CHARLOTTE, NC (Jonathan Jones/The Charlotte Observer) - Panthers coach Ron Rivera was looking for an improvement on third down from both his offense and defense going into Saturday night's exhibition against the Dolphins.
He didn't get it as the Panthers fell behind early in an exhibition they eventually won 31-30.
Carolina's first-team offense had one third-down conversion in four tries and zero points. The defense allowed four third-down conversions for Miami in six tries, giving up 14 points by the start of the second quarter.
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"We just have to do a better job of getting off the field," Thomas Davis said at halftime. "We have to make some third-down situations.
Quarterback Cam Newton, who walked with a slight limp along the sideline during the second half, went 4 for 10 for 42 yards and had an interception that was nearly a touchdown.
The Dolphins almost punched that one into the end zone on offense before a curious challenge gave the Panthers the ball back. After running back Damien Williams was ruled out at the goal line, Miami coach Joe Philbin challenged the play, thinking his team had scored. After video review, the Panthers were awarded possession when referees ruled the play was a touchback.
During the same week the Panthers lost No. 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin for the season, defensive end Frank Alexander tore his right Achilles, ending his season. The fourth-year player left the game on the first series.
Three who mattered
- Shaq Thompson: The rookie did a great job identifying a short goal-line pass, blitzing and even falling back into coverage on a 45-yard pass that he broke up in the first preseason action of his career.
- Jarrett Boykin: Boykin rebounded from a pedestrian first two weeks of camp with a big week this week and then had two catches for 32 yards in the second quarter. He would have had a touchdown if Derek Anderson had not overthrown him.
- Teddy Williams: The speedy corner struggled throughout the preseason but came up with a nice diving interception late in the second quarter to help set up a field goal.
- Center Ryan Kalil injured his left knee in the final drive for the first-team offense but stayed in the game. The injury didn’t appear serious.
- Everyone assumed Tre Boston would be the starter at safety along with Roman Harper, but Kurt Coleman has taken the majority of first-team reps in camp and started both exhibitions. Coleman looked good in the rush defense Saturday night.
- The Panthers did not have the NFL shield, Panthers heads or black end zones painted on the field for the game. They’re likely waiting until after the game between North Carolina and South Carolina on Sept. 3 before painting the field its normal way. This season the field will feature gold 50s to mark the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl.
- Several players sat out Saturday night: WR Devin Funchess, CB Lou Young, CB Charles Tillman, G Amini Silatolu, T Davonte Wallace, DE Charles Johnson, DT Star Lotulelei, DT Kawann Short, S Colin Jones and T Nate Chandler. Much like the two joint practices the teams participated in, there were good and bad moments for second-year guard Trai Turner against Ndamukong Suh. Suh blew up a few running plays but didn’t get to Newton in the passing game.
- Josh Norman took Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill to the ground during the first quarter and took an exceptionally long time helping him up and patting him on the helmet after the play. ... Canadian offensive tackle David Foucault had a group of about six friends from Canada come down for a game and wear blond wigs, mimicking Foucault’s look, as they cheered him on in the stands for the second straight season.
- Less than two years ago, Miami’s Josh Freeman was a starting quarterback. Saturday night he was working with the fourth-team offense and threw an interception to defensive tackle Terry Redden, who picked it off with one hand.
They said it
"It felt like somebody stepped on the back of my leg. And I looked back and nobody was back there. It felt like I just had the front part of my toes. The heel wasn't even getting any pressure." – DE Frank Alexander on the moment he tore his right Achilles
"The biggest disappointment is the 9 penalties. It helped prolong their plays." – Panthers coach Ron Rivera