GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) – Kyle Allen threw for 261 yards and four touchdowns in place of the injured Cam Newton, Christian McCaffrey ran for a 76-yard touchdown, and the Carolina Panthers beat the Arizona Cardinals 38-20 on Sunday.
The 23-year-old Allen was outstanding in his second career start, making several big throws – even when there was tight coverage. He was 19 of 26, including two touchdowns to Greg Olsen and one each to Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore.
McCaffrey had 24 carries for 153 yards, including the 76-yard score, which came in the third quarter when he darted straight through the middle of Arizona’s defense.
Newton was ruled out by the Panthers earlier this week because of a mid-foot sprain. The Panthers were confident Allen would be an adequate replacement and Sunday’s performance was validation.
Allen outplayed Arizona’s Kyler Murray, who was his former college teammate at Texas A&M. Murray also had some good moments, especially early, including a few long runs and a couple of short touchdown passes to Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson.
But Murray’s costly interception late in the third quarter helped the Panthers (1-2) pull away for their first win. He finished 30 of 43 passing for 173 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for 69 yards.
Murray was sacked eight times by Carolina’s defense, which improved as the game progressed.
The Allen vs. Murray quarterback matchup was intriguing since they were college teammates 2015. The highly rated recruits split time under center before both eventually transferred. Murray went on to win the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma.
Allen – who was playing near his hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona – looked comfortable from the moment he stepped on the field. His only other start last season was also a win, but that one came with a bit of an asterisk. The Panthers won in Week 17 against a New Orleans team that was already looking toward the playoffs.
This time, both teams were desperate for a win and Allen delivered.
He was 13 of 18 passing for 173 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, including a 52-yard score to Moore, which pushed the Panthers ahead 14-10 just before halftime.
The Cardinals (0-2-1) went ahead 17-14 in the third quarter on Murray’s 3-yard pass to Johnson, but the Panthers responded with Allen’s 3-yard touchdown to Olsen.
Carolina pulled away in the second half when McCaffrey ran straight up the middle for his long touchdown and a 28-20 lead.
On the ensuing drive, Murray was picked off by Donte Jackson and the Panthers took advantage of the short field when Allen hit Olsen for another touchdown and a 35-20 lead.
JONES BIG AGAIN
For the second time in three games, Arizona’s Chandler Jones forced a fumble and then recovered it.
Carolina was easily driving downfield in the first quarter before Jones sacked Allen, stripped the ball and recovered it on the Arizona 26.
Jones’ 43 sacks since joining the Cardinals in 2016 are the most for any NFL player over that span.
TIGHT END TROUBLE
An opposing tight end had another big game against Arizona’s defense. Olsen finished with six catches for 75 yards and the two scores.
Detroit’s T.J. Hockenson had six catches for 131 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. Baltimore’s Mark Andrews had eight catches for 112 yards and a touchdown last weekend.
Panthers: Carolina travels to Houston to face the Texans.
Cardinals: Arizona hosts the Seahawks on Sunday for its third home game in four weeks.