East Rutherford, N.J. - Odell Beckham Jr. is fun to watch, sure, but the Giants knew they needed a balanced effort on Monday night to stay alive in the playoff hunt.
They got just that as Eli Manning completed passes to eight different targets: Beckham, Rueben Randle, Dwayne Harris, Will Tye, Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, Orleans Darkwa, and Hakeem Nicks. The result was the most accurate passing performance by a Giants quarterback in regular-season history. More importantly, the Giants won and will need more of the same to keep it up with three games remaining.
"I think we move pretty well offensively once we do do that," Randle said. "It's pretty much at will because everyone is getting involved and everyone's in the groove and getting confident within the offense and just going out there and putting points on the board."
"I think all the guys, all the receivers, tight ends, running backs, everybody played well," said Manning who was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week. "I think we're at our best when we spread the ball around and everybody is in the mix and I'm just going through my progressions and my reads. Guys were getting open, a lot of times first or second guys were getting open on the reads and that's good, that's what we need to do. Finally got a couple plays where we got the coverage we wanted and had Odell running the routes, we were able to hit a couple big ones."
After previously having just three receptions since the bye week, Randle was targeted six times and caught five passes for 58 yards in Miami. That included one of Manning's four touchdowns on a six-yard pass early in the second quarter.
"We've just got to take it in strides, game by game, make sure we get better, kind of just grow each and every week," Randle said. "That's our main focus and making sure we don't take any steps backwards."
That plan will be put to the test against the undefeated Panthers, who allow just 6.0 yards per pass while opposing quarterbacks have an average passer rating of 69.6. Both marks are No. 1 in the NFL.
"It's going to be a challenge for us," Randle said. "And I think we're all ready to accept it and just see where we stand offensively this week."
Spreading the ball around against Carolina's top-flight defense was just one of the many storylines surrounding the Giants on Wednesday at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Here are three takeaways from the day:
1) GIANTS TO USE THREE SAFETIES, RELEASE MERIWEATHER
The Giants today released veteran safety Brandon Meriweather, who signed with the Giants in the middle of the preseason. Meriweather started 11 games and had two interceptions before missing the last two weeks with a knee injury. That leaves the Giants with three safeties: rookie Landon Collins, Craig Dahl, and Cooper Taylor. All three saw extensive action in last week's game in Miami.
"We're going to play three safeties," coach Tom Coughlin said earlier in the day. "[Taylor is] going to get his opportunity to play. You have guys that are involved in special teams as well. When it comes time for them to have a blow, they get a blow. And if it's working out, they may take an extra drive. But they're all three going to play."
2) INJURY REPORT
For the Giants, LB Devon Kennard (foot/hamstring), DT Markus Kuhn (knee), and DE George Selvie (concussion) did not participate in practice. LT Ereck Flowers (ankle) was limited.
Earlier in the day, Coughlin said Kennard will not play, thus missing his third consecutive game and fifth overall this season. As for Flowers, there is "hope" that he plays despite the quick turnaround coming off the Monday night game.
For the Panthers, DE Jared Allen (not injury related), WR Brenton Bersin (groin), WR Jerricho Cotchery (not injury related), LB Thomas Davis (not injury related), DT Dwan Edwards (not injury related), WR Ted Ginn Jr. (not injury related), S Roman Harper (not injury related), S Colin Jones (groin), C Ryan Kalil (not injury related), LB David Mayo (hamstring), TE Greg Olsen (knee), and RB Jonathan Stewart (foot) did not practice. CB Charles Tillman (knee) was full-go.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera ruled Stewart, the league's third-leading rusher, out of Sunday's game.
"Very cautious, he got the MRI Monday afternoon, and it came back negative," Rivera told Carolina reporters. "But there was some swelling and stuff, so we're going to be smart."
3) SCHEME, NOT RECORD, DICTATES PREPARATION FOR PERFECT PANTHERS
The 13-0 Panthers are playing good football, period. Whether or not that translated to them being perfect with three games to play doesn't really matter to Manning and the Giants. Their preparation won't change.
"No, it doesn't change preparation," Manning said. "A lot of times, you don't look at the record. Obviously, you know what their record is, but you look at the scheme. So we're looking at their scheme, their players, their personnel, what they like to do in certain situations and the best way for us to attack it."
The Giants have a history of rising up against undefeated teams in the Coughlin and Manning era.
"I don't think there's anything about our preparation that's different," Coughlin added. "It's obviously the excitement about being involved in a game against a team of this ability and the natural competitive instincts that I would hope everyone at this level has in terms of playing against someone such as this and putting your best foot forward."