Dolphins 27, Panthers 17

MIAMI -- Chad Pennington threw well from the pocket and also from the flanker position.

The wildcat was back Saturday night, contributing to a strong showing by the Miami Dolphins' first-team offense in a 27-17 victory over Carolina.

The Dolphins (2-0) scored 10 points in Pennington's three series. He went 8 for 11 for 105 yards, throwing a 28-yard touchdown pass to Ronnie Brown and hitting Patrick Cobbs for a 35-yard gain out of the wildcat.

The Dolphins' variation of the single wing also produced 18 yards in four running plays, with running back Brown taking the snap each time. Coach Tony Sparano said the wildcat plays were identical to those his team last year.

"There are really no secrets there, but it's good homework for us -- a chance to see what people have been studying during their offseason, and how they want to defend this," Sparano said.

Carolina's starters scored for the first time in the exhibition season when DeAngelo Williams broke four tackles, including two behind the line of scrimmage, on a 25-yard touchdown run.

"Our first unit looked a little sharper," coach John Fox said. "We're not there yet, but I thought it was an improvement."

Carolina (0-2) committed only one turnover after having five in its opener, a loss to the New York Giants. But the Panthers did fumble four times and botched a snap on a field goal, and their run defense was soft for the second game in a row.

The Dolphins totaled 141 yards on the ground, and in the first half they averaged 5.2 yards per carry.

"We've got to work on everything," Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers said. "That's what the preseason is for."

Carolina middle linebacker Jon Beason left the game in the first quarter with a knee injury and said he was told it was just a sprain. He'll undergo tests Sunday.

"It's definitely not an ACL," he said.

Safety Charles Godfrey hurt his hand, Fox said. Receiver Muhsin Muhammad sat out because of a sore leg.

The wildcat rejuvenated the Dolphins last year, but they had kept it mostly under wraps in training camp before springing it on Carolina. The most elaborate play from the formation was a double handoff and pass, with Pennington coming off the flank to throw deep to a wide-open Cobbs.

That led to a field goal.

"The wildcat went well," Pennington said. "Anything we can do to get an edge, I'm all for it."

The Dolphins drove 60 yards on their first possession and scored on Pennington's pass to Brown, who caught the ball at the 15 and juked past a defender.

Brown also carried seven times for 31 yards, and Ricky Williams carried three times for 21 yards, all in the opening half.

"We made some strides," Brown said. "We're going in the right direction."

The Panthers' first team converted two third-and-long situations on a 70-yard drive that ended with Williams' touchdown. That was Carolina's only score in three series with Jake Delhomme, who finished 5 for 7 for 47 yards.

"We did better things tonight," Delhomme said. "It's a process, but we're doing all right."

Decori Birmingham scored on a 2-yard run for the Panthers after they recovered a fumble on a punt return. Carolina rookie Captain Munnerlyn had a 58-yard punt return but fumbled on a later runback.

Miami's Lex Hilliard scored on a 39-yard run, and backup quarterback Chad Henne threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Joe Kowalewski.

Dolphins first-round draft pick Vontae Davis, who had a rough opening game, showed his run-stopping ability and made three tackles on the flank.

"I just feel great about my play," Davis said. "I'm just trying to help the team the best way I can."

Davis started in place of fellow rookie Sean Smith, scratched after coming down with flulike symptoms. Reserve defensive back Jason Allen sat out for the same reason.


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