Whether it’s the 16-0 record the Carolina Panthers care about or simply making sure they have home field advantage in the playoffs for two games, they’re not losing or letting anything slip away from them, even if they almost did against the New York Giants.
For almost three quarters everything was working perfectly for the Panthers, taking a 35-7 lead in New York with Cam Newton throwing five touchdown passes. Josh Norman and the rest of the secondary took Odell Beckham Jr. out of the game and made him lose his mind, Eli Manning looked exactly like his critics usually describe him as and basically, this was headed towards an easy finish for the Panthers, on their way to 15-0.
But Manning and the Giants are a weird team. They have terrible defense with no pass rush, safeties and linebackers. Their running game goes missing half the time, and Beckham was should have been benched by Tom Coughlin or thrown out of the game by the officials. The Giants nearly set a new NFL record for biggest comeback in an NFL game by taking this to overtime and winning it there, as Beckham walked over Norman as he tied the game with a 14-yard touchdown.
But Cam Newton was on the sidelines, looking the same way he did in the win over the New Orleans Saints two weeks ago. ‘I got this’ was probably the thing going through his mind. If he shredded the Giants defense in the first half, why should it be a problem with the game on the line and 1:46 on the clock? Often, it’s hard for teams to turn it on and turn it off and then turn it on again within 60 minutes of football, but Newton and the team he’s surrounded with make it possible.
So the Giants, like in almost all of their eight losses this season, had nothing going for them on defense to slow down the Panthers. Newton did all the right things in the right time, leaving Graham Gano with a 43-yard field goal to hit and win the game with no time left on the clock. The Panthers, now 14-0, are one game from making sure the Cardinals don’t take them, and two games from perfection, although that debate can wait another week. The Giants? They’re on the verge of missing the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year, despite being the best team in the division.