The Texans fell to 1-2 after the third-round pick threw one touchdown pass, a one-yard completion to a wide-open Anthony Miller in the second quarter.
Mills completed 19 of 28 passes for 168 yards and was sacked four times in the loss.
Through two weeks, three rookie quarterbacks -- Zach Wilson (New York Jets), Trevor Lawrence (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Justin Fields (Chicago Bears) -- have struggled at times. New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones has had the most success, but he’s been more of a game manager with just one passing touchdown heading into Week 3.
Earlier in the week, coach David Culley said the Texans would make sure to help the rookie.
QB breakdown: One area Mills struggled in during the preseason was being able to take care of the football. Culley has stressed the importance of consistency without throwing an interception.
“I thought he did very well,” Culley said. “He did not turn the ball over at all, which was a big thing going into the game. I thought he threw the ball very well. I thought when we were in our two-minute offense right before half, he did an excellent job of taking us down the field and making some nice throws and nice plays.”
Mills is the seventh rookie quarterback since 1970 to make his first career NFL start against the team that was leading the league in points allowed per game and yards allowed per game, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Promising trend: Despite the change in quarterback, wide receiver Brandin Cooks continued his strong start with nine catches for 112 yards.
Cooks is only the second Texans player in franchise history with more than 300 receiving yards through three games. Wide receiver Andre Johnson also hit that mark in 2006 and 2011.
Biggest hole in the game plan: The Texans’ running game never got started against Carolina (3-0) and its No. 1 run defense (46.5 yards per game) coming into the game. Five players combined for just 42 yards on 17 attempts.
Mark Ingram led the way with 21 yards on six carries, but Houston’s longest rushing play of the game was seven yards.
“We have to be able to (run the ball),” Culley said. “That’s who we are, and I think offensively, our biggest ills tonight was the fact that we could not establish any consistency in our run game. We’ve got to be able to do that to be successful.”
It won’t get any easier in Week 4, as the Buffalo Bills enter Week 3 allowing an average of just 73 rushing yards per game, which is the seventh-best in the NFL.