GLENDALE, Ariz. – Kyle Allen said it’s only football.


The second-year, undrafted quarterback was trying not to make a big deal about taking over for injured starter Cam Newton for a Carolina Panthers team reeling from an 0-2 start.

But it appeared to be more than just football Sunday after Allen glided to his left and found tight end Greg Olsen open in the corner of the end zone for his fourth touchdown pass in a 38-20 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Allen began high-stepping across the field like a prize Tennessee Walker, pumping his legs and arms as though he’d just won the Super Bowl

“I was feeling the emotions on that one,” admitted Allen, who grew up not far from State Farm Stadium. “I’ll give you that one.”

Olsen said Allen should have been excited.

“When you throw your fourth touchdown of a game in the … it’s hard to do,” he said. “He has every right to feel good about himself.”

Olsen has every right to feel good about himself, too. After consecutive seasons spent battling a foot injury that forced him to miss 16 games and become almost obsolete in the offense, the three-time Pro Bowl selection is showing he still belongs in a discussion of the league’s elite tight ends.

In the past two games, Olsen’s 185 receiving yards ranks third among tight ends behind the Raiders’ Darren Waller (197) and the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce (196). His 16 receptions is tied for third behind Walker (19) and Kelce (14). His two touchdown catches is tied for second behind the Seahawks’ Will Dissly (3).

“I should have three,” Olsen said. “I should have caught the first one.”

Olsen was referring to a first-and-10 pass from the Arizona 20 on Carolina’s opening possession. Allen had linebacker Chandler Jones in his face when he unleashed a pass toward the end zone where Olsen had safeties on his back side.

“He put it out there,” Olsen said of the pass. “It was easy.”

Easy might be overstated. Olsen had to awkwardly tt his body in the air just to get his right hand on the ball.

“My right hand. Soft ball. I should have caught it,” Olsen said. “I should have had three [touchdowns], and Kyle should have had five.”

Coach wasn’t complaining, even though Allen lost the ball on a strip sack a few plays later. He’s just glad to have a healthy Olsen, who from 2014 to ’16 became the first tight end in history to have three straight seasons of 1,000 yards receiving.

“It meant a lot because early on he was a big factor, and it really gave Kyle somebody to find,” Rivera said of Olsen.

There were times when it appeared Allen almost forced passes to Olsen, the player Newton often referred to as his “security blanket.” But each time he did — with that one exception — the 34-year-old made the catch.

Olsen has done that consistently the first three games, showing that rumors of his demise were premature. He wasn’t typically listed among the candidates to replace as the league’s best tight end.

“The last two years obviously were s—ty, but there was nothing I could do about that,” Olsen said. “Being able to run today, change directions, separate in one-on-ones, find holes in zones, that’s what I’ve been able to do my whole career.

“It’s nice to do again.”


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