Frank Reich is no longer winless in Carolina.
The Panthers (1-6) at long last broke their winless beginning to the 2023 season on Sunday afternoon in Bank of America Stadium, defeating the Houston Texans, 15-13, thanks to an Eddy Piñeiro 23-yard field goal as time expired.
Reich discussed quarterback Bryce Young’s solid day, a stingy defensive performance and that final marathon game-winning drive — one that was punctuated by a penalty-riddled final sequence.
Here’s a recap of what Reich said.
Frank Reich’s opening statement
“Great win. Obviously a long time coming. We fought hard. I feel like our level of preparation has continued to rise throughout the year. The standards keep going higher and higher, just a matter of time before we see the results. So really proud of how we played as a team, as one, just sticking together. Good complementary football.
“It wasn’t always pretty at times, but we hung in there. There were times, back and forth, when the defense bailed us out. And then the offense came through with the long drive at the end (15 plays, 86 yards, 6:17 time of possession). We were aggressive. I thought Thomas Brown did a great job calling his first game. I thought Bryce really was smart with the football. No turnovers, three penalties to their 10, zero turnovers to their one. Those are big stats in a close game like this.”
On the fourth-and-2 completion on final drive Bryce Young, Adam Thielen
“Just a great play by those two. I have to look at it on film, but it didn’t come out as clean as we anticipated. But it didn’t matter, we made the play. That’s two guys making a play, getting the completion on a clutch play. Just go to your two guys.”
On offensive coordinator Thomas Brown’s play-calling
“I thought it was great. I mean, Thomas called a great game. It was his game. It was his game, and I resisted any temptation to kind of get involved. We talked on the sideline a couple times about a few things, but I thought he did a fantastic job, and I thought he did a fantastic job getting guys ready during the week as well.”
Any relief being ‘CEO’ of team as opposed to calling plays?
“I definitely felt that, as far as the game management side, being able to talk to the guys upstairs a little bit more. There wasn’t a whole lot of crazy stuff that came up in the game. But what did come up, I thought we handled it well, thought the communication was good. Was able to keep in tune with what the defense and with what special teams was doing a little bit more, so I definitely felt the difference.”
On that end-of-game field goal sequence
“It’s a strategy that some teams seem to take. I don’t want to impute motives, but, (some teams) try to intentionally jump it a few times to see if they can rattle the kicker, and when they’re already in (range), they’re willing to just keep doing it and doing it and doing it sometimes. I’m not saying that’s what they were doing, but I’ve seen some teams do that. I’ve seen some teams do that. ... So as soon as it started to play out like that, I said, ‘Just keep your cool.’ Eddy did a good job of keeping his cool, and he was just clutch like we knew he would be.”
Bryce Young’s improvisational skill on display
“I just think he was in a good rhythm. I thought in the first half, we did a good job on some of our play actions, getting the ball down the field, and you could just tell he was comfortable, making plays. It was good to see Jonathan Mingo get going a little bit on a few passes.”
On Young going back to receivers after drops
“Yeah it’s a big deal, you could see it in his body language. You could see no negative (reaction) when a guy dropped it. You could see him. He’s talking to him on the sideline, ‘Oh we’re coming back to you,’ that kind of thing. Just great leadership by him, and great confidence and trust by him.”
Runs by Chuba Hubbard on final drive
“They were huge. We struggled running the ball the whole day a little bit. I mean, we had a few runs here and there. But man — did we need those runs. He ran it hard. He protected the ball. He got what we needed. Thomas did a good job of calling it and sticking with it. That was really clutch. Chuba came up big.”
Any relief in earning that first win?
“Yes. We didn’t expect it to be this date, but it is what it is. We’re not looking back. No regrets. It just is part of the season, and we look forward to the next week. For me personally, I’m going to stay day to day, and try to continue to get better.”
On linebacker Frankie Luvu’s big day
“He was incredible. He was a beast. I didn’t know it was that many tackles (12), but a couple passes defended, plays that are probably going to be first downs. That one third down right there, he makes a great tip. Just an all around great game by Frankie.”
Any signature play by Bryce today?
“I gotta go back and look at it. Crazy as it sounds, that one scramble, when it was third-and-2, and he somehow got that ball out there to get the first down, I don’t remember how that drive ended up, but I think we got points out of that drive. But he’s just got all the instincts. He’s got all the instincts, all the playmaking ability, all the throws, great composure, seeing the field great. So good things again.”
DJ Johnson carted off the field at the end. Why?
“He was cramping up. He played hard. You know DJ, he plays hard, he left it all out on the field but was just cramping up at the end.”
Who were the game balls awarded to?
“Sometimes right after the game, you give out a game ball immediately, and then we’ll give out some tomorrow. Obviously gave one out to Eddy Piñeiro. He hit a walk-off field goal. You’re always going to get a game ball there. Thomas Brown, him calling his first game in the NFL, being clutch in that fourth quarter, in that last drive, great poise, great control, really good job of sequencing that drive.
“And then, the guys — I know this meant a lot to Bryce — Frankie and the guys wanted to give Bryce a game ball. His first win. So that was a pretty big deal.”
Note: A previous version of this article misstated the Carolina Panthers’ record. They are 1-6 after Sunday’s win, as the story now reflects.