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Kyle Allen’s homecoming with Panthers leaves Cards with bitter taste

Carolina Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen (7) throws against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A few of the Arizona Cardinals’ defensive leaders had to catch themselves.

They couldn’t knock Carolina Panthers backup quarterback Kyle Allen in postgame interviews, because Allen hardly got knocked by them the four hours prior.

“To have a team come in with a backup quarterback — who played well, no disrespect to him, think he’s a talented guy — just was unacceptable on our home field,” defensive tackle Corey Peters said.

Arizona fell 38-20 on Sunday at State Farm Stadium as Allen finished the day with arguably only a couple of missed opportunities. He was accurate and threw covered receivers open, finishing 19-of-26 passing for 261 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.

“He should have had five touchdowns,” Panthers tight end Greg Olsen said, taking the blame for a leaping tipped ball in the end zone on Carolina’s first possession that instead ended with a turnover.

“On the first drive, we started good and then it ended bad, but you would have thought we scored a touchdown. He’s got a great disposition and he had a great day.”

The significance of Allen’s performance was two-fold.

Allen starred at Scottsdale’s Desert Mountain High School and developed into the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the country before playing two seasons at Texas A&M with Cardinals receiver Christian Kirk, a friend and fellow Arizonan.

After bouncing between Texas A&M’s starter and backup with current Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray and then struggling to hold the starting job after transferring to Houston, Allen declared for the NFL Draft with a year of college eligibility left.

He went undrafted and was cut by the Panthers at the beginning of last regular season.

For Kirk, watching Allen play well in front of friends and family just a year later led to mixed emotions.

“Bittersweet,” Kirk said of Allen’s performance against the Cardinals. “Obviously, I’m so proud of him and what he’s able to do in leading that team. It’s tough being on the losing end.”

The two had known each other since fifth grade and developed into high-profile recruits.

Kirk called them “best friends,” and Allen even attended some Cardinals games last season while searching for his next opportunity.

He eventually rejoined the Panthers and started in the 2018 season finale. That was his only extended game experience heading into Sunday.

Against Arizona, Allen didn’t look like an undrafted, inexperienced, second-year pro, though he didn’t face much adversity in the pocket.

Save for two strip-sacks and one fumble recovery by Arizona linebacker Chandler Jones, the Cardinals defense struggled to pressure Allen, tallying just three quarterback hits all day.

“That’s just unacceptable. We have a lot of respect for their offense, but we got to execute better. It’s all about us,” Arizona linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “We take a lot of pride getting after quarterbacks, we take a lot of pride getting off the field.”

Added Kingsbury: “Some big strip-sack, tuck situations, but he stood in there and made some great throws. They protected him fairly well for the most part. In his second start, you have to tip your hat to how well he played.”

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