CHARLOTTE - Notes from the first half of the Panthers' preseason home opener against the Miami Dolphins.
- Rookie linebacker Shaq Thompson made his presence felt in his NFL debut. The Panthers' first-round draft choice impacted the game's first snap, helping bottle up running back Lamar Miller for a 1-yard loss. He later came up to bring down Miller on a short swing pass that appeared headed to the end zone. Finally, he ran stride-for-stride with tight end Jordan Cameron to thwart a deep shot.
- That was pretty close to the extent of the good news for the Panthers in the opening quarter, as two of head coach Ron Rivera's biggest areas of concern following the opener – third down efficiency and penalties – fell flat again. While Miami twice found the end zone over their first three drives, the Panthers' first three possessions resulted in a pair of three-and-outs and then a Cam Newton interception that appeared to set up another Dolphins touchdown early in the second quarter.
- That's when the tide turned – kind of. On a first-and-goal run by Damien Williams, who scored Miami's first two touchdowns, the Dolphins challenged the ruling that he was down before contacting the pylon. The ruling was overturned but in the favor of the Panthers, with replays showing that Williams lost control of the ball before reaching the pylon, resulting in fumble and touchback.
- That lit a fire under the Panthers offense – one that was eventually quenched inside the 1-yard line. An impressive 29-yard run by rookie Cameron Artis-Payne and three catches over four snaps by tight end Greg Olsen set up a first-and-goal at the 2, but four cracks at it came up a half-yard short. The Dolphins sniffed out a play-action fake on fourth down, and Newton came up just a foot short on his desperate dive for the pylon.
- The Panthers actually ended up scoring one more time in the first half than the Dolphins, though Carolina still trailed 14-9. Over the final six minutes of the half, Graham Gano boomed field goals of 48, 46 and finally 52 yards - the last one set up by a Teddy Williams interception.