season, the game plan was evident: feed McCaffrey and settle the young passer down. McCaffrey, ever the cool customer, did just that and routinely juked and wriggled his way through the Houston defense. He showed excellent patience throughout, often waiting for his moment to strike at the line. When he hit it up the field, he finished runs strongly and usually gained yards after the first contact. As a receiver, he was the usual safe pair of hands for his quarterback and converted a few third-down plays to keep things ticking over for the offense. His highlight play came on a third down catch that, on its face, seemed routine. However, Allen's pass was a little in front of McCaffrey, who spectacularly batted the ball up to himself while falling to the ground, cradling it in as he hit the turf and finally sliding for the first down.

WR Jarius Wright, 47 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 59 - 0 (6 targets)
Jarius Wright proved to be a valuable safety blanket for Kyle Allen, with the key play of the game coming his way. With Allen under pressure from J.J. Watt up the middle, the quarterback pulled off a Houdini act by ducking under the would-be sack before looking downfield and finding a kneeling Wright, who gratefully accepted the pass. Apart from that standout moment, Wright provided Allen with an outlet on quick passes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, showing safe hands. Wright had a magnificent catch on a seam pattern in the two-minute drill at the end of the first half. Stacking the defensive back in coverage, Wright tracked the ball perfectly as Allen lofted it up and over the defensive back's outstretched hands.

WR Curtis Samuel, 61 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 1 - 0, Rec: 3 - 32 - 0 (7 targets)
Curtis Samuel popped off the screen multiple times in this game as he continued his strong progression. He and Kyle Allen have a strong connection and it was on display from early on in this game. Allen fired a deep ball in Samuel's direction down the left sideline, with a defensive pass interference flag gaining the offense 40 yards or so as Samuel was bumped. Allen went back to Samuel on another deep target not long after, but it was laid out just a few inches out of his reach. Samuel excelled on timing patterns where the defensive back's cushion allowed him room to work. He made a spectacular toe-tapping catch on the sideline, hauling in the pass as he was already bent over and falling to the turf. Allen continued to pepper him with deep targets, but the two were unable to connect.

WR D.J. Moore, 60 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 44 - 0 (5 targets)
D.J. Moore was largely kept quiet in this game, although the Carolina passing attack didn't have to get too expansive with the lead intact. Moore did not put a foot wrong all game, hauling in all his catchable passes. He and Kyle Allen failed to connect on a corner route deep down the right sideline late in the game, with the pass floating too high. Moore connected well with Allen off play action, where the quick-twitch receiver was able to gain inside leverage on his coverage player for an easy pitch and catch.

TE Greg Olsen, 66 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 5 - 0 (4 targets)
The Texans had their eyes peeled on Greg Olsen throughout, with Kyle Allen's first target to the tight end broken up impressively by a roving defender. Olsen converted two key third-down plays, one of which came on a tight end throwback pass; the other saw the tight end leaking across the formation off a boot action by Allen. Otherwise, Olsen's role was limited to blocking as the game script allowed Carolina to run the ball often.


Houston Texans

QB Deshaun Watson, 69 offensive snaps, Pass: 21 - 33 - 160 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 12 - 1
It was a slow and disappointing day for Deshaun Watson who looked unwilling to take what the Panthers defense was willing to give him. He only had two completions over 10-yards and the 14-yard completion to DeAndre Hopkins came on the final drive of the game. Watson was just not patient, and he missed tremendous opportunities to hit Will Fuller and Hopkins for near touchdown plays. He overthrew both receivers who had their defenders beat downfield. It was the first game that Watson did not have a completion over 20-plus yards. Watson did check the ball down when needed, but it was an uninspiring performance from one of the more dynamic quarterbacks in the NFL.

RB Carlos Hyde, 33 offensive snaps, Rush: 12 - 58 - 0, Rec: 4 - 6 - 0 (5 targets)
Carlos Hyde's best run of the day came on what was not a designed run. It was a lateral on a missed pass protection call. Watson was able to find Hyde last minute and hit him for a 25-yard run. Outside of that run, Hyde has been wildly inconsistent running the football compared to the first two weeks of the season. Hyde is giving up on his blocking too quick and not getting downhill as he did in the first two games of the season. Hyde only had 35 yards outside of that 25-yard broken play averaging 3.2 yards per carry.

RB Duke Johnson, 45 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 56 - 0, Rec: 2 - 22 - 0 (3 targets)
The Texans are trying to find ways to get Duke Johnson the football and right now he is their best back on the field. He had a season-long rush of 40-yards where he beat one defender and was off to the races to get the offense into the red zone. Johnson also had two receptions with his longest being 12-yards. The one thing that Johnson has going for him is his ability to make defenders miss when he has the football in his hands.

WR DeAndre Hopkins, 67 offensive snaps, Pass: 0 - 1 - 0 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rec: 5 - 41 - 0 (8 targets)
There are not enough chances headed DeAndre Hopkins way in the passing game, and it is due to Deshaun Watson not giving him opportunities. Only targeted eight times, Hopkins is doing most of his work underneath due to the coverage the Panthers were playing. Hopkins was missed on a potential big gain, but Watson missed him by overthrowing him. Hopkins was asked to throw a pass in the red zone that resulted in an interception intended for Carlos Hyde a similar play they ran the season before against the Buffalo Bills. Hopkins time will come, but his success is predicated on Watson seeing the field properly.

WR Will Fuller, 68 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 23 - 0 (6 targets)
Will Fuller was targeted on 20-plus routes twice and both were incomplete. Watson missed a wide-open Fuller after he beat two Panthers defenders on an excellent post route. If the pass were better from Watson, Fuller would have coasted into the end zone. Again, the Panthers were playing zone most of the game and kept Fuller under wraps working underneath routes.

TE Jordan Akins, 33 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 21 - 0 (4 targets)
Jordan Akins is slowly turning into Watson's favorite tight end in the offense, especially in the check down game. With so much attention being put on others, Akins is finding opportunities sneaking into the creases of the defense. Akins had a 10-yard first down reception late in the game to jump-start the offense looking for any type of life.