Not since David Carr of the Houston Texans in 2002 has a quarterback selected No. 1 started and won the opener. Carolina’s 24-10 loss to the Atlanta Falcons with the top pick of the 2023 draft dropped the cumulative record to 0-14-1.
Young has only himself to blame, throwing a pair of interceptions — both by Falcons safety Jessie Bates III — that led to 10 Atlanta points.
“That’s unacceptable,” Young said. “That’s on me. I just have to clean that up.”
Young’s line was a lot like those before him. He completed 20 of 38 pass attempts for 146 yards with one touchdown against two interceptions. He had a 48.8 passer rating.
“Not good enough,” Young said of his overall game. “Not good enough to win, obviously. I made crucial turnovers, which you can’t do, especially where they happened. That falls on me. That falls on my shoulders.”
But that was on an established Alabama team. On Sunday, he was playing for a Carolina team coming off five straight losing seasons and with a new coaching staff.
That said, first-year Carolina coach Frank Reich believes Young will bounce back.
“Listen, Bryce is the last person I’m worried about, how he handles this,” Reich said. “He’s got the maturity of someone way beyond his years. He’s a team person. He’ll be hard on himself, and each of us should be.
“That was the message we talked about. Players and coaches should be hard on themselves. In the next 24 hours it should not taste good, and we need to eat every bit of it. Otherwise, you don’t learn and get better from it.”
Young got off to a fast start against the Falcons, completing his first three attempts for 28 yards. He then went 1-for-4 with an interception and almost another, both on pass attempts to tight end Hayden Hurst.
The two finally got their chemistry down on Carolina’s fourth series as Young went 6-for-6 for 58 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown to Hurst with 5:09 left in the first half that tied the game at 7-7.
That made the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner the third quarterback in Carolina history to throw a touchdown pass in his debut. Cam Newton did it in 2011, and Chris Weinke did it in 2001.
Young did most of his damage in the first half on short passes. He was 8-for-9 on passes of 10 or fewer yards, averaging 7 yards per attempt. He was 2-for-7 with an interception on attempts of more than 10 yards for an average of 3.3 yards.
Young opened the second half strong, gaining 16 yards on his first NFL scramble and leading Carolina to a 42-yard field goal and 10-7 lead.
He then threw his second interception on a similar play as the first, a pass over the middle in which Bates was clearly visible, just as he was for the first pick.
The rookie took full responsibility for Sunday’s performance.
“Knowing the coverage and making assumptions off the coverage, not double-checking or making sure I see where people are,” he explained. “Jessie did a great job on both. For me, he’s a veteran guy, plays great in space. You can’t just make assumptions. It’s just doing a better job of seeing and making sure I’m checking and not just going off what it should be on an X and O.
“That’s on me. It’s something I can learn from, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that it was a big reason why we’re not happy after this game.”
Young’s teammates weren’t concerned about how the rookie will respond, particularly outside linebacker Brian Burns, who had contemplated not playing in the opener when he didn’t get a long-term extension.
“He’s going to be hard on himself,” said Burns, who had 1.5 sacks, a tackle for a loss and a forced fumble. “That’s what great players do. I watched Bryce throughout camp. I watched how he handled himself with the media, with everything. He’s a very poised and intelligent kid.
“He’s not going to play like that again. They beat us up. We all know it. Trust me, he’s going to bounce back. I know it.”