Davis Mills looked exactly what he is on the Texans’ first four drives. The rookie quarterback, who is making his first start, had only 19 yards passing with 1:37 remaining in the half.
The Texans had only 17 plays, three first downs and four punts.
So no one saw this coming. . . .
Mills directed a seven-play, 64-yard touchdown drive. He completed every pass on the drive, aside from a spike to stop the clock, for 60 yards and a touchdown. Mills found Anthony Miller for a 1-yard touchdown.
Joey Slye, who spent the past two seasons with the Panthers, missed the extra point.
So despite the Panthers, who were heavy favorites, outplaying the Texans for most of the first half, they lead only 7-6.
The Panthers lost running back Christian McCaffrey early in the second quarter. He will not return because of a hamstring injury, the team announced.
He finished his night with seven carries for 31 yards and two catches for 9 yards.
The Panthers miss him. He helped protect Darnold early, and Darnold since was sacked three times with two of those resulting in strip sacks that the Panthers ended up recovering. Carolina also failed on a fourth-and-1 from the Houston 5 shortly after McCaffrey left, with Chuba Hubbard stopped short of the line to gain.
Carolina has 14 yards since McCaffrey’s injury.
Darnold is 13-of-20 for 158 yards. He scored the Panthers’ only touchdown on a 5-yard run with 6:36 remaining in the first quarter. Mills is 9-of-11 for 79 yards and a touchdown.
DJ Moore has six catches for 100 yards. Brandin Cooks leads the Texans with four receptions for 60 yards.