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3 things we learned about the Texans

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There were different types of scores assigned to the latest athletic maneuver by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

Newton flipped into the end zone for the go-ahead points in the third quarter and the Panthers held on to defeat the Houston Texans 24-17 on Sunday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium.

Newton also threw for two touchdowns as the Panthers won for the second week in a row.

The quarterback’s most memorable move was the acrobatic flight into the end zone.

“I just know that my heart was in my socks,” said Newton, who was the game’s leading rusher with 76 yards. “(When) I was flipping, I was like, ‘Hey, I don’t know how this is going to end.’ Then I was thinking. I can stick this. I didn’t stick it. I think I still got a high rating by the judge.”

Newton flipped into the end zone over the tackle attempt of Texans safety Rahim Moore for the tiebreaking points with 1:04 to play in the third quarter.

Linebacker A.J. Klein’s fourth-quarter interception set up the Panthers at the Houston 36 with 9:02 left. The next play resulted in Newton’s touchdown pass to receiver Philly Brown, pushing the Panthers to a 24-10 lead.

Houston got back in it on quarterback Ryan Mallett’s 6-yard, fourth-down scramble for a touchdown with 6:31 remaining, making the score 24-17.

After Jared Crick deflected Graham Gano’s 53-yard field goal attempt, the Texans reached the Carolina 14-yard line before defensive tackle Kawann Short forced Mallett into an intentional grounding with 17 seconds left. Mallett’s fourth-down pass was incomplete with 5 seconds left.

What we learned about the Texans:

1. The Texans want to play at a brisk pace on offense and they have had trouble establishing that at times. The hope is that QB Ryan Mallett will adjust along with other players on the offense and that will allow more rhythm to be established. Mallett made his first start of the season against Carolina, and he showed some pretty good resiliency because he had miserable stretches early in the game. As he gains more confidence, there’s a chance that the offense will move at a better clip and the pace that coach Bill O’Brien covets will be developed.

2. The Texans can make things work even with a makeshift offensive line. That group held up relatively well against the Carolina Panthers. There’s versatility along the offensive front that allows some players to be moved around on the front. In some cases, if QB Ryan Mallett was hit, it was a result of good downfield coverage on receivers and not necessarily reflective of the job done by the offensive linemen.

3. The Texans probably learned more about the importance of WR DeAndre Hopkins to the offense. He finished with five catches against the Panthers, with four of them coming in the second half. He managed only one first-half reception when the offense continually sputtered. It figured that he would receive extra attention after making nine receptions and scoring two touchdowns in the season opener.

Etc.:

–OL Jeff Adams went out with a second-quarter knee injury in the game against Carolina. This adds another woe to the offensive line. Coach Bill O’Brien said Adams’ injury could be more than a short-term ailment, and that will leave more holes to plug along the front. “We’ll just take the approach that it’s the next guy up,” O’Brien said.

–QB Ryan Mallett’s first start of the season was not particularly smooth. But he did direct a second-half touchdown drive when he was 7-for-7 passing the ball. Some of his numbers overall are bound to improve if he spends more time with the first-string unit because there were times against Carolina when he clearly wasn’t in sync with receivers. Often that just takes time to develop.

–DE J.J. Watt is considered the most dominant defender in the NFL, so his rather mundane outing with one tackle for a loss among five total tackles didn’t sit well with him. He didn’t seem much interested in the notion that the Texans hung close enough to give themselves a chance until the final seconds. “Yeah, but we lost,” Watt said. “So it really doesn’t matter.”


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