Last year about this time, Bryce Young was playing against Ole Miss and LSU. He didn’t repeat his Heisman Trophy performance from the year before for Alabama, but he did enough to be the first overall pick of the NFL draft.
Over at Division II Shepherd College, Tyson Bagent was playing East Stroudsburg and Indiana … the Indiana in Pennsylvania. He wasn’t drafted at all. It was impressive that he made the Chicago Bears as a backup.
If you asked someone watching the NFL for the first time Thursday night which quarterback was the first overall pick of the draft, the answer would probably be “neither.” But they wouldn’t have picked out Young. That’s a problem.
Young has a long way to go in his NFL career, but being outplayed by Bagent on Thursday night isn’t a great sign. The Bears won 16-13. They held on when the Panthers missed a long field goal in the final two minutes. The offense couldn’t get kicker Eddy Piñeiro closer than a 59-yard attempt, and it hit off the upright. The Panthers didn’t score an offensive touchdown. It was an ugly performance, with the Panthers barely reaching 200 yards. The Panthers fell to 1-8 this season.
Young has a lot of talent and nobody’s career is set after nine games. But Carolina would surely like to see more positive signs from their young quarterback. There weren’t many on Thursday night.
Bryce Young struggles in a loss
It was expected to be an ugly game between two teams with a combined 3-14 record, and it didn’t exceed expectations in the first half.
There were no offensive touchdowns. There was a nice 79-yard punt return touchdown for the Panthers by Ihmir Smith-Marsette to get the scoring going, but that was about it. The Panthers hit a field goal and the Bears hit three, including one at the end of the half. Chicago trailed 10-9 at halftime.
Neither offense was good but the Bears were better. Bagent had 127 yards in the first half, though it took 14 attempts for him to get it. Bryce Young was 7 of 14 for 63 yards against a suspect Bears defense. Everything he threw was short. He had one pass beyond 10 yards in the first half. It was a very nice throw for 45 yards to Mike Strachan, but curiously the Panthers and Young never really tried to throw deep or even to the intermediate level again until the final drive.
It’s fair to point out that the Panthers aren’t good around Young. But the Bears aren’t good around Bagent. If we’re being honest, the Houston Texans aren’t great around C.J. Stroud, who went one pick after Young. A bad environment is a good excuse for a slow start to Young’s career, but it doesn’t erase all the concern.
The Panthers are a lost cause. And they can’t even look forward to their 2024 first-round pick helping out, since they gave that to the Bears to move up and draft Young.
Panthers can’t rally for a win
The Bears couldn’t help but eventually score on Thursday night. Their opponent could not move the ball at all. They were bound to fall into a touchdown.
With 6:33 left in the third quarter, the first offensive touchdown of the game was scored as D’Onta Foreman got in the end zone on a short run. That drive was set up by a quick three-and-out from the Panthers and a punt from deep in their own territory. It was the third three-and-out for Carolina in a four-possession stretch.
At the point in which Foreman scored, Smith-Marsette’s 79-yard punt return touchdown had almost eclipsed the Panthers’ entire offense. Carolina had 91 yards on 30 offensive plays and it was deep into the third quarter.
The Panthers turned great position into a field goal, and that cut the Bears’ lead to 16-13. The Panthers had one last shot to drive and at least tie the game. They did get into Bears territory. Young almost threw an interception on third-and-10 but it was dropped by linebacker Jack Sanborn. The Panthers chose to try a 59-yard field goal on fourth-and-10. Carolina couldn’t have had much faith in its offense at that point, so it tried the long field goal and it went off the upright.
The Bears needed one more first down to seal the win, and Bagent completed the pass he needed to move the chains.
The Bears’ offense wasn’t very good, and soon Bagent will take a seat for Justin Fields‘ return from an injured thumb. The Panthers’ offense is hard to watch, and there’s no question who their quarterback will be for the next few years. Young’s development continues to be a massive question for the Panthers going forward. Thursday night didn’t provide a lot of optimism.
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