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Panthers bench Baker Mayfield; Sam Darnold to start at quarterback vs Broncos



CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP/WNCN) — It’s Sam Darnold’s turn at quarterback for the struggling Carolina Panthers.

The team announced Tuesday that Darnold will make his season debut on Sunday against the Denver Broncos after interim head coach Steve Wilks decided to bench Baker Mayfield following another rocky performance in a 13-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on the road this past weekend — that did see the game tied at 3 all entering the final quarter.

Darnold has spent the majority of the season on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain he suffered during the preseason. He was seen being tackled by Buffalo Bills’ defensive tackle C.J. Brewer and getting his left ankle and foot rolled up on awkwardly during Carolina’s final preseason game on Aug. 26.

Darnold becomes the fourth different quarterback to play for the Panthers (3-8) this season — and the third different starter, joining Mayfield and the now-injured P.J. Walker.

Darnold went 4-7 as Carolina’s starter last season, falling apart after getting the Panthers off to a 3-0 start under former head coach Matt Rhule. He finished the year completing 59.9 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions for a 71.9 passer rating.

Mayfield has struggled since being acquired in a trade in July from the Cleveland Browns, going 1-5 as Carolina’s starter.

Rhule said prior to the season that Mayfield had out-played Darnold in preseason, but his now in-season woes have reversed the two’s roles.

Mayfield, the 2018 No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick, has completed 57.8 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and six interceptions for a 74.4 QB rating. He struggled to get anything going on offense this past week against Baltimore, throwing two interceptions in the fourth quarter as the Panthers fell to 0-5 on the road.

He entered the season winning the starting job over Darnold just one season after Darnold was acquired in a trade from the New York Jets.

Mayfield will backup Darnold this week, according to the Panthers.

Mayfield returned to the starting lineup last week after Walker injured his ankle in Week 10.

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