For the second season in a row, a Giants team significantly depleted on offense has won a big game on the road.
On Nov. 6, 2011, they won at New England when two of their most productive offensive players – Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks, plus a starting lineman (David Baas) - were inactive with injuries.
They did it again Thursday night in Bank of America Stadium. Bradshaw (neck) and Nicks (foot) were again out of uniform. So was tackle David Diehl with a knee injury. Their third receiver, Domenik Hixon, didn't make the trip because of a concussion. And with rookie tight end Adrien Robinson inactive, the Giants had only 20 offensive players in uniform.
No problem. First-time NFL starters Andre Brown at running back and Ramses Barden at wide receiver had huge games and Lawrence Tynes kicked a career-high five field goals as the Giants defeated the Carolina Panthers, 36-7. The Giants improved to 2-1.
"The guys came in here with a short week after having played a tough ball game and a tough comeback win for us the week before," coach Tom Coughlin said. "We had spent a lot of time talking about the mental part of the game the week before and, this week it carried over for us. And we looked at this as a very positive experience coming in, playing on a Thursday night. We talked about being able to post that second win and then watching football over the weekend, and that's what will happen."
Brown sparkled in his home state with 113 rushing yards and two one-yard touchdown runs. Barden caught nine passes for 138 yards, a 15.3-yard average.
"(They were) outstanding," Coughlin said. "(Brown) stepped up. He saw it was a great opportunity. For Andre to be able to know that he was going to be able to play and not come into a situation thinking he was at best going to get a few attempts - that happened last week. But to prepare throughout the week knowing he was going to play - and play as well as he did - was outstanding. Ramses did an outstanding job himself. He caught the ball, made yards after the catch, he was a big target in there for Eli (Manning), and he ran good, precise routes. I thought his in-cuts were very sharp. He played well. He had been waiting for this kind of chance and he got it and played well with it."
Brown ran for 71 yards in last Sunday's victory over Tampa Bay. Before that game, he had two career carries for minus-1 yard. Barden entered the Carolina game with four-year totals of 16 catches for 198 yards.
"I had to go out there and put on a show for my hometown," Brown said. "I'm glad I responded. Everybody was saying it couldn't be done again, so I just went out there and I ran hard and made sure I picked up my pass protection and did everything I could in my power tonight to make it a win."
"The mantra of the whole week was the next man up," Barden said. "We had a lot of guys who went down where we had areas where people needed to step up and so many people did. Andre, Will (Hill), Jayron (Hosley), it was the complete team victory. I can't be more proud of everyone who was involved."
In addition to Brown's touchdowns, the Giants scored on Eli Manning's 24-yard touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett and Tynes' field goals – from 47, 49, 30 yards, 36 and 27 yards.
The Panthers, 1-2, got a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Cam Newton, who was intercepted three times. The Panthers rushed for only 60 yards, or 159 less than they did in their victory over New Orleans on Sunday. Although they recorded just two sacks, the Giants hit Newton early and often.
"I think it sets a huge tone," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "I think coming into this football game you want to take away at least one part of the option. Making sure that anytime we've got a shot to hit him we would take advantage of it. He knew that he was going to get hit all night, on a short week. That was part of it."
Tuck said the defensive players felt no extra pressure because the offense was so depleted.
"Just do our job, play our game and make sure that we come out here and be disciplined because that offense, if you're not disciplined, they can embarrass you," Tuck said. "It wasn't necessarily about picking up for our offense. We felt very comfortable in the fact that our offense was going to go out there and do what they did tonight anyway. We want to establish ourselves as the defense."
Brown's second touchdown upped the Giants' lead to 33-7 with 9:40 remaining in the game. The Giants took possession at the Carolina 48-yard line after Michael Boley picked off a Newton pass, his third interception in as many games.
The big play on the drive was a 12-yard pass to Bennett that turned into a 19-yard gain when Charles Godfrey was penalized for grabbing the receiver's facemask. That gave the Giants a first down at the Panthers' six-yard line. A five-yard pass to Brown set up the back's second short touchdown run.
Tynes completed the scoring when he kicked his fifth field goal with 1:09 remaining in the game. The Giants gained possession when rookie returned Joe Adams muffed a punt. The ball was recovered by Justin Tryon.
Tynes' fourth field goal increased the Giants' lead to 26-7 with 50 seconds remaining in the third quarter and concluded a 10-play, 63-yard drive.
Newton's touchdown, which was really a leap over the center of the line, got Carolina on the scoreboard with 6:25 remaining in the third quarter. The Panthers drove 80 yards in 13 plays following a Giants field goal. In the series, Newton completed passes of 17 yards to Steve Smith, 16 yards to Greg Olsen and 14 yards to Mike Tolbert. An 11-yarder to Olsen and DeAngelo Williams' eight-yard run gave the Panthers a first down at the Giants' one. Newton scored on his second rushing attempt up the middle.
The Giants led at halftime, 20-0, their largest advantage after two quarters since they led Dallas, 21-0 on Jan. 2, 2012.
The victors dominated the first half statistically, owning big advantages in total yards (303-125), passing yards (208-81) and first downs (17-7). Brown rushed for 96 yards and Barden caught eight passes in the half.
Tynes' 30-yard field goal just 2:11 into the third quarter extended the Giants' lead to 23-0. The Giants actually kicked off to start the half, but Spencer Paysinger forced a fumble by Adams and recovered the ball at the Panthers' 19-yard line. The Giants came up short of a first down, so Tynes came on to add to their point total.
Tynes' second-field goal, a 49-yarder with 3:13 left in the half, increased the Giants' lead to 20 points.
Before the kick, the Giants drove 57 yards in 10 plays, including Manning passes of 23 and 21 yards to Barden. But a third-down pass to Rueben Randle fell short, and Tynes came on to kick his second long field goal.
Brown's one-yard touchdown run had made the score 17-0 with 12:03 left in the quarter. On third-and-goal from the one, Brown took a handoff and powered his way into the end zone.
The score successfully concluded a nine-play, 72-yard drive that spanned the first and second quarters. The long plays were a 20-yard pass to Barden and Brown's 19-yard run. Manning's 14-yard throw to Barden gave the Giants a first-and-goal at the nine. Brown covered the rest of the territory, on runs of seven, one and one yards.
The Giants started the game with a hot hand on offense and led at the end of the first quarter, 10-0. Brown rushed for 77 yards on seven carries in the quarter.
After receiving the opening kickoff, the Giants marched 80 yards in eight plays, including Manning's 14-yard touchdown pass to Bennett just 3:22 into the game. It was Bennett's third touchdown in as many games – he had four in four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, all as a rookie in 2008.
The Giants' first snap resulted in a 12-yard pass to Victor Cruz. The big play on the drive was Brown's 31-yard run, which advanced the ball to the Carolina 22-yard line. After an eight-yard pass to Henry Hynoski, Manning found Bennett in the end zone for the touchdown.
"We really wanted to get off to a fast start," Manning said. "That's something that we have not been very good at over the past couple of years. We have not been good so far this year at going and getting a touchdown. It really set the tempo for the game. We ran the ball well, had some passes in the flats, had some third down conversions, and then hit Martellus for the touchdown."
The scored ended a streak of 10 consecutive games, including four in the postseason, in which they did not have a touchdown on their first offensive series. It was the Giants' first touchdown on their opening offensive possession since Dec. 4, 2011, when Travis Beckum took a short Manning pass and turned it into a 67-yard touchdown.
After forcing the Panthers to punt on their first series, the Giants drove 51 yards and added three points on Tynes' 47-yard field goal. The big play on the drive was Manning's 21-yard pass to Barden.