Behind a voracious pass rush and two breakout offensive stars, the New York Giants dominated the Carolina Panthers all game long en route to a 36-7 Thursday Night Football victory.
Leading the charge for the Giants was running back Andre Brown, who shined in place of injured starter Ahmad Bradshaw, and Ramses Barden, who got the nod with Hakeem Knicks out.
A third-year back out of North Carolina State, Brown ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns, looking every bit like an NFL starter. Barden, who had mostly spent his career as a special-teamer prior to Thursday, caught nine passes for 138 yards, though he did not get into the end zone.
The victory puts the defending Super Bowl champions at 2-1 and puts the pressure on the rest of the NFC East coming into this week's action.
For the Panthers, a team with massive expectations coming into the season, this loss brings their record to a disappointing 1-2. Quarterback Cam Newton struggled throughout the game against the Giants pass rush, going 16-of-30 for 242 yards with three interceptions.
Throughout the game, the Panthers looked disorganized on both sides of the ball, and the Giants took advantage any chance they could get.
It was a pure domination from start to finish. With that in mind, let's recap the game, starting with the best tweets of the night.
Tweets of the Night
Before halftime, the always-clutch ESPN Stats & Information Twitter feed foreshadowed the Panthers' loss by providing an interesting statistic about Newton:
Cam Newton just threw an interception... Panthers are 1-11 when Cam Newton has at least 1 turnover, 6-0 when he doesn't turn it over.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 21, 2012
Giants are winning with a bunch of castoffs/afterthoughts at RB/WR/TE right now. Testament to how good Manning/Gilbride combo is.— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) September 21, 2012
With the Giants well ahead in the game, ProFootballTalk's Darin Gantt suggested that Carolina call up Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano to get his defensive kneel-down strategies:
Panthers need to get Schiano on the phone, figure out how to defend victory formation. Like, now.— Darin Gantt (@daringantt) September 21, 2012
ESPN's SportsNation Twitter feed gave a precursor to a conversation that many of us will have on Friday morning:
"I TOTALLY called that Andre Brown was going to be awesome." - The annoying dude in your Fantasy league.— SportsNation (@SportsNation) September 21, 2012
Perhaps the biggest insult of the night came late in the game when the fans at Bank of America Stadium, the Panthers' home field, started chanting for their opponents (though, it is undoubtedly almost entirely attributable to the sizable Giants faction in attendance). The Giants' Twitter feed made sure to tweet that fact out for the masses:
A "LETS GO GIANTS" chant erupts inside Bank of America Stadium! #GiantsChat— New York Giants (@Giants) September 21, 2012
Grades for Key Giants Players
Eli Manning: A
In a battle of superstar quarterbacks, Manning came out and did what he always does: win big games.
The Giants signal-caller went 27-of-35 for 288 yards and a touchdown, while making an overnight sensation out of Barden.
New York's offense was brilliantly efficient, despite being without two key starters in Bradshaw and Nicks. For that, the Giants can thank their superstar quarterback.
Andre Brown: A
After looking fantastic in last week's win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brown got his first start in this prime-time matchup and took advantage of every carry.
It seemed that even when the blocking shut down, Brown broke to the outside and created his own holes in the defense. With a performance like this, the Giants will have no problem giving Bradshaw as much time as he needs healing from his neck injury.
Ramses Barden: A
This performance from Barden is proof-positive about how elite Manning is at quarterback. When Nicks went down, it was widely assumed that the New York signal-caller would focus the majority of his targets Victor Cruz's way.
What does Manning do? Abandons Cruz and turns Barden, a player who had just 16 catches for 198 yards coming into the contest, into a star. The four-year veteran out of Cal Poly came out and nearly matched both totals against Carolina alone.
A year after making a star out of Cruz, we may be seeing Manning do it again with Barden this season.
Jason Pierre-Paul: A
Any grades given to the Giants would not be complete without acknowledging a member of the team's brilliant defensive line.
Newton had little time to throw the entire night and was flushed out of the pocket on multiple occasions. The biggest reason for that is Pierre-Paul, who brought down the Panthers quarterback once and even tipped two passes at the line.
Through two games, it had been a mixed bag for the Giants defensive line. Thursday night may be the team's return to dominating form.
Grades for Key Panthers Players
Cam Newton: D
Though you cannot fault Newton for the Panthers' offensive line woes Thursday night, you can fault the second-year star for his three interceptions, two of which ended with Giants scores.
When given time in the pocket, Newton stared down his receivers and threw into double-coverage throughout the night.
For the Carolina star, this is his second bad performance in three games this season. To avoid talk of a sophomore slump, he's going to need a strong game next week against the Atlanta Falcons.
DeAngelo Williams: B-
Down big in this game almost from the opening snap, Williams did not get much of an opportunity to make a lasting impact, rushing the ball just 11 times for 50 yards.
Nonetheless, he was effective almost every time he got the opportunity and should make Carolina feel better about possibly losing Jonathan Stewart for multiple weeks.
Steve Smith: B
The Panthers receiver caught every pass that was thrown his way, grabbing four balls for 86 yards.
Many expected a better performance, but he cannot perform any better without getting the targets.
Jon Beason: F
Much like choosing Pierre-Paul to honor the Giants' brilliant defensive performance, we'll use Beason as an example of the Panthers' futile attempts at stopping the Giants.
After looking fantastic in the first two games of the season, the Panthers linebacker recorded just two tackles on the night. It seemed that he struggled with his bothersome knee throughout the game, but considering Thomas Davis was out with injury, Carolina was really relying on its former defensive star.
Unfortunately, Beason, like the rest of the Panthers defense, failed miserably.