Carolina Panthers: Keys to Victory Against the New York Giants
Tonight marks the first primetime game the Carolina Panthers have played in almost two years. It also marks the first time star quarterback Cam Newton has played under the bright lights of Bank of America stadium.
The last primetime game the team played was in December of 2010, where the Steelers handed them a sound 27-3 thrashing.
Eli Manning is coming off a career-high 510 yards passing last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Two elite quarterbacks and the whole nation watching should make for a pretty high flying showdown.
Here are some keys to the game if the Panthers want to send the defending Super Bowl champions back to New York with a loss.
After a miserable Week 1 performance in which the Panthers totaled 10 yards rushing as a team, the backfield rebounded in a big way in Week 2.
Carolina ran for 219 yards as a team taking them from being the league’s worst rushing attack in Week 1, to the verge of the top 10 heading into their matchup with the Giants.
Not to mention each member of the Panthers four-pronged rushing attack scored a touchdown against the Saints last Sunday.
The running game has to get going if the Panthers hope to negate the Giants’ formidable pass rush.
A common mantra in NFL locker rooms around the league is that the game is won in the trenches.
Thursday night’s matchup could very well prove that to be the case.
The Panthers’ offensive line, featuring rookie guard Amini Silatolu, looked about as solid as a piece of Jello against the Bucs in Week 1.
They routinely allowed the Bucs to penetrate into the backfield and as a result, quarterback Cam Newton spent much of the afternoon running for his life and throwing interceptions.
The O-line clearly worked out some kinks last week at practice, and provided plenty of protection during the Saints game.
They were getting their blocks off at the line, as well as hustling down field into the second level of the defense.
The Giants' defensive line presents their toughest test yet.
Which O-line will we see from the Panthers?
The confused, disinterested unit from Week 1? Or the high-energy, highly productive group from Week 2?
Going into Thursday, the Giants have the second-ranked offense in the NFL.
This doesn’t bode well for a defense relying on a number of newcomers, including a pair of rookies, to contribute immediately.
The good news is that the G-Men will be without top wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (foot), 3rd stringer Domenik Hixon (concussion), starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw (concussion) and right tackle David Diehl (knee).
Clearly the Giants are banged up, which may be the saving grace of this defense which has already given up a number of big plays this season.
Look for the Panthers to stick their best coverage man, Chris Gamble, on Victor Cruz for the majority of the evening.
Another potential threat, Martellus Bennett, will likely be shadowed by Jon Beason on passing plays.
If the Panthers can cause the Giants to become one-dimensional on offense, they have a good chance of limiting this beleaguered units’ production.
As previously mentioned, this is Cam Newton’s first primetime NFL game.
This will be his first big test of the season with the whole nation watching.
The Giants pass rush is not to be trifled with and Newton does have a history of forcing throws under pressure, (hence the 17 interceptions he threw last year).
Against the Saints, Newton showed more poise and patience than we have seen from him in quite awhile.
Instead of forcing the ball to a man in double coverage, he simply threw it away and did not turn the ball over once.
Obviously, Newton getting the running game going is pivotal to the Panthers’ success. But just as important is him limiting his turnovers.
If he can avoid throwing costly interceptions, use his check-down options with pressure coming and utilize his legs enough to keep the defense honest, the Panthers will undoubtedly come away from the Thursday night showdown as the victors.