Charlotte, NC – Jonathan Grimes' three-yard touchdown run in the third quarter helped seal a 26-13 victory by the Houston Texans over the Carolina Panthers in the preseason opener for both teams on Saturday.
Matt Schaub made his first appearance for the Texans since missing the final eight games of last season with a Lisfranc injury to his right foot and went 3-for-6 through the air for 52 yards and an interception.
Tyler Yates, who replaced Schaub last year and led Houston to a franchise-best 10-6 record, its first-ever AFC South title and playoff victory, completed 8- of-12 passes for 89 yards.
Undrafted rookie Case Keenum made his NFL debut for Houston and went 2-for-3 for 33 yards. Grimes finished with 37 yards and a score on nine carries and 18 yards on one reception.
Reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Cam Newton completed 2-of-6 passes for 17 yards and added two rushes for 16 yards for Carolina, which is looking to improve on last season's 6-10 record in Newton's sophomore year.
Running back Jonathan Stewart, who signed a five-year contract extension prior to the game reported to be worth $36.5 million with $22.5 million of it guaranteed, had one reception for 13 yards.
After Carolina went three-and-out on the opening possession of the game, Owen Daniels' 22-yard reception highlighted a nine-play, 65-yard drive by the Texans that reached down to the Panthers two, but Houston could not punch it in and had to settle for Shayne Graham's 20-yard field goal.
The Panthers were forced to punt again on their next touch, but they quickly got the ball back when rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly, who Carolina selected with the ninth overall pick, forced a fumble by Arian Foster, resulting in Olindo Mare's 33-yard kick to knot the game at 3-3.
However, Houston quickly regained the lead as Trindon Holliday returned to ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.
Carolina then took advantage of another turnover to cut into the Texans' lead when Jason Phillips picked off a Schaub pass before Justin Medlock connected on a 48-yard field goal with 12:30 left in the second quarter.
Houston answered with a 16-play, 68-yard drive that ate up 8:35 of game clock and was capped by Randy Bullock's 21-yard field goal, but the Panthers countered with an eight-play, 83-yard march that was helped by a pair of defensive pass interference penalties. Tauren Poole finished off the drive with a one-yard rumble into the end zone to make it a 13-13 game heading into the break.
Graham's 37-yard field goal on the opening drive of the third quarter gave the Texans back the lead before Troy Nolan's interception on Carolina's first touch of the second half set up an 11-play, 61-yard drive that was capped by Grimes' three-yard touchdown run up the middle, giving Houston a 23-13 advantage.
Bullock connected on a 52-yard field goal with 1:57 left in the game to account for the final margin.