CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Cam Newton outplayed rookie Ryan Tannehill in a matchup of young quarterbacks Friday night as the Carolina Panthers defeated the Miami Dolphins 23-17 in a preseason game.
Newton looked extremely sharp, completing 8 of 11 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown as the Panthers (No. 20 in the AP Pro32) jumped all over the injury-depleted Dolphins defense early, scoring on their first three possessions to take a 17-0 lead.
Last year's AP Offensive Rookie of the Year threw a touchdown pass to DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart scored on a 2-yard plunge as a fired-up Panthers squad avenged a lackluster performance last week against Houston. Newton had been expected to play into the second quarter, but was removed with 1:12 left in the first after a solid night's work.
Unlike last week when the Panthers offensive line surrendered eight sacks to Houston, Newton had plenty of time to work through his progressions and find open receivers against a Dolphins defense playing without Cameron Wake, Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby.
Tannehill, making his first preseason start for the Dolphins (No. 27 in the AP Pro32), played the entire first half and led six possessions – four of which ended in three-and-out. He found himself under heavy duress for most of the game as the Panthers sacked him three times and batted down three balls at the line of scrimmage.
He finished 11 of 23 for 100 yards passing.
The one promising highlight for Dolphins fans came on Miami's third possession when Tannehill completed three third-and-long passes to keep the drive alive. Running back Daniel Thomas culminated the 15-play, 71-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge.
The Dolphins starting quarterback remains uncertain.
While veteran David Garrard remains sidelined with a knee injury Tannehill and Matt Moore have each started a game in the preseason. Moore didn't do anything to distance himself from Tannehill, completing 5 of 15 passes for 57 yards. Fourth-stringer Pat Devlin made the best of his limited action with a 6-yard touchdown pass to rookie Rishard Matthews. Devlin had a chance to win the game but his final pass was intercepted in the end zone by R.J. Stanford with 4 seconds left in the game.
There's no doubt about who is the Panthers starting quarterback.
Newton didn't run at all this game – he didn't need to – but found plenty of open receivers.
After Carolina's first drive ended with a 49-yard field goal by Justin Medlock, Newton led two crisp and effective touchdown drives. He connected on passes of 15 yards to Brandon LaFell and 18 yards to tight end Ben Hartsock to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Stewart.
A 39-yard pass interference penalty on Miami cornerback Sean Smith led to Carolina's next score as Newton rolled out and found Williams for a 9-yard touchdown pass. Williams caught the ball in stride, raced around right end and dived to get the ball inside the pylon for a 17-0 lead.
Panthers backup Derek Anderson also looked sharp, although penalties and dropped passes killed promising drives. He was 7 of 15 passing for 107 yards leading one drive that resulted in a 44-yard field goal by Olindo Mare giving Carolina a 20-7 lead just before halftime.
The game was particularly chippy for the preseason.
Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith and Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis sparred for three consecutive plays early in the game, ultimately resulting in a downfield wrestling match and Davis getting flagged for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty.
But there were lighter moments as well typifying a preseason game. At one point during the third quarter Stewart and fullback Mike Tolbert did the "The Wobble" line dance on the Carolina's sidelines during a break in action, drawing a huge roar from the home crowd.