Panthers Texans Football

Carolina Panthers tight end Tommy Tremble dashes into the end zone for a touchdown Thursday in a 24-9 win over the Houston Texans. Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

HOUSTON — Sam Darnold threw for 304 yards and ran for two touchdowns, and the Carolina Panthers eased past the Houston Texans 24-9 on Thursday night despite losing Christian McCaffrey to a hamstring injury early in the second quarter.

The Panthers are 3-0 for the first time since 2015, when they opened the season 14-0 and reached the Super Bowl.

Carolina’s top-ranked defense put the squeeze on Houston rookie Davis Mills in his first career start, sacking him four times and holding him to 168 yards passing. Mills was pressed into action after Tyrod Taylor suffered a hamstring injury last Sunday and was placed on injured reserve.

Darnold was efficient as he continues to revitalize his career with the Panthers after being cast aside by the New York Jets. But he could face some serious adversity if McCaffrey is forced to miss significant time.

McCaffrey came in leading the league in scrimmage yards, the same thing he did in the 2019 season. But he missed all but three games last year because of various injuries as the Panthers sputtered to 5-11 in Coach Matt Rhule’s first year.

Darnold rushed for Carolina’s first score in the first quarter and put the game away when he bulled in from the 1 to make it 24-9 with about four minutes left, losing his helmet in the process.

Mills threw for a touchdown and avoided big mistakes after he threw an interception in the second half of Sunday’s loss at Cleveland. But the Texans (1-2) couldn’t run the ball, finishing with 42 yards on the ground, and that forced Mills into tough down-and-distance situations as Houston punted six times.

NOTES

BROWNS: Odell Beckham Jr.’s comeback is down to days, but the star wide receiver didn’t commit to playing Sunday against the Chicago Bears.

“We’ll see,” Beckham said, shrugging his shoulders when pressed about his status for Cleveland’s third game.

Beckham hasn’t played since suffering a season-ending knee injury last October in Cincinnati, prematurely ending his third season with the Browns.

Beckham said after his operation, the original plan was for him to target 11 months for his return to the field. He’s at 10 1/2 months, but still not rushing things.

“Whenever it is, I know I’ll be excited,” he said. “I’ve worked extremely hard to not only get back but improve and to try and be better than I ever have been, so I’m definitely looking forward to it.

“It’s been a long time. It’s been a long time in putting yourself back together and I’ve had my entire team around me though the whole process, great support so and it’s going to be special. It’s been a long time.”

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