The New York Giants got an all-time passing performance from Eli Manning to come out on top last week. With Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers up next, it’s possible that the Giants will need another spectacular game from their star quarterback Thursday night.
The high-profile matchup of QBs with contrasting styles will be on display when the Giants visit the Panthers in a meeting of teams coming off their first wins of the season.
Manning overcame a brutal first half in which he threw three interceptions to finish with 510 yards and three touchdowns Sunday, leading New York to a thrilling 41-34 victory over Tampa Bay. His yardage total was the eighth highest in NFL history, and he passed for 243 in the fourth quarter.
“Nobody wants to start 0-2, so it was a big win, especially after the first half playing poorly,” Manning said.
Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz had 199 and 179 yards receiving, respectively, as the Giants (1-1) did enough to overcome Manning’s dismal first 30 minutes. The stellar performance also allowed New York to prevail despite another rough day for its secondary, which Josh Freeman victimized for 243 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 completions.
Those coverage issues could prove fatal against Newton, who passed for 253 yards and ran for 71 with two total touchdowns in Carolina’s 35-27 victory over New Orleans last week.
The Panthers (1-1) kept the Saints off balance by employing a mix of runs and passes for the athletic Newton - a problem Carolina won’t have to worry about against Manning, a classic drop-back passer.
“You do read option, read option, read option and then get them to play seven or eight in the box and you’ve got so many variations of plays and passes you can run off that,” Newton said.
For the Giants, the challenge will be maintaining tight coverage when Newton scrambles to buy time for his receivers, and they’re hoping their powerful pass rush helps to contain him as well. Newton has been sacked four times in two games.
New York’s struggling defensive backs, though, have been unable to prevent opposing receivers from having big games, with Vincent Jackson racking up 128 yards and a touchdown on five catches last week. Next up is the Panthers’ Steve Smith, who had 104 yards on just three catches versus New Orleans after a 106-yard effort against Tampa Bay in the opener.
While Newton and Smith could present a headache for New York’s defenders, the Panthers will surely be looking to add to Manning’s interception total after picking off Drew Brees twice. The Giants quarterback won’t have one of his top targets to throw to as Nicks - the NFC offensive player of the week - won’t play due to a foot injury.
With third receiver Domenik Hixon also out, Cruz will likely get plenty of extra attention from the Carolina secondary.
Both the Panthers and Giants may try to rely more heavily on their running games after turning in better efforts in Week 2. Carolina rolled up 219 yards on the ground after being limited to 10 by the Bucs in Week 1, with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combining for 120 to go with Newton’s 71.
The Giants rushed for 94 yards against that Bucs defense and got a surprising performance from unheralded backup Andre Brown, who used his bruising style to run for 71 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries after starter Ahmad Bradshaw suffered a neck injury in the first half.
With Bradshaw ruled out for Thursday, Brown could make his first career start, which would come against a Carolina team that’s given up 146.5 yards per game on the ground in the first two.
“I just needed a shot and took advantage of my shot (Sunday),” Brown told the team’s official website. ” … I’m going to continue to work hard and continue to go out here and do whatever coach wants me to do and be ready whenever my number is called.”
It remains to be seen how both teams respond to the quick turnaround from Sunday.
“It’s tough for the players and the coaches, but it’s all part of it,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. “We’ve got to be able to develop a feel and have a good understanding of what (the Giants) want to do and when they want to do it.”
The Giants and Panthers have split six regular-season meetings, with New York winning three of the last four. The last matchup was Sept. 12, 2010, a 31-18 Giants home victory in which Manning threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns but was also picked off three times.
The previous three meetings have been in New Jersey. The Giants took the last game at Charlotte 27-13 on Dec. 10, 2006, behind three TD passes from Manning.