In a rare meeting between the top two picks in the draft during their rookie seasons, Bryce Young outperformed C.J. Stroud on Sunday to help the Carolina Panthers win their first game of the season, 15–13 over the Houston Texans.
Young completed five of his final six completion attempts to put the Panthers (1-6) in position for Eddy Pineiro’s game-winning 23-yard field goal at Bank of America Stadium. With no interceptions, the number one choice in the draft completed 22 of 31 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown.
In addition, he ran for 11 yards on four separate occasions, including a 7-yard scramble on the game-winning drive that consumed the last 6:17.
The Texans selected Stroud with the number two pick; he completed 16 of 24 throw attempts for 140 yards and no touchdowns.
After the match, Young was asked how it went against Stroud, to which he replied, “Sorry, what did you say?”
Again at the reporter’s question, Young responded, “Big showdown?”
When it became apparent that the inquiry concerned him and Stroud, Young chuckled and remarked, “Oh that.”
“We’re two teams,” Young continued. “C.J. is my dawg. I have a ton of love and respect for him. It’s not a one-on-one game out there. I’m super, super happy for this team, to be a part of this team.
“A really resilient win. … It took everyone. I’m just grateful to be a part of it.”
Since the common draft period began in 1967, this was only the fifth occasion in which the top two picks in the same draft met as rookies. Trevor Lawrence of Jacksonville and Zach Wilson of the New York Jets faced one other in the previous such encounter in 2021.
In the four prior encounters, the second pick prevailed three times. The exception was 1998, when Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts defeated Ryan Leaf and the Chargers.
With the Texans behind 3-3 going into the game and their quarterback performing like a Rookie of the Year, Stroud seemed to be winning this one.
With one start lost to an ankle injury, Young had a 0–5 record and the lowest Total QBR rating (32.1) among qualified quarterbacks in the NFL. He also had one of the lowest passer ratings (76.2). Because of his extreme struggles, some critics claimed that the Panthers erred in choosing Young over Stroud.
Young received the game ball and had a career-high passer rating of 103.6 on this particular day, far higher than Stroud’s 81.9.
Young dismissed the question of whether the victory relieved him of the outside noise, just as he did with the career-high six sacks that forced him to play from behind all day on Sunday.
However, Young did display some emotion, especially when Frank Reich handed him the game ball following Reich’s first Panthers victory as head coach.
Earlier in the week, Stroud made it apparent that Young was performing better than most people thought.
Stroud later expressed his happiness for Young.
For Reich, the victory and a few of Young’s performances at least gave a hint as to why he had been convinced Young should be the first pick from the beginning of the draft process.
“He’s just got all the instincts, all the playmaking ability, all the throws, great composure, seeing the field great,” Reich said after his first game since giving offensive coordinator Thomas Brown the playcalling duties. “So good things ahead.”