SANTA CLARA, CALIF. - Cam Newton threw a pair of touchdown passes following San Francisco turnovers and the Carolina defense shut down Kyle Shanahan's offense in his coaching debut as the Panthers beat the 49ers 23-3 Sunday.
Newton threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Russell Shepard in the first half following a fumble by Brian Hoyer, then a 9-yard touchdown to Jonathan Stewart in the third quarter after Luke Kuechly intercepted Hoyer.
That helped the Panthers get off to a good start in the season opener following last year's disappointing 6-10 finish . Despite the touchdowns, Newton did not look particularly sharp after playing just one series in the preseason as he recovered from surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff.
Newton was off-target on numerous throws, including missing a wide-open Ed Dickson in the end zone in the first half. Carolina had to settle for a field goal on that drive. Newton finished 14 for 25 for 171 yards.
Those mistakes didn't matter against a Niners team that didn't look much improved from last year's outfit that tied a franchise worst with 14 losses. That led to the firing of coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke.
Shanahan and new GM John Lynch each got six-year contracts to oversee a massive rebuilding job . There is plenty of work to do as San Francisco was held scoreless in the first half of the opener for the first time in 40 years and lost the first game of the year for the first time since 2010. The Niners finished with just 217 yards of offense.
Hoyer had a rough debut for San Francisco, throwing for only 193 yards and committing the two turnovers.
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