1. QB Cam Newton
It always starts with No. 1, and Newton made sure the Panthers offense got off to a good start against the Titans. He needed just five plays to direct the first-team unit 93 yards for a touchdown, and before departing early in the second quarter, he orchestrated another nice march for a field goal.
Newton connected with six different receivers while going 8-for-12 for 162 yards and one touchdown. He was quick with his decisions and accurate with his throws, and the two times the Titans stopped him, they were on scrambles that just maybe Newton would have converted if this one had counted.
2. WR Ted Ginn, Jr.
Ginn made just one play before exiting, but that's the beauty of Ginn's game – he only needs one play to make one heck of an impact.
Ginn made the play of the day for the Panthers to cap the opening drive, snaring a pass from Newton 20 yards downfield, using his quickness to elude a tackler and then using his speed to zip away from three pursuers for a 61-yard touchdown. It's the kind of thing he made a habit of last season, when he found the end zone 10 times.
"I know my attribute is speed, and whenever I can showcase that I try to," Ginn said. "I made a guy miss, and the rest was history."
3. CB Bene Benwikere
Benwikere put the "big play" back into "Big Play Bene," coming up with two of them, in fact.
Benwikere started at nickel cornerback and put a finish to the Titans' promising opening drive. Tennessee picked up a blitz, but quarterback Marcus Mariota rushed a pass anyway. Benwikere was ready, lunging to pick it off well in front of the receiver as the Titans closed in on the red zone.
"I'm just trying to make plays on the field, trying to show the coaches that I can get back to full form from before the injury," said Benwikere, who missed the end of last season with a leg injury. "It felt good."
The Panthers also gave Benwikere a chance to come after the quarterback midway through the second quarter. He welcomed backup Matt Cassel, corralling him for an 8-yard loss on his first snap.
"He's doing a nice job," head coach Ron Rivera said. "As he continues to gain more and more confidence, hopefully we'll see him very active around the football."
4. CB James Bradberry
While Benwikere's plays were worthy of the highlight reel, Bradberry's contributions were more subtle but no less significant – especially in regards to the development of the rookie. On multiple occasions, he showed off his ability to provide support in run defense.
"Coach (Sean) McDermott expects all of his corners to be able to tackle and be physical. I'm trying to play my part and show that I can come up and tackle," Bradberry said. "It's an underrated skill because a lot of teams scheme to block everyone but the corner and make the corner tackle."
First and probably most impressively, Bradberry found himself one-on-one with running back DeMarco Murray on a run around the right side. Murray tried to stiff-arm Bradberry, but the 6-1, 210-pounder would have none of it, working Murray out of bounds after a 1-yard gain.
"DeMarco Murray has a mean stiff-arm, and he got a hold of my facemask," Bradberry said. "But luckily I have long arms and was able to pull him down."
Later, Bradberry took on Murray solo in the middle of the line, crashing in to stuff him at the line of scrimmage. Before halftime, Bradberry combined with linebacker A.J. Klein to stop rookie Derrick Henry in his tracks.
5. WR Kevin Norwood
Just when it looked like Norwood's day could be done, he did his best work.
"That's toughness," Rivera said of Norwood's bounce-back moment. "And that's what we're looking for."
Norwood had a shot to make a big play midway through the third quarter but instead took a big shot, getting sandwiched between defenders on a deep ball over the middle and receiving medical assistance before bouncing up.
Just four plays later (the Panthers opened their next drive in a first-and-goal situation thanks to a fumble recovery), Norwood was back on the field. On second-and-goal, he got inside position on a defender and hauled in an 8-yard touchdown strike from Derek Anderson to give Carolina a 19-10 lead.
"That's something that happens in football when you go over the middle, but I think I'm pretty tough," Norwood said. "You've got to make the plays when they come to you. I'm just trying to prove to these guys that I can be a part of this team.
"It feels great. It's a step forward for me."
Norwood finished with three receptions for 31 yards.
View game action photos from Carolina's 26-16 win over Tennessee.