CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Cam Newton joked with Stephen Curry before Sunday's game, telling the NBA star "I'm just trying to be like you, man."
Newton certainly played like an MVP on Sunday.
The fifth-year quarterback threw for 195 yards and two touchdowns and, like his buddy Curry, showed a flair for the dramatic by somersaulting into the end zone on a quarterback draw to lead the Carolina Panthers to a 24-17 victory over the Houston Texans.
Curry, a Charlotte native and loyal Panthers fan, was at the game to hit the "Keep Pounding" drum before the team's home opener wearing a No. 30 Panthers jersey.
Newton seemed to feed off that energy.
He threw TD passes of 25 yards to Ted Ginn Jr. and 36 yards to Philly Brown and ran for 76 yards, including his highlight reel 2-yard TD run to give Carolina the lead for good at 17-10 late in the third quarter.
The go-ahead score came after Garrett Graham tied the game at 10 with a one-handed, 7-yard touchdown grab in the back of the end zone from Ryan Mallett.
On a first-and-goal from the 2, Newton took a step back before racing through an open hole in the line and sizing up defensive back Rahim Moore. Joking that he was deprived of a trampoline by his parents as a child, Newton decided the best way into the end zone was to somersault over Moore rather than try to take on the contact and run him over.
"My heart was in my socks," Newton said. "As I was flipping I was like, hey, I don't know how this is going to end."
Newton nearly landed on his feet, but was knocked down by defensive lineman Jared Crick. He stumbled for minute, then got to his feet and celebrated the score, ending it with his Superman impersonation by pretending to tear open his shirt.
"I didn't stick it, but I think I still got a high rating from the judge," Newton joked of the landing.
"I hit him too far up top. I wasn't sure if he was going to try and shake me or what," Moore said.
While the play will surely be shown repeatedly on highlight reels this week, teammates say it is par for the course when it comes to Newton.
"Stuff like that scares you, but he's an amazing athlete and he can pull that off," Brown said.
Tight end Greg Olsen joked that's exactly how the Panthers drew the play up.
"He's a special guy and we have seen him do stuff like that around here for a long time," Olsen said.
Mallett, starting in place of the benched Brian Hoyer, started slow and threw for 244 yards and a touchdown and ran for a 6-yard TD.
Texans coach Bill O'Brien didn't seem overly concerned about his team's 0-2 start.
"We're a resilient team," O'Brien said. "I don't think we're anywhere where we need to be, but we're tough. We've got to stop digging ourselves into these holes."
The Texans trailed 10-3 at the half after being held to 93 yards and six first downs against a Carolina defense playing without top defender Luke Kuechly, who sat out with a concussion.
But it was Kuechly's replacement, A.J. Klein, who came up with the big defensive play for Carolina with his team up 17-10.
Klein intercepted Mallett early in the fourth quarter and Newton cashed in with a prefect strike to Brown, who outleaped Jonathan Joseph on a post route for the 24-10 lead. Brown had struggled in the preseason with dropped passes, but has been perfect so far during the regular season.
Mallett would run for a TD on fourth-and-4 cut the lead to 24-17 with 6:31 remaining.
The Texans had one last chance to tie the game after Crick blocked Graham Gano's 53-yard goal, but Mallet's pass on fourth-and-16 from the Carolina 20 sailed out of the end zone in the closing seconds.
"There are obviously plays I could have made that I didn't," Mallett said.
NOTES: Watt had five tackles, one sack, two quarterback hurries and two tipped passes for the Texans. ... The Panthers averaged 5.2 yards per carry.