Giants D makes statement in 31-8 win over PanthersBy TOM CANAVAN, AP Sports Writer Monday, Sep 13, 2010
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—The New York Giants opened their new stadium with a trademark from the past—a big-play defense.
The much-maligned unit from a year ago forced five turnovers, shut down Carolina’s vaunted running game and pitched a second-half shutout in helping New York open the $1.6 billion New Meadowlands Stadium with a 31-18 victory over the Panthers on Sunday.
“That is what this defense is all about—making big plays,” defensive tackle Barry Cofield said after the Giants made amends against a team that ran them off the field in their final game at Giants Stadium. “Big plays can cure a lot of other evils.”
The Giants needed their defense to step up in the season opener, particularly in the first half when Eli Manning threw two of his three interceptions and Carolina got some great field position with excellent punt and kickoff returns.
The bottom line, however, was the Giants only trailed 16-14.
Safety Deon Grant short-circuited one drive with one of New York’s three interceptions of Matt Moore in the end zone. Safety Kenny Phillips’ one-hand tackle on DeAngelo Williams also saved a touchdown and forced one of three John Kasay field goals. The only real negative was a late TD pass from Moore to Steve Smith with :03 left in the first half.
“We did a good job not letting the mistakes and penalties get us down,” said Manning, who threw touchdown passes of 26, 19 and 5 yards to Hakeem Nicks. “Our defense bailed us out early and late when we turned the ball over. They did a great job of holding Carolina to field goals.”
In the embarrassing 41-9 loss to Carolina on Dec. 27, the Panthers scored on six of their first seven possessions, while getting a career-best 206 yards from Jonathan Stewart.
It led to the firing of defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan and the hiring of former Bills interim coach Perry Fewell, who has brought a swagger back to the defense.
“Oh, it’s back,” said Mathias Kiwanuka, who alternated between end and linebacker in recording two of the Giants’ four sacks. “It’s been back. The linebackers have it, the DBs have always had it and the offense definitely bring their own brand of swagger, but as long as we show up and give a great performance, we’ll have it every week.”
The key for the Giants was limiting the Panthers to 89 yards rushing. It forced Moore to throw 33 times and he paid a price in the second half, taking several hits before being knocked out of the game with a concussion after a late sack by Osi Umenyiora.
“Last year, in the last five games, I think that team averaged about 190 (rushing yards) or something like that, so holding them to 89 today really took them out of what they wanted to do offensively,” defensive end Justin Tuck said. “That’s huge. I don’t care, that’s a step.”
The Giants outscored the Panthers 17-2 in the second half with Ahmad Bradshaw setting up his own game-clinching 4-yard TD run with a 39-yard run. New York outgained the Panthers 196-72 in the last two periods of a sloppy game marred by nine turnovers and 16 penalties.
Cornerback Terrell Thomas and Phillips protected the lead with fourth-quarter picks in the end zone on Moore, who finished 14 of 33 for 182 yards.
“They did a good job,” said Williams, who had 62 yards on 16 carries. “Like I said, I can’t discredit them, but we left some plays out on the field today and they took advantage of them. They made more plays than we did. We were very inconsistent and we have to go back to the drawing board and get better.”
The game had a paid crowd of 77,245, which is roughly 5,000 less than capacity. However, it was considered a sellout because the obvious empty seats were in the club section, which does not count under league blackout rules.
Empty seats were a rarity in the old Giants Stadium, which served as the team’s home from 1976-2009.
“That’s the way you want to do it in a brand new stadium,” said Manning, who finished 20 of 30 for 263 yards. “With the crowd here, you want to go out there and play well. To start 1-and-0 in a brand new stadium was very important to us to get a win.”
For Nicks, the performance was a bit of redemption. Manning’s first interception went off his hands.
“We’ll learn from what we did wrong and capitalize on it next week,” said Nicks, who finished with four catches for 75 yards.