Charlotte, NC – Just when the Carolina Panthers had a great opportunity to make a statement – on prime time – they flopped. Just when they had a chance to come out and show the defending Super Bowl champs what they were made of, they flopped. The New York Giants crushed the Panthers 36 – 7 before 73,951 at Bank of America Stadium in a game that was not that close.
Thursday night’s game began just like the first two Panthers games – with the opposing team driving 80 yards for a touchdown. But this time, the Giants did not let off the gas. Playing several starters short, this one was ripe for the picking (for Carolina), but the G-Men showed what they usually do – they play their best football when their back is against the wall.
“I was proud of the guys, we talked about getting a fast start,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. “First drive, we got the ball and went 80 yards for a touchdown. That was a great start and we kept it going the whole game.”
Andre Brown really did a number on the Panthers. “Andre really stepped up when we needed him, and this week, the same right off the get-go,” Manning said. “Ramses (Barden), he made a bunch of catches, made some big plays on high balls over the middle. He wanted an opportunity and he got it, and he stepped up.”
Barden finished with nine receptions for a game-high 138 yards. Backup running back Brown ate up 113 yards, slashing the Panthers’ defense for gains of 31, 16, 19 and 14 yards throughout the game. Imagine what the Giants would have done with their first-teamers.
Coming off a short week, the home team usually has the advantage. The Panthers were favored in this one, and deservedly so. After a huge win against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, the Panthers apparently forgot how to tackle. And how to get pressure on the opposition’s quarterback. Manning, the two-time Super Bowl MVP, picked apart the Panthers for 288 passing yards.
With the Giants missing their starting running back, offensive tackle and star wide receiver to injuries, you’d think Carolina’s defensive front four would have had an easier time handling the Giants offense. “We lost focus,” Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy said. “It got away from us and we didn’t punch them back. They came out and did what we expected them to do. They played a high level of football and we couldn’t come back. We had no counter.
“The defense came out slow. The offense didn’t come out swinging and they took advantage of it like a good team’s supposed to do.”
Coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers are still young on both sides of the ball. The average age of a Panthers’ player is 24 with four years of NFL experience – both of which are below the NFL averages – and the team still has trouble figuring out how to fight back for a win.
“When you get smacked in the face, you have to get ready to turn around and throw a punch back,” Rivera said. “And at times we don’t know how. We have to learn.”
Usually reliable linebackers Jon Beason and Luke Kuechly missed makeable plays. Rookie cornerback Josh Norman was targeted early and often by Manning…and it paid off. He was repeatedly burned. The linemen were not effective, other than defensive end Charles Johnson…but he was only able to get pressure early in the game. Hardy struggled to beat his man off the line and Ron Edwards was a non-factor.
Hardy talked about why Manning had his way with the defense: “Slow start. Slow middle. Slow finish. We weren’t ourselves today. They (Giants’ offensive line) came out, they protected him (Manning), he got the ball out fast,” Hardy said. “That’s their MO and we just didn’t respond at all.”
“This is NFL football, so the next guy can be just as productive as the first guy,” Hardy said. “Anybody can kill you, you just got to come out and play.”
Kuechly, playing in just his third pro game, understands the team’s situation saying, “We’ve got to play consistently. You can’t get too high for one game and not come back with the same energy the next.”
“Even more than the size of the holes, it was the fact that we weren’t wrapping up and tackling when we got our hands on them,” backup defensive end Thomas Keiser said. “That’s where we bled yardage.”
When they were not scoring touchdowns, Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes was killing the Cats. He had five field goals on the night, improving on the four he had Sunday against Tampa Bay.
Offensively, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was ineffective. His quarterback rating was 40.6, compared to Manning’s 110.2. His favorite target Thursday night was tight end Greg Olsen, who had 98 receiving yards, his high as a Panther. Newton, by the way, has never won a game in which he throws an interception. He is now 0-11 throwing an interception in 19 starts.
Newton talked about what the fans should think after this embarrassing loss. “Who wants to support something that puts on a performance of embarrassment. That’s what that was tonight.”
“We didn’t want their offense to have the ball,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after the game. “We held the ball a long time in the first half. We came in knowing we had a lot to defend. It wasn’t a physical week, it was a mental week.”
The Giants plan to slow Newton down was simple. “We got a couple of licks on him. That was not what happened the week before. You saw when he had time to throw the velocity he has on that ball.”
“We got beat by a better football team,” coach Rivera said. “They outcoached us and outplayed us. That’s the bottom line.”