Rookie QB Watson shines in Texans' preseason loss to Panthers

The cheers were even louder when Deshaun Watson outran two defenders for a 15-yard touchdown — although Panthers fans tried to cover the celebration with boos.

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson runs against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of their NFL preseason game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, on August 9, 2017.

Deshaun Watson starred in his National Football League preseason debut, completing 15 of 25 passes for 179 yards and running for a score, but couldn't prevent his Houston Texans from losing 17-27 to the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday.

Watson, who led Clemson to the ACC championship on this field last December en route to the United States collegiate national championship, received a rousing ovation from Tigers fans dressed in orange when he entered the game in the second quarter.

It was the opening NFL preseason game and the only one on Wednesday.

The cheers were even louder when Watson outran two defenders for a 15-yard touchdown — although Panthers fans tried to cover the celebration with boos.

Houston's first-round draft pick looked comfortable in the pocket, stepping up to avoid pressure and getting rid of the football in a timely manner. He didn't let penalties on his team affect him and didn't turn the ball over in nearly three quarters of play.

Tom Savage went three-and-out on his first two possessions against Carolina's first-team defense. Savage had better luck with Carolina's starters out of the game, completing 8 of 8 passes for 67 yards on his final drive capped by a 16-yard TD run by Alfred Blue.

But it was a strong showing for Carolina's defensive starters.

"We put ourselves in good third down situations and we were able to execute and get off the field," Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis said. "Overall, the first half, the ones definitely had a good showing."

Panthers veteran backup Derek Anderson looked sharp starting in place of Cam Newton, who's still resting a sore right shoulder.

Anderson completed 4 of 5 passes for 76 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin to finish with a perfect 158.3 QB rating.

Benjamin, who reported to training camp in good shape after being overweight in the spring, made a leaping grab in the corner of the end zone to give Carolina the early 7-0 lead.

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