CHARLOTTE, N.C. — John Beck showed the mobility to keep plays alive and get the Redskins into the end zone. He just couldn't help his team keep up with Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in the second half.
Beck threw for 279 yards in his first start in four years in a 33-20 loss Sunday, including a TD run on a short keeper in the third quarter. But he couldn't lead the Redskins (3-3) to another touchdown until after the Panthers (2-5) had built a 17-point lead in the final period on the way to matching their win total for all of last year.
"It's hard to say, because winning is the only thing that matters," Beck said of his performance. "That's the only thing I wanted to do out there. I wasn't going out there trying to be too perfect; my ultimate goal was to walk away having won the game. This is obviously not the feeling we wanted to have."
Beck earned the starting job after Rex Grossman threw four interceptions in last week's ugly home loss to Philadelphia. It was his first start since December 2007 with the Miami Dolphins — he remains winless in all five career starts.
He had a late touchdown throw and interception after the Panthers had taken their big lead.
"I think John overall played very well the first time out," coach Mike Shanahan said. "He's always going to have some growing pains. That's the nature of the business when you just start playing, but I think you could see his athleticism, his quick release. It seems like he was poised in there throughout the game."
It didn't help that Beck lost top receiver Santana Moss and tailback Tim Hightower to injuries, either.
Moss broke a bone in his left hand in the first half and spent the rest of the half watching from the sideline with a bulky wrap on the hand. Hightower — who got the start and had run for 88 yards on 17 carries — hurt his left knee when it buckled on a carry in the third quarter. He was helped off the field and eventually carted to the locker room from the sideline. Shanahan said Moss will miss next week's game at Buffalo, while the severity of Hightower's injury is unclear.
For Carolina, Newton ran for a touchdown and threw for another in the second half, while Jonathan Stewart also ran for a third-quarter touchdown.
Newton threw for 256 yards and ran for 59 more. He ran for his seventh touchdown on a 16-yard keeper in the third quarter, tying a record for most TDs rushing by a rookie quarterback since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.
In the fourth, he had an easy touchdown toss to Brandon LaFell to blow the game open.
The past month had followed a familiar pattern for Newton and the Panthers: trail late in close games only and repeatedly fall short. Probably the worst moment came here two weeks ago, when the Panthers gave up the go-ahead touchdown to Drew Brees and the Saints with 50 seconds left in a loss that left Newton growing more frustrated by the day.
But this time, Newton got the chance to keep the pressure on the Redskins instead of trying to pull off his own desperate comeback. The No. 1 overall draft pick responded to that challenge, coolly leading Carolina to three straight touchdown drives after entering the second half with a 9-6 lead.
He completed 18 of 23 passes in an efficient performance, with Steve Smith hauling in seven for 143 yards. More importantly, Newton didn't commit a turnover after throwing three interceptions in last week's loss at Atlanta.6 comments on this story
It was clear how much Newton enjoyed finally getting his second win. When it was over, he ran to the front row of fans and gave high-fives on his way to the locker-room tunnel.
After Beck answered Newton's TD run with one of his own, Newton twice found Smith downfield on a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Stewart's 2-yard touchdown that pushed the lead to 23-13.
Then, after the Panthers forced a three-and-out, Newton found Smith downfield again with a perfectly thrown deep ball that Smith hauled in at the 1 for a 36-yard gain. Three plays later, Newton connected with LaFell to make it 30-13 with 8:13 left.
Notes: Newton's keeper tied the record set by Vince Young with Tennessee in 2006. He celebrated by giving the ball to a kid in the front row of the stands. ... Redskins linebacker London Fletcher left in the second half with a hamstring injury. ... Panthers kicker Olindo Mare had four field goals, including a 45-yarder just before halftime for the 9-6 lead. ... Carolina's 30-13 lead in the fourth was its biggest in any game since the end of the 2009 season.