Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton played almost the entire first half in Friday’s 27-20 victory over the Miami Dolphins at Bank of America Stadium.
And he was involved, seemingly, in everything as the Panthers improved their preseason record to 2-0.
Newton finished nine-for-12 for 85 yards, a touchdown and an interception for a quarterback rating of 88.5.
And he force-fed second-year running back Christian McCaffrey, who had five carries for 92 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown run. McCaffrey also caught for passes on five targets for 27 yards .
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
Newton’s touchdown pass to rookie tight end Ian Thomas, a fourth-round pick who has flashed his athleticism throughout camp. Thomas scored on a 27-yard catch and run that showcased his speed and separation.
And the interception? Undercut on a throw intended for Greg Olsen, brought back 39 yards by Miami’s Xavien Howard, setting up a Jason Sanders field goal for a 6-6 tie. Newton, of course, made the tackle on the return.
Newton also spent some time in survival mode.
He was also sacked twice, both by Dolphins defensive end Robert Quinn, a former UNC player from North Charleston, S.C. Quinn beat Panthers left tackle Matt Kalil on both plays — hurdling him once and beating him to the outside once for a crushing tackle on Newton.
And Newton was sacked on a rare first-quarter two-point conversion attempt.
Overall, though, Newton saw positives, but also room for improvement. He has completed 71 percent of his passes through two preseason games.
“That’s acceptable,,” Newton said, “but I know I left plays out there. As the old cliche Southern thing, I still left meat on the bone. Being greedy with perfection and understanding that from dropped passes to not accurate passes ... I have to be better and I have to take full responsibility and accountability for that.”
“We had a quiet 400 yards,” he said. “... I still left plays out there. We left meat on the bone.”
Three who mattered
Christian McCaffrey: His 71-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage was longer than any Panthers play last season. Of course, it is the preseason.
Cam Newton: When he wasn’t getting sacked, he was accurate and effective. Of his three incompletions, one was dropped by McCaffrey and one was intercepted.
Jason Sanders: The Miami kicker had four field goals — 42, 29, 54, 27 and 32 yards — because the Dolphins never could find the end zone.
▪ A fourth-quarter interception by Corn Elder, who missed his rookie season with an injury a year ago, was a thing of beauty. He tipped a pass by David Fails intended for Drew Morgan twice before gathering it in.
▪ No midfield logo. Limited end-zone paint. Whatever is gonna happen on that front likely won’t happen until the opener against Dallas on Sept. 9.
▪ Rookie tight end Ian Thomas, who has flashed thoughout camp, looked fast on a crossing pattern that resulted in a 27-yard touchdown from Newton that gave the Panthers a 13-9 lead with 2:07 to play in the first half.
▪ A third-quarter sack by Marquis Haynes was aided by Zach Moore, who chased Dolphins quarterback Brock Osweiler up in the pocket and into Haynes.
▪ After McCaffrey’s touchdown run made it 6-0, the Panthers went for a two-point conversion, and Newton was sacked.
▪ Da’Norris Searcy was penalized for lowering his helmet to initiate contact on the Panthers’ second defensive series. But it was Searcy who was injured on the play, leaving the game and heading straight to the medical tent, then to the locker room. The team announced he has entered the concussion protocol, further depleting the Panthers’ safety depth.
▪ Panthers safety Dezmen Southward got a similar penalty in the fourth quarter.
▪ Shaq Thompson knifed through to tackle Senorise Perry for a 5-yard loss, helping force a 42-yard field goal by Jason Sanders that cut the Carolina lead to 6-3.
▪ Dolphins defensive end Robert Quinn, a former UNC player who, as is his custom, raised a fist during the national anthem, lowered the boom on Newton. Quinn had hurdled Panthers tackle Matt Kalil’s cut block.
▪ Newton was intercepted two plays later by Miami’s Xavien Howard, and the 39-yard return put the Dolphins at the Carolina 9. The Panthers held the Dolphins to a second Sanders field goal for a 6-6 tie.
▪ Quinn had another sack of Newton early in the second quarter, beating Kalil to the outside.
▪ A third Sanders field goal, this one from 54 yards, gave the Dolphins a 9-6 lead with 9:48 to play in the second quarter.
▪ Taylor Heinicke was the first quarterback off the bench, in the final minute of the first half.
▪ Cameron Artis-Payne’s 3-yard touchdown run gave Carolina a 20-12 lead with 13:11 to play.
▪ Offensive guard Brendan Mahon left with a calf injury and didn’t return.
▪ Panthers kicker Graham Gano missed his only field goal attempt, hitting the left upright from 44 yards out.
▪ Kenjon Barner had five carries for 72 yards in mop-up action, and former Charlotte Catholic star Elijah Hood scored a touchdown, from 3 yards out, for the second consecutive week.
▪ Next, the Panthers host the New England Patriots on Friday at 7:30 p.m.