CINCINNATI (AP) — Carolina rookie quarterback Cam Newton took a step back on his road to NFL stardom.
Cincinnati's Andy Dalton, another rookie, took a huge leap forward.
Dalton, Cincinnati's second-round draft pick from Texas Christian, led four first-half scoring drives and the Bengals held on for a 24-13 preseason victory Thursday night.
Dalton was an efficient 11 of 17 for 130 yards and a touchdown for Cincinnati (1-2), putting together a 107.5 quarterback rating, a vast improvement over the 30.9 figure he took into the game. He didn't play in the second half.
``We did a good job of moving the ball,'' Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. ``We threw the ball well and the running game was physical.''
Newton, the overall No. 1 pick, went into the game with a 65.2 quarterback rating after two games. He rushed for 41 yards in the first half, including a 16-yard scramble for a touchdown. He played the first three series of the third quarter before giving way to second-year quarterback Jimmy Clausen and finished 6 for 19 for 75 yards and a 44.8 rating.
Newton reverted to the Heisman Trophy-winning style he used while leading Auburn to last year's national championship to account for his first touchdown as a pro.
After Chris Gamble recovered a fumble by Cedric Benson at the Cincinnati 46, Newton led Carolina (1-2) on a six-play scoring drive. He completed just one of four passes on the possession, but he capped it by scrambling 16 yards for the score. Cornerback Jonathan Wade hit Newton at about the 2-yard line, but Newton spun out of Wade's grasp and dived into the end zone with 6:17 left in the first quarter.
The Panthers gained possession because Dalton and Benson miscommunicated on a handoff, producing Cincinnati's sixth turnover of the preseason. The touchdown lifted opponents' combined advantage over the Bengals in points off turnovers to 34-0.
Dalton and Benson shook off the fumble to lead the Bengals on their most impressive drive of the preseason. Dalton was 3 of 4 for 27 yards and Benson carried the ball 11 times for 53 yards, including a 1-yard run around left end for a touchdown to tie it.
Benson finished with 16 carries and 68 yards.
They took their first lead on their next possession with Dalton finding fellow rookie A.J. Green for a 40-yard touchdown.
``It's like a dream come true,'' said Green, Cincinnati's top pick and the overall No. 4 selection. ``I've been thinking about it all day, honestly - 'When am I going to get my first TD?'''
The Bengals followed up by converting their first takeaway of the year into another score. Armanti Edwards fumbled a punt, Manny Lawson recovered for Cincinnati at the Carolina 12, and Bernard Scott went untouched around left end on the next play for a 21-7 lead with 1:29 left in the half.
The Bengals got one more possession with 51 seconds left in the half and Dalton completed four consecutive passes for 37 yards, setting up Mike Nugent's 55-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining.
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