Giants' all-hands-on-deck approach overwhelms Panthers
Are the Giants still updating their depth chart each week, as required by NFL rule? And if so, what's the point?
They lost Brandon Jacobs out of their backfield in the offseason and starter Ahmad Bradshaw to injury last week, so they simply turned their run game over to Andre Brown, a player cut eight times by five different teams in his career. All Brown did Thursday night in the Giants' 36-7 whitewash of Carolina was rush for 113 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.
New York also said farewell to wide receiver Mario Manningham over the summer and had to roll without the services of injured starter Hakeem Nicks in Carolina. Big deal. Who needs those guys when you have Ramses Barden, he of the 16 career catches?
Not the Giants, apparently. Barden hauled in nine passes for 138 yards Thursday, matching and surpassing, respectively, his totals for the entire 2011 season.
Who's in the lineup? Who's out?
"Andre really stepped up when we needed him, and this week, the same right off the get-go," Eli Manning told the NFL Network after the game. "Ramses, he made a bunch of catches, made some big plays on high balls over the middle.
"He wanted an opportunity and he got it, and he stepped up."
The defending Super Bowl champs have discovered that magic formula for getting results, no matter who's in the lineup. Every NFL team wants to believe it has the depth and talent to survive whatever obstacles pop up during a season. Few actually possess that trait.
But everywhere you looked Thursday, the Giants were proving that they're in that elite group. Brown at running back, Barden at receiver, oft-injured Will Beatty stepping in on the offensive line with David Diehl injured (an addition-by-subtraction move, if you ask some Giants fans), Stevie Brown picking off a pass almost immediately after Antrel Rolle injured his knee Thursday ...
The list goes on and on.
The Jets stole all the headlines in New York this offseason, thanks to one Tim Tebow, despite the Giants coming off a Super Bowl win. That was just fine with Tom Coughlin's crew, which seems to do its best work when it's flying under the radar and facing some adversity.
They found that combination again following a Week 1 letdown against the Cowboys, and they've responded with a vengeance.
Thursday's win, as so many often do, started up front. Defensively, the Giants frustrated Cam Newton, led by the unblockable Jason Pierre-Paul, forcing Carolina's second-year superstar into a three-interception night. Just as in a Week 1 loss to Tampa Bay, Newton had nowhere to run against New York (six yards on six carries) and received little help from his run game or team's play calling.
Offensively, with Sean Lockler sliding to right tackle to take Diehl's place while Beatty stepped in on the left side, the Giants paved the way for Brown's big night. More importantly, they protected Eli Manning like the Royal Guard protects the Queen. By my count, Manning was hit twice on 36 drop-backs -- once in the first half on an incompletion, and once for a sack after halftime.
Or, that is, Carolina had a shot until the game started.
Manning and the Giants took the opening kickoff and marched down the field with surgical precision on an eight-play, 80-yard drive that culminated with Manning drilling one in for the resurgent Martellus Bennett.
Carolina, on the other hand, punted on its first three possessions. And the Giants answered each with a score -- two Lawrence Tynes field and the first of Brown's two TD runs.
"I was proud of the guys, we talked about getting a fast start," Manning said. "First drive, we got the ball and went 80 yards for a touchdown. That was a great start and we kept it going the whole game."
By the time halftime mercifully rolled around, the Giants had an insurmountable 20-0 lead, and it was 23-0 before the Panthers struck on a Newton TD keeper. New York came right back with 13 unanswered points to finish the game.
This was a setback for Newton's Panthers, there is no doubt about that. They now face a trip to Atlanta in Week 4 and the prospect of a season filled with potential spinning off into the guardrail before it gets revved up.
The Giants have their own Week 4 testing awaiting: a trip to Philadelphia on Sunday night to play the first place Eagles.
There's a decent chance the Giants will be an underdog in that one, simply by virtue of being away from home. That's just fine with them. No matter the opponent, no matter the circumstance and, certainly, no matter who is in the lineup, New York has shown it can endure. It will be a few days before Coughlin knows which injured players he'll have back for that game against the Eagles. As long as his team continues its next-man-up approach, it may not matter.