By Curt Macysyn
The New York Giants (6-8) traded blows, literally and figuratively, with the undefeated Carolina Panthers (14-0) for 60 minutes at MetLife Stadium, once again to no avail. Outside of the final outcome, this week’s narrative was somewhat different than in previous losses.
Instead of blowing a lead, Big Blue came roaring back from a 35-7 third quarter deficit to tie the contest at 35-35 on an Eli Manning to Odell Beckham touchdown with 1:51 left in the game. But the G-men always save the worst for the last two minutes of the contest, and Cam Newton led his team on a 49-yard drive that culminated in Graham Gano’s 43-yard game-winning field to keep the Panthers undefeated in the 38-35 victory at the New Jersey Meadowlands.
All week, sports talk centered around the impending Odell Beckham – Josh Norman match-up, and it certainly did not disappoint in terms of its ferocity. In terms of playing within the rules, however, both Beckham and Norman will certainly be hearing from the league office this week. The sheer craziness of the Giants comeback and the Norman – Beckham clashes will likely take attention away from Cam Newton’s steady performance that included 340 passing yards, 100 rushing yards and five touchdown passes.
Two things were likely accomplished with the outcome: Cam Newton probably solidified his first MVP award and secondly, the Giants will probably spend a fourth straight post-season at home with the rest of the NFL also-rans.
The Giants offense was the most balanced that it has been all season, against a very good Panthers defense. Too much will be made of skirmishes between Josh Norman and Odell Beckham that will overshadow Rashad Jennings 107 yards rushing (6.7 yards per carry). Jennings did get stripped by Charles Tillman with 3:37 left in the first half, and the Panthers turned it into a touchdown, but it was the best rushing game of the season for the Giants, as Shane Vereen also had 29 yards on four carries (7.3 yards per carry).
While Beckham was occupied having his meltdowns, Eli Manning picked up the slack by utilizing Shane Vereen (eight catches, 1 TD), Rueben Randle (27 yard touchdown) and tight end Will Tye (five catches, 1 TD) effectively. The patchwork line kept Manning clean all afternoon, and putting up 35 points against the Panthers meant that the offense did its part.
Both Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara did not distinguish themselves against Ted Ginn (2 TDs), Corey Brown (1 TD), Jerricho Cotchery and Devin Funchess (1 TD) this week. DRC dropped a sure interception that changed the dynamic of the game at that point. Amukamara was unsteady all afternoon.
Cam Newton threw for 340 yards and five touchdown on his way to coronation to the league MVP award. Robert Ayers continues to be a force along the defensive line, as does Jason Pierre-Paul, but that duo does not have much company. In fact, the front four has been the strength of the defense lately, as the linebackers and defensive backs were erratic at best.
The play of the safeties was substandard again, and allowed tight end Greg Olsen to run free on a 37-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. Overall, the Giants gave up 480 total yards to the Panthers on Sunday, and that type of effort has unfortunately become commonplace.
Special Teams: B
Josh Brown was perfect on his five point after touchdown attempts, while Brad Wing twice did well to get down low snaps. Wing punted seven times for a 45.0 average. Special teams gave up a 36-yard punt return to Ginn, and Wing made the tackle along the right sidelines.
Beckham had a 21-yard punt return early in the fourth quarter, which led to Rashad Jennings’ touchdown run. Rodgers-Cromartie blocked a Graham Gano field goal attempt in the third quarter, but the Giants could not capitalize on the momentum and field position as Manning threw an interception in the end zone.
The troops played for coach Tom Coughlin, even after they trailed by 28-points against an undefeated opponent. Ben McAdoo dialed up some nice play calls, especially the 27-yard touchdown pass to Rueben Randle in the first quarter. There was a commitment to the running game this week, even after the team trailed, and the ground game actually jump started the ill-fated comeback.
What else can Steve Spagnuolo do? The personnel is not there to effectively compete with Cam Newton, especially when the big quarterback runs. Once again this week, there were far too many missed tackles. The leading tackler for the Panthers was Luke Kuechly with 15 total tackles on the afternoon, meanwhile the Giants have not invested a high draft pick in a linebacker in a generation.
The Giants visit the Minnesota Vikings (9-5) on Sunday Night Football next week with an 8:30 p.m. start time in Minneapolis. The Vikings are temporarily playing at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota until their new home field (U.S. Bank Stadium) is completed in time for the 2016 season.
The Giants dropped to 4-6 all time against the Panthers, including 23-0 playoff loss on Jan. 8, 2006 at Giants Stadium. These teams last met in regular season on Sept. 22, 2014, which resulted in a 38-0 Panthers victory in Charlotte, N.C.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past four seasons for Examiner.com, and he is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Born and raised in New Jersey, Curt attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, N.J. and is a graduate of Rutgers University – New Brunswick. Follow him on Twitter @CurtMac23 for the latest NFL and New York Giants news.