Halftime report: Panthers vs. Patriots

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Observations from the first half between the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots:

No fluke: Carolina proved its 10-9 victory at San Francisco was no fluke, taking a 10-3 lead into halftime.

Ball control: After a rough first series, quarterback Cam Newton looked sharp in driving the Panthers 90 yards on nine plays, capped by a 9-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell that ate 5:03 off the clock. He followed that with a 12-play drive for a field goal that took up 6:01. The formula one would expect from the team that leads the NFL in time of possession. Ironically, New England held a 16:12 lead to 13:48 for the half.

DWTS: The most entertaining matchup was between New England cornerback Aqib Talib and Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith. Smith won this battle early. Talib had a personal foul to keep the touchdown drive alive and a hold to keep the field goal drive alive. In between they looked like they were auditioning for Dancing With The Stars. At some point Smith hurt his chest, but his return is probable.

Newton vs. Brady: Newton more than held his own. In fact, statistically he had a passer rating of 112.2 to Tom Brady's 96.8. But Brady completed 82 percent of his passes to 58 for Newton. Both were sacked twice.

Coin toss: Carolina had won eight consecutive coin tosses, deferring the kickoff to the second half on seven straight. New England ended that streak and deferred, so the first drive of the second half could be key for a Panthers team used to getting off to quick second-half start during their five-game winning streak.