CHARLOTTE – The Carolina Panthers answered a lot of questions with their 38-0 shellacking of the visiting New York Giants. Namely, would Ron Rivera still be the head coach following next week’s by? Simply put, of course he will. Early in the game, a source within the organization said even if the Panthers had lost to the Giants, Rivera would not be replaced during the season.
But, getting the team’s first shutout since 2008 certainly erased those rumors.
It was the largest margin of victory in the Panthers’ 19-year history. It also was the Giants’ worst loss under head coach Tom Coughlin.
Offensively for the Panthers, Cam Newton threw touchdown passes of 16 and 20 yards to Brandon LaFell, and completed a 47-yard pass to the speedster, Ted Ginn, for the Panthers’ final score. DeAngelo Williams rushed for 120 yards on 23 carries.
The defense was outstanding…or maybe it was just simply the ineptitude of the Giants’ offense making the Panthers look so good. An emotional Rivera nearly came to tears twice during the post-game presser. “This makes life easier. The last two weeks have been tough.”
The Panthers’ front four were led by defensive end Greg Hardy, who had three sacks in the first half alone. He repeatedly beat Giants left tackle Will Beatty to put pressure on Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning.
The convincing win brings the Panthers record to 1-2 and drops the Giants to 0-3. The Panthers defense came into the game a beat-up group. The secondary was decimated, with just one starter playing. But they helped themselves out a lot today. Given the chance, this motley crew came through with three takeaways. Undrafted rookies Robert Lester and Melvin White accounted for all three.
The Panthers’ defensive front line sacked Manning seven times, which tied a franchise mark set six previous times, most recently in a loss last season in Atlanta.
What I liked about this game:
· The way Rivera finally opened up offensively. He went for it on an early fourth-and-one from the Giants’ 2-yard line. Fullback Mike Tolbert scored standing up and began the rout.
· Cam Newton looked like the Cam from the last six games of the 2012 season. Following an early interception, he ran the ball effectively, when needed, and threw three touchdown passes.
· Brandon LaFell finally looking like the receiver the Panthers thought he could be. Two touchdown receptions and he made a tackle at the Carolina 17-yard line following an interception thrown by Newton. His tackle allowed the Panthers defense back on the field where they stuck it to the Giants, not allowing any points.
HERE’S WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:
Panthers’ offensive tackle Jordan Gross on the impact of this win: “It’s huge on a lot of different levels. It might silence a little bit of the murmurs about our organization, give our players a ton of confidence, and lend validity to what we’ve been doing. To be able to come out and get a 38-point win against the Giants, who did almost the exact opposite to us last year, really means a lot.”
“I was so nervous before this game,” Gross said. “I was as nervous as I’ve been in years. I knew how much this game meant and how bad I wanted the guys in the locker room to feel a victory.”
Gross talked about the play that everyone thinks changed the perception of the Panthers. Fourth-and-one from the 2 yard line, and Rivera went for it, in a scoreless tie: “That was huge. Very symbolic. That’s been criticized for seven days now (since Rivera didn’t go for a fourth-and-1 in a loss to Buffalo). … So on the sideline afterward I told (center Ryan) Kalil, ‘Dude, that was awesome! We got that on fourth and 1!’ And Kalil says, ‘It was fourth and 1? I thought it was third and one!’”
Panthers’ linebacker Chase Blackburn (a former Giant) on the defensive effort Sunday: We’ve got a great front four. In my career, I have been a part of some great defensive lines. To have those guys hunt (the quarterback), especially when we stop the run and make them one-dimensional, is a great feeling.”
Panthers’ wide receiver Steve Smith talking about Cam Newton: “He was the better quarterback out there. That’s all we need. That’s all we ask. We just need him to be Cam Newton.”
Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton on the win: “A win like this boosts our ego, but not in a negative way. It just gives us that swagger we will need.”
Panthers’ head coach Ron Rivera on the win: “You look at our guys and some of the things they do and the fact that they really want to win. And to win games like this, it’s because they deserve that opportunity. These guys have gone through a lot in the last three seasons, and I think to win a game like this, especially a team coached by Tom Coughlin, says something about who they are. And these guys have persevered, and hopefully this is the catalyst for us to get rolling.”
Giants head coach Tom Coughlin on the Panthers’ defense and one big reason his team lost: “I’ll bet the quarterback got hit 20 times today.”
The Panthers have a bye week coming up and will next play at Arizona on October 6.