Walker wins first NFL start as Panthers blank Lions 20-0

Full Screen
1 / 9

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel, left, celebrates after scoring with Michael Schofield and Taylor Moton during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – P.J. Walker was a third-string quarterback battling for a roster spot with the Colts 18 months ago when he received a strange call from his mother, Tamicha Drake. She said she had a dream that he was throwing touchdown passes and winning games for the Carolina Panthers.

Maybe she has a career as a fortune teller.

Walker threw for 258 yards and a touchdown in his first NFL start Sunday and the much-maligned Carolina defense earned its first shutout since 2015. The Panthers snapped a five-game losing streak with a 20-0 win over the Detroit Lions.

“It's crazy, because I didn't envision my first start like this, my mom did,” Walker said. “` ... She said, I had a dream you were playing for the Panthers.' I was like, that's weird because I'm in Indianapolis. But life has come full circle and her dream came true.”

Walker's did, too.

His career path took a detour through the XFL, where he turned heads by throwing 15 touchdown passes as the Houston Roughnecks won five straight before the league folded due to the pandemic. He signed with Carolina after Matt Rhule, his coach at Temple, accepted the Panthers job.

Rhule made Walker the starter over Will Grier less than two hours before kickoff when Teddy Bridgewater was officially ruled out with a knee injury. Rhule said Bridgewater “prepared like a monster” and wanted to play, but he didn't feel right playing him, especially given Bridgewater's history of knee injuries.

Walker did some good and some bad.