Carolina Panthers

Instant analysis: Panthers see good and potentially very bad in beating Cowboys

Instant analysis from the Carolina Panthers’ 16-8 victory over Dallas on Sunday:

Despite the win, a huge loss for Panthers

Tight end Greg Olsen was off to a great start to Sunday’s game, catching two passes for 33 yards, including a 19-yard long.

But Olsen injured his foot in the second quarter after appearing to land on another player’s foot, and had to go to the locker room with team doctor Ryan Vermillion. He did not return to the game, and appeared to be upset as he went to the locker room.

Olsen came back to the sideline with a boot on his right foot and a crutch. That was the foot on which Olsen suffered a Jones fracture last season, sidelining him for nine weeks, including an eight-week stint on injured reserve.

Olsen had surgery to fix the foot, but did not need to have a second surgery over the summer.

Starting right tackle Daryl Williams also left the game on a cart after appearing to re-injure the right knee he hurt in the first week of training camp.

Late in the fourth quarter, linebacker Luke Kuechly appeared to hurt his left leg and had to leave the game, but re-entered on the Cowboys’ final drive of the game.

Panthers linebackers look stellar

Carolina’s linebacker corps may have been missing veteran starter Thomas Davis as he serves his four-game suspension, but they didn’t look like they missed a step.

Kuechly had a game-high six tackles by the end of the first two defensive series. Shaq Thompson, who started in place of Davis, had a sack on Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott in the first half. And reserve linebacker David Mayo, who started the game, combined with defensive end Mario Addison for a tackle for loss to start the game.

The Panthers defense held Dallas 0 for 5 on third down through the first half. The Cowboys crossed midfield for the first time in the third quarter, but were stopped on third and 3.

Prolific running back Ezekiel Elliott was held to 18 first-half yards on seven carries.

Dallas converted its first third down with five minutes left in the third quarter.

Elliott finished with 15 carries for 69 yards and a score. His lone touchdown came on a four-yard end zone dive with 8:51 to play, after which Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott converted for two.

Newton rumbles for momentum

Quarterback Cam Newton had a strong season debut, and the early momentum-shifting plays all came on the ground.

Newton carried the ball 13 times for 58 yards (59 in the first quarter, minus-1 the rest of the way), including a play on which he threw safety Jeff Heath down onto the field. It was his most rushing yards ever in a season opener.

After Newton got the Panthers into the red zone, running back Christian McCaffrey fumbled at the 5-yard line and Dallas recovered.

But Carolina drove downfield midway through the second quarter, and Newton scored a 4-yard keeper touchdown after a slick ball-fake to McCaffrey.

Newton finished 17 of 26 for 151 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions.

Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071; @jourdanrodrigue