Ramses Barden and Andre Brown, remember the names. There was also Eli Manning, obviously, in a very efficient performance at quarterback, but it was the unknown substitute that stood out in the 36-7 win over the Carolina Panthers, who were favorites coming into the game.
Every big game and win for the New York Giants begins with what the defensive line did. Jason Pierre-Paul and his unit simply left Cam Newton no option but to give up on his running game and try to win the game with his arm alone. He finished with 242 yards, no touchdowns and three intercepted passes. He ran for six yards on six carries, scoring the only points Carolina put on the board all night.
Not having Jonathan Stewart was another problem, but the Giants in general handled the Panthers running game very well, keeping them at only 60 yards on 20 rushing attempts. Down 23-0 early in the third quarter, there wasn’t much use in trying to run anyway.
The Giants’ offensive line did an excellent job despite having Will Beatty step in for the injured David Diehl, although that might actually be an improvement, no matter what the depth charts say. Manning dropped back 36 times and was sacked only once, hardly feeling pressure all night. The Panthers aren’t exactly a fantastic blitzing team, but their secondary couldn’t handle the pressure as well.
Manning completed 27 of 35 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown. His first drive was 80 yards down the field and a touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett. The Panthers punted their first three possessions, while the Giants scored on their first three, not to mention the turnovers, as returner Joe Adams lost two fumbles. With everything clicking for them, while the Panthers made every possible mistake, there wasn’t much of a mystery about the outcome very early on.
Even when the pressure was on, Manning was 7-8 with 74 yards and a touchdown when facing five or more pass rushers. It was just the opposite for Newton, who went 5-10 for 83 yards and two interceptions when the Giants brought added pressure towards him.
Andre Brown stepped in and did an excellent job for a second straight week, going for 113 yards on 20 carries. Bradshaw didn’t play, and the Giants didn’t miss a beat. Rookie David Wilson out of Virginia Tech got to run only one time, as it seems his confidence is shattered more and more with every passing week. The most impressive thing about Brown was his ability to stay up after contact, finishing the game with 71 yards after getting touched/hit for the first time.
Another new name to come out of the depth chart was Ramses Barden, who caught nine passes for 138 yards, Manning’s favorite target through the night, especially for the big plays. Barden matches his reception total from the entire 2011 season in one game.
And there you have it – a team that just keeps throwing in players into a system that makes them preform. Injuries mean less and less when there’s someone to fill in, while Eli Manning is turning into a better, more responsible quarterback with every passing season and week. For the first time in his career, he’s the best quarterback in the family. The Giants didn’t get the coverage the Jets did during the offseason, but there’s no doubt who’s the better team.