CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Cam Newton threw for 353 yards and four touchdowns, and the Carolina Panthers overcame four turnovers to beat the San Francisco 49ers 46-27 on Sunday in their home opener.
Newton threw two TD passes to Kelvin Benjamin and one each to Greg Olsen and Devin Funchess to pass Jake Delhomme for most TD passes in franchise history with 122.
Newton showed no ill effects from the four helmet-to-helmet hits he took in Carolina’s season-opening loss to Denver. He took one shot to the head from linebacker Eli Harold late in the game after a pitchout on an option play, but quickly got to his feet.
Newton’s first pass was tipped and intercepted by Antoine Bethea, leading to a 49ers field goal. But the 2015 league MVP locked in after that, completing 24 of 40 passes while running for 37 yards on six carries.
Olsen gave the Panthers the lead for good in the second quarter when he hauled in a career-long 78-yard touchdown pass from Newton after the 49ers bit hard on play-action. That left the Pro Bowl tight end wide open on a seam route. Olsen finished with five catches for 122 yards.
Benjamin, who missed last season with a torn ACL, finished with seven catches for 108 yards and has three TD catches on the season.
WHAT WAS THAT?: The Panthers won despite the four turnovers, including one colossal mistake by returner Ted Ginn Jr., who failed to pick up the ball on a kickoff return. After Ginn bobbled the ball twice, the 49ers recovered at the 1-yard line and scored on the next play.
FOZZY BEAR ON THE RUN: Despite losing running back Jonathan Stewart (hamstring) in the first quarter, the Panthers had no problems moving the ball against a defense that was riding high following a 28-0 win over the Rams in the season opener.
Fozzy Whittaker ran for 100 yards on 16 carries and had three catches for 31 yards.
GABBERT’S DAY: Blaine Gabbert threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score in the loss. Gabbert pulled the 49ers within 34-27 late with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Vance McDonald, but threw two interceptions in the game’s final five minutes.
FIRST TOUCHDOWN: Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson scored his first career touchdown when he scooped up Carlos Hyde’s fumble and returned it 9 yards to give Carolina a 7-3 lead.
49ers: Linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong left in the second half with a shoulder injury.
Panthers: Stewart was limited to 9 yards rushing on five carries when he went down in the first quarter.
BY THE NUMBERS
Newton reached 121 career TD passes in 2,480 attempts, while Delhomme had 120 in 2,669 attempts.