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QB Ryan Mallett, Texans start slow, fall to 0-2 on season after 24-17 loss to Panthers


CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Bill O'Brien isn't panicking after his team's 0-2 start.

But the Houston Texans coach is getting anxious for his team to start quicker when the game begins. That hasn't happened in the first two weeks, leading to 7-point losses against Kansas City and Carolina to open the season.

The Texans made a quarterback change on Sunday, going with Ryan Mallett over Brian Hoyer, but the result was the same as Week 1. They managed just 93 yards and three points in the first half, and lost to the Panthers 24-17.

The Texans never led after Carolina went up 7-3 in the second quarter.

"I just told the guys in the locker room we have to stick together," O'Brien said. "... I've been around teams that started off with two tough losses and came back to have good seasons. So we did some good things in the game, but not enough obviously."

It didn't help that the Texans lost right tackle Jeff Adams to a right knee injury. O'Brien didn't specify the nature of the injury, but said Adams "probably will be out for a while."

Mallet started slow and threw for 244 yards and a touchdown and ran for a 6-yard TD. He threw one interception.

"There are obviously plays I could have made that I didn't," Mallett said.

Cam Newton threw for 195 yards and two touchdowns and showed a flair for the dramatic by somersaulting into the end zone on a quarterback draw to lead the unbeaten Panthers.

Newton threw TD passes of 25 yards to Ted Ginn Jr. and 36 yards to Philly Brown and ran for 76 yards, including his highlight reel 2-yard TD run to give Carolina the lead for good at 17-10 late in the third quarter.

The go-ahead score came after Garrett Graham tied the game at 10 with a one-handed, 7-yard touchdown grab in the back of the end zone from Mallett.

PHOTO: Houston Texans' Ryan Mallett (15) runs into the end zone past Carolina Panthers' Kawann Short (99) for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Houston Texans' Ryan Mallett (15) runs into the end zone past Carolina Panthers' Kawann Short (99) for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

On a first-and-goal from the 2, Newton took a step back before racing through an open hole in the line and sizing up defensive back Rahim Moore. Joking that he was deprived of a trampoline by his parents as a child, Newton decided the best way into the end zone was to somersault over Moore rather than try to take on the contact and run him over.

"My heart was in my socks," Newton said. "As I was flipping I was like, hey, I don't know how this is going to end."

Newton nearly landed on his feet, but was knocked down by defensive lineman Jared Crick. He stumbled for a minute, then got to his feet and celebrated the score, ending it with his Superman impersonation by pretending to tear open his shirt.

"I didn't stick it, but I think I still got a high rating from the judge," Newton joked of the landing.

While the play will surely be shown repeatedly on highlight reels this week, teammates say it is par for the course when it comes to Newton.

"Stuff like that scares you, but he's an amazing athlete and he can pull that off," Brown said.

The Texans had just six first downs against a Carolina defense playing without top defender Luke Kuechly, who sat out with a concussion.

But it was Kuechly's replacement, A.J. Klein, who came up with the big defensive play for Carolina with his team up 17-10.

Klein intercepted Mallett early in the fourth quarter and Newton cashed in with a prefect strike to Brown, who outleaped Jonathan Joseph on a post route for the 24-10 lead.

Mallett would run for a TD on fourth-and-4 cut the lead to 24-17 with 6:31 remaining.

The Texans had one last chance to tie the game after Crick blocked Graham Gano's 53-yard goal, but Mallet's pass on fourth-and-16 from the Carolina 20 sailed out of the end zone in the closing seconds.

NOTES: Watt had five tackles, one sack, two quarterback hurries and two tipped passes for the Texans. ... The Panthers averaged 5.2 yards per carry.

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