I feel like the Giants enjoy teasing their fans with mistake-filled games against inferior opponents followed by almost perfect games against stalwart opponents. Maybe it’s just the randomness of the NFL, but the team’s ability to look great one week and play terribly the next week is mildly infuriating.
Last night, the Giants shocked the league — this time in a good way — with a 36-7 pasting of the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte. The main story line going into the game was that the Giants were missing starting offensive players Ahmad Bradshaw, David Diehl and Hakeem Nicks, but none of that seemed to be a problem. Backup players Andre Brown and Ramses Barden had by far the best games of their respective careers and the offensive line was dominant throughout the night. Furthermore, the Giants handed in their most thorough defensive performance of the season.
The only thing that’s not to like is that New York probably won’t be able to play like this every week. Here’s the five most important takeaways from Thursday night’s romp.
David Wilson “gained” -2 yards rushing
Oops. There was one other thing not to like about New York’s win last night. Highly-touted rookie David Wilson, who looked fantastic in the preseason and training camp, only touched the ball twice and gained a total of one yard. With Wilson’s obvious speed and athleticism, and considering Ahmad Bradshaw was on the shelf with a neck injury, you had to figure he would see at least a share of the carries, but instead Thursday night was the Andre Brown show.
Brown, who upset incumbent D.J. Ware for a roster spot in August, ran 20 times for 113 yards and two touchdowns. He showed great power and patience and gave the Giants a legitimate running back for the first time in what has seemed like ages. I noted in my NFC East report on ProFootballRosters.com that Brown should see at least half the carries if Bradshaw comes back next week. If not, he’ll probably see all of them again. Also worth noting is that with the game out of reach, Tom Coughlin opted to give Da’Rel Scott garbage time carries instead of Wilson.
The Panthers only gained 3.0 yards per carry on the ground
Going into this game, I was afraid that the Giants would be shredded by Carolina’s read option attack, but those fears went unfounded. Last week against New Orleans, the Panthers rushed for 219 yards on 41 carries, but this week they struggled to get any consistency and plodded along for 60 yards on 20 carries. The defensive effort was made even more impressive by the fact that the Giants only had three days to prepare for Carolina, but that appeared to be enough.
New York showed great discipline in attacking the option. At a couple points, Newton seemed unsure if he wanted to hand the ball off or keep it, and this almost led to a pair of fumbles. Justin Tuck in particular was impressive, shutting down a couple of plays with solo tackles right at the line of scrimmage. While DeAngelo Williams broke loose once for a 16-yard gain and ended up with 50 yards rushing on 11 carries, Newton’s biggest gain for the night was a measly three yards long.
Ramses Barden had 96 more receiving yards than Victor Cruz
This might have been the most shocking stat of the night. I know Victor Cruz was very highly rated by a variety of fantasy services going into tonight’s game (and I agree with those ratings). Eli Manning loves throwing to Cruz anyway, so you’d have to figure that without Nicks in the lineup, there would be that many more targets for salsa boy.
That turned out to be incorrect, as Ramses Barden was open all night long and caught nine passes for 138 yards. Poor Victor Cruz had just 42 yards on six receptions, while Martellus Bennett caught a touchdown on the game’s opening drive (and now has one in every game this season). It certainly seemed like Carolina was overcompensating for Cruz. Either that, or Barden was running all of Nicks’ routes extremely well. It’s also possible that Manning decided he was just going to throw away from veteran corner Chris Gamble and toward the rookie Josh Norman.
Another fun fact is that after feasting on big plays last week, the Giants longest passing play last night was just 29 yards. They did a great job of moving the ball down the field over and over without many turnovers or penalties.
New York won the turnover battle 5-0
We always, always hear about how the team that wins the turnover battle wins the game. The Giants nearly lost last week to Tampa Bay because of costly turnovers, but this week, the turnovers seemed more like the result of a large deficit instead of the cause. Cam Newton’s first pick of the game didn’t come until the Giants were already leading 20-0. The Panthers were in Giants territory and trying to score before halftime. Carolina’s line endured a Giants blitz, and Newton found Brandon LaFell open for a possible first down, but he threw the ball behind LaFell, who could only tip the ball right to Jayron Hosley for the interception.
The next Newton interception didn’t come until his team was trailing 26-7 early in the fourth quarter. It was 3rd-and-22 and I’m going to give Newton the benefit of the doubt and say he probably would not have thrown that ball if the score was closer. Newton’s third interception came later in the fourth when the game was completely wrapped up, and the additional two Carolina turnovers were the fault of punt/kick returner Joe Adams, who is famous for running circles around the University of Tennessee football team last year.
Antrel Rolle and Corey Webster both left the game with injuries
Injuries in the secondary did not stop haunting the Giants just because of their good fortunes on the scoreboard. Webster broke his hand in the first half and later returned to play with a cast to save Giants fans from too much Justin Tryon. Rolle was hurt near the end of the fourth quarter when a Newton pass led tight end Greg Olson out of the corner of the endzone. Rolle was in hot pursuit, and he banged his knee in an attempt to leap over a cameraman.
Fortunately, the word on Rolle is that he only has a laceration or contusion and he should be fine. Webster is going to play through his injury as well. Meanwhile, Prince Amukamara played well in his return to action and Jayron Hosley looked much better than he did last week, so in general, the state of New York’s secondary is much improved from Week 2.
It should be a relaxing weekend for the Giants, who got their work done early and then some. Follow me @apy5000 for more fun stuff.