EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera wanted to see how his team would perform on the biggest stage in front of a hostile New York crowd in a prime-time game on NBC.
While Jets fans saved their loudest boos for the home team, the Panthers reviews probably could best be described as mixed.
The Panthers scored on two of their six offensive possessions with starting quarterback Cam Newton in the game, and their defense kept the Jets out of the end zone in the Panthers 17-12 win at MetLife Stadium.
The Panthers improved to 2-1 in the preseason and will finish their exhibition schedule Thursday at Pittsburgh. The Jets fell to 0-3 and still have not scored a touchdown in the preseason.
A week after surviving an injury scare from tailback Jonathan Stewart against Miami, the Panthers watched Stewart get carted to the locker room near the end of the first half with a right ankle injury. There was no word on the extent of Stewarts injury at press time.
The Panthers passing game looked out of sync without Pro Bowl wideout Steve Smith, who remained in Charlotte with an infected foot.
Newton completed 6 of 15 passes for 60 yards, was sacked twice and lost a fumble before giving way to backup Derek Anderson in the second half. Newton targeted his wideouts seven times, with only three going for completions.
But one was a 3-yard touchdown pass to Louis Murphy, who worked free in the end zone on a combination route with tight end Greg Olsen. Murphy, among those competing for the No. 3 receiver spot, started opposite Brandon LaFell with Smith sidelined.
Murphy, acquired from Oakland in a July trade, had three catches for 16 yards. Murphy also had a strong showing in the exhibition win against Miami (two catches for 29 yards).
For the most part, however, the Panthers receivers had trouble getting open against the Pro Bowl cornerback tandem of Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis. Besides Murphy, LaFell was the only other wideout to catch a pass from Newton.
Meanwhile, the Panthers added to the Jets preseason woes under first-year offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, the former Dolphins coach. The Jets had not scored a touchdown in their first two exhibitions, while being outscored 43-9.
The Jets continually drove into Panthers territory only to settle for field goals. New York failed to score touchdowns in three red-zone trips.
Rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly led the Panthers defensive charge with 10 tackles, while veteran linebacker Thomas Davis contributed a sack in his first action of the preseason. Davis, attempting to come back from three ACL surgeries on his right knee, broke free on a first-half blitz to take down Mark Sanchez.
Sanchez was 11-for-18 passing for 123 yards and one interception a Captain Munnerlyn pick on a ball that bounced off the hands of Jets receiver Stephen Hill. Each time the Jets bogged down in Panthers territory, the boos got a little louder.
The jeers let up momentarily when Tim Tebow replaced Sanchez in the third quarter. Tebow, who led the Broncos to the playoffs last year before getting dealt in favor of Peyton Manning, drew the loudest cheers of the night with a 20-yard scramble in third-and-16.
But three plays later, Tebow was hearing the boos after throwing a gift interception to backup safety Reggie Smith.
Tebow drove the Jets inside the Panthers 30 in the final minute and threw into the end zone on the final two plays. But as was the case all night, the Panthers held and the Jets walked off their big stage empty.