The Giants had every reason to wilt under the prime time lights for the second time in three weeks, as they were dealing with a myriad of injuries to key players.
But as is their modus operandi in the Tom Coughlin era, they won a game they probably shouldn’t have won, in handily beating the Carolina Panthers, 36-7.
What we learned …
1. No starters, no problem
The Giants were missing three starters, including wideout Hakeem Nicks, running back Ahmad Bradshaw and right tackle David Diehl. But that didn’t matter because head coach Tom Coughlin wouldn’t allow Big Blue to wallow. Little-used Ramses Barden filled in spectacularly for Nicks, while Bradshaw was ably replaced by Andre Brown. Brown finished with 113 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns (including 96 yards and a touchdown in the first half). The fourth-year veteran Barden, who has largely been a disappointment so far in his career, finally shined. He tallied career highs of nine receptions and 138 yards, including 123 yards in the first half.
Barden only registered 15 career receptions heading into this season, but was so effective against Carolina that he came close to that number in this game alone. Not to be outdone was the patchwork offensive line that kept Eli Manning (27-of-35 for 288 yards and a touchdown) relatively clean all night, and was the reason for Brown’s large running lanes.
2. Newton neutralized
Star quarterback Cam Newton wasn’t his usual dazzling self, as he struggled in the first prime time game of his young career. Newton finished 16-of-30 for 242 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. He was sacked twice. It certainly didn’t help Newton that starting running back Jonathan Stewart (ankle/toe) didn’t play. But unlike his counterpart Manning, his supporting cast didn’t pick up the slack.
3. Smith smothered
One of the Giants’ biggest concerns heading into the game was how the banged-up secondary would handle Pro-Bowl wideout Steve Smith. The diminutive Smith usually man-handles healthy top-flight corners, let alone defensive backs that limp into the game. Rookie Jayron Hosley acquitted himself nicely, as well as usual starter Corey Webster, who was the main guy responsible for Smith. The 12-year veteran figured to have a stellar game against a Giants’ secondary that had allowed at least one opposing receiver to surpass the 100-yard mark in each of the previous two games. Alas, Smith was kept in check and could only muster four receptions for 86 yards, but 33 of those yards came in one play when the game was already out of hand.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.