An evening of opportunity turned into a flop for the Carolina Panthers.
Despite missing several key players, the New York Giants overwhelmed the Panthers 36-7 Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium, muting the home crowd early and erasing any lingering excitement from a victory over New Orleans four days earlier.
It was a dominating performance by the Giants (2-1), who found gaping holes in the Carolina defense while containing the Panthers' offense. Giants quarterback Eli Manning completed 27 of 35 passes for 288 yards and one touchdown while former N.C. State running back Andre Brown had 113 yards rushing and two touchdowns filling for Ahmad Bradshaw.
The loss dropped the Panthers to 1-2, leaving them 10 days to prepare for a critical NFC South game at Atlanta on Sept. 30.
It was the Panthers' seventh straight loss to a reigning Super Bowl champion and left Carolina with an 0-11 mark in games in which quarterback Cam Newton has thrown an interception. He was picked off three times by the Giants.
Newton finished the night 16 for 30 for 242 yards with no touchdown passes. His passer rating of 40.6 was the lowest of his NFL career.
Carolina trailed 20-0 at halftime and didn't penetrate beyond the New York 39-yard line before the break.
The second half started with rookie Joe Adams fumbling the kickoff, giving the Giants possession at the Carolina 19-yard line, continuing the night's theme for the Panthers. Adams would later lose a fumble on a fourth-quarter punt return.
The Panthers put together an 80-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter, capping it with a one-yard Newton touchdown dive to trim New York's lead to 23-7 with 6:26 remaining in the quarter.
The Giants pushed the lead back to 33-7 early in the fourth quarter after Newton's second interception of the night set up a touchdown, ending any comeback chance. In what has become a bothersome trend, the Panthers allowed the Giants to take the opening kickoff and turn it into an 80-yard touchdown drive for a 7-0 lead. It's the third straight game that has begun the same way for the Panthers.
Despite missing star receiver and former Independence High receiver Hakeem Nicks, right tackle David Diehl and Bradshaw, the Giants pierced the Panthers' defense immediately. Brown, from Rose High in Greenville, had the big play, busting a 33-yard run to the Carolina 22-yard line.
The Giants scored on a 14-yard pass from Manning to tight end Martellus Bennett with 11:38 remaining in the first quarter.
New York stretched its lead to 10-0 on a 47-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal with 3:46 left in the opening quarter. It was the first of five field goals Tynes would kick.
The Carolina offense, missing injured running back Jonathan Stewart for the second time in three games, was stifled early by New York, managing just three first downs in its first two possessions. The Giants out gained the Panthers 158-56 in the first quarter.
It got worse for the the Panthers early in the second quarter as the Giants continued to dominate on both sides. Finding and creating big holes in the Carolina defense, Manning drove the Giants 72 yards for their second touchdown. Unfazed by an ineffective pass rush, Manning had time to find open receivers, setting up 1-yard touchdown run by Brown to put New York ahead 17-0 with 12:03 remaining in the half.
Tynes stretched the New York lead to 20-0 with a 49-yard field goal with 3:13 remaining in the half.
Trying to generate a score late in the first half, it backfired on the Panthers when Newton threw behind Brandon LaFell and was intercepted by Jason Hosley at the Giants' 41-yard line.