Webb, Byrd lead Panthers past Texans 27-17
Damiere Byrd caught two touchdown passes from Joe Webb as the Carolina Panthers defeated the Houston Texans 27-17 in the NFL preseason opener for both teams Wednesday night at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
Webb's strikes to Byrd went for 50 and 8 yards.
Carolina's Derek Anderson threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin midway through the first quarter. The Texans countered with 10 seconds left in the first quarter on Alfred Blue's 16-yard touchdown run.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who has been limited in recent practices because of shoulder soreness following offseason surgery, didn't play. Anderson went 4 of 5 for 76 yards.
Texans starting quarterback Tom Savage completed 9 of 11 passes for 69 yards.
Then came the debut of Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, a rookie from Clemson competing for a job. His appearance drew considerable attention in the Carolinas and a roar when he entered the game in the first half given his college background and role in leading the Tigers to the national championship.
With Houston trailing 24-10, Watson ran for a 15-yard touchdown with 56 seconds left in the third quarter. In the air, he threw for 179 yards, completing 15 of 25 throws.
Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, the team's first-round choice, ran seven times for 33 yards.
Carolina took the lead in the second quarter when Byrd made a 50-yard reception on the first play of a possession following a punt.
Carolina kicker Graham Gano, who is in a competition with rookie draftee Harrison Butker, missed a 50-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter when the ball clanked off the left upright. He connected from 45 yards out after a Houston fumble in the second quarter.
Butker drilled a 51-yarder in the fourth quarter.
Houston's Ka'imi Fairbairn hit a 25-yard field goal late in the first half.
Carolina defensive end Vernon Butler left in the first half with an injured left knee.
The game was moved up a day from the normal window of initial preseason games with special permission from the NFL because the PGA Championship begins Thursday in Charlotte.