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Cam Newton leads two scoring drives as Panthers win over Tennessee

By Steve Megargee

AP Sports Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Cam Newton threw for 162 yards and led scoring drives on two of his four series Saturday and the Carolina Panthers defeated the Tennessee Titans 26-16 in a preseason game.

The game was delayed about 30 minutes because of lightning late in the third quarter.

Newton went 8 of 12 before leaving midway through the second quarter. He opened the game by leading a 93-yard drive that included a 61-yard completion to Ted Ginn Jr.

Ginn caught Newton’s pass about 10 yards downfield. Antwon Blake missed a tackle as soon as the catch was made, then the 31-year-old Ginn outraced the other Titans to the end zone.

“He’s probably one of the fastest guys in the NFL,” Newton said. “That’s not a reach. He is. Of course they will (mention) his age, but this is what I say. …. I feel as if when Ted comes to Carolina, this is only team that probably used him in the receiver position the way he wants to and is supposed to.

“I think so much of his career he’s been labeled a return specialist, and in the return game, you may have one or maybe two opportunities to prove yourself, so that leaves a lot of tread on the tires for him.”

This was the second straight week the Titans have allowed an opponent to score a long touchdown on its opening series.

“We take pride in trying to make sure we make stops and put our offense in the best situation,” Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said.

“To put them behind like (that) to start the game was very unacceptable for us as a defense. We pride ourselves on trying to be the No. 1 defense in the league, and to be that we can’t allow things like that to happen.”

That opening series also featured two completions to Kelvin Benjamin, who missed the 2015 season with a torn left anterior cruciate ligament after a big rookie year. Benjamin caught a 16-yard pass on the game’s first play from scrimmage and had a 13-yard reception on a third-and-7.

Newton also led a 49-yard drive that ended with Graham Gano’s 41-yard field goal.

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota directed three series and went 9 of 10 for 104 yards with one touchdown and an interception. On his final pass, Mariota rolled right and found Harry Douglas in the right corner of the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown.

Mariota is 14 of 15 through two preseason games.

POSITION BATTLES

Panthers: Carolina’s listed first-team cornerbacks on the depth chart were rookies James Bradberry and Daryl Worley, but two other cornerbacks (Bene Benwikere and Zack Sanchez) intercepted passes Saturday. Benwikere started Saturday’s game at nickel. The Panthers are retooling the cornerback position after All-Pro Josh Norman signed with the Washington Redskins and Charles Tillman retired.

Titans: Wide receiver Tajae Sharpe strengthened his bid for a starting spot, as the fifth-round pick from Massachusetts had six catches for 68 yards while Mariota was in the game. “He made some bigger catches today, some big catches we haven’t had here in a while,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. The Titans shook up their receiving group Tuesday by trading 2015 second-round pick Dorial Green-Beckham to the Philadelphia Eagles for offensive lineman Dennis Kelly.

INJURY UPDATES

Panthers: Tight end Greg Olsen didn’t play because of back spasms. Tight end Ed Dickson also didn’t play. … Safety Travell Dixon injured his chest in the first quarter. … Safety Trenton Robinson injured his shoulder in the first half. … Wide receiver LaRon Byrd was being evaluated for a concussion in the second half.

Titans: Cornerbacks Jason McCourty (hip flexor) and Perrish Cox (ankle), wide receiver Kendall Wright (hamstring), and outside linebackers Kevin Dodd (foot) and Aaron Wallace (ankle) didn’t play.

ROOKIE WATCH

Panthers: The playing time earned by Bradberry, Worley and Sanchez suggests all three will have featured roles at cornerback this season. Bradberry is a second-round pick from Samford, Worley a third-rounder from West Virginia and Sanchez a fifth-round selection from Oklahoma. … Jalen Simmons, a free agent from South Carolina State, caught a 6-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

Titans: Derrick Henry, a second-round selection from Alabama, had five carries for 31 yards. … Third-round draft pick Kevin Byard of Middle Tennessee fumbled a punt return, though the Titans recovered. … Alex Ellis, a free agent from Tennessee, had a 9-yard touchdown catch with 1:55 left.

QUOTABLE

Panthers: “I think we started pretty fast, and that’s what you want to do — start fast and finish fast, too,” Newton said.

Titans: “We’ve got to do something about the first drive,” Mularkey said. “It’s two weeks in a row. It’s more than two weeks. It’s (happened to us) in the past as well.”

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