New York Giants: Keys To Beating The Carolina Panthers

Richard ReschCorrespondent IDecember 24, 2009

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 20:  Steve Smith #89 of the Carolina Panthers pulls in a touchdown reception against the Minnesota Vikings at Bank of America Stadium on December 20, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

1. Stop Steve Smith

Last week against a good Vikings' defense, Steve Smith caught nine passes for 157 yards and a touchdown, and that's not including a ridiculous touchdown catch he had called back.

Simply put, Smith is one of the most dangerous receivers in the league, and can be the best player on the field on any given day.

The Giants would have had their hands full with him anyway, but with Corey Webster and Aaron Ross hurting, stopping Steve Smith will be one of Bill Sheridan's greatest challenges.

With new quarterback Matt Moore playing a competent brand of football (unlike Jake Delhomme), Steve Smith is again playing like the elite wide receiver we all know he is.

Smith can hurt you on deep, medium, and short routes, and is impossible for one man to stop completely. It will be a team effort for the patchwork secondary.

The majority of the work will have to be done by Terrell Thomas, who has had a great season. But the safeties will have to be in top form as well if the Giants are going to slow down this dangerous weapon.

2. Contain the Running Game

In last year's epic Week 16 battle between these two teams, DeAngelo Williams thrashed the Giants for 108 yards and four touchdowns.

Well, Williams may miss this year's game with an injured ankle, but his backup, Jonathan Stewart, is more than capable. Against a stout Vikings run defense, Stewart produced 109 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.

The Giants have done a good job of stopping the run recently, and they will need to continue that trend in order to stop the league's third ranked rushing offense (148 yards per game).

And an added bonus to stopping the rushing game would be preventing Carolina from having two 1,000 yard running backs.

Williams has already passed that threshold, and Stewart needs 198 yards in the next two games.

If the Giants want to be the last team with two 1,000 yard rushers, stopping Stewart this week will go a long way.

3. Block Julius Peppers

Although he only had one sack against the Vikings last week, Peppers was an absolute monster.

He dominated Bryant McKinnie all night, pressuring Brett Favre and forcing him to rush his throws. Aside from the sack, he hit Favre three times, causing coach Brad Childress to consider taking him out of the game when the Vikings were up by one point.

For the Giants, left tackle David Diehl draws the tough matchup, and he is not nearly the physical specimen that Bryant McKinnie is.

The Giants are going to have to give Diehl as much help as possible, with double teams and help from tight ends and running backs.

Commit To the Run

For the past few weeks, I've been arguing that the Giants should not resist becoming more of a pass-first team.

The way their team is built, with a strong quarterback and good young receivers, it would be foolish not to embrace the passing game. But in order to be able to pass the ball against teams with strong secondaries, you have to also commit to the run.

Without a balanced attack, defenses can key on one part of your offense, making it one dimensional.

The Panthers have a great pass defense (fourth best in NFL), and while I wouldn't let that scare the Giants from doing what has worked these past few weeks, I would suggest they try to stay as balanced as possible.

Use the run to set up the pass, especially since Carolina's run defense is seventh in the league.

Ahmad Bradshaw looked electric last week, so it would be a good idea to feature him heavily.

And if Brandon Jacobs is ever going to reach 100 yards again, this is a great week to do it.

Together, Bradshaw and Jacobs figure to put up a lot of yards if given the opportunity.

5. Cover the Tight End

Over the last seven games, the Giants are allowing the opposing team's top tight end to average 6.4 receptions and 78.3 yards, allowing a touchdown 57 percent of the time.

That is not very good, scientifically speaking.

The Carolina Panthers don't have one tight end as talented as any of the guys the Giants have faced over the past seven weeks, but they do have two solid young receiving tight ends in Dante Rosario and Gary Barnidge.

Combined, the two don't even have 40 receptions or 600 yards. But they are both talented enough to make plays when most of the defense's attention is on the running backs and Steve Smith, especially against a team with the Giants' recent track record for leaving tight ends open.

It'll be up to the linebackers and safeties not to forget about the tight ends.


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