FIRST AND TENThe Panthers traveled to New York expecting to see icicles hanging from bus bumpers and yellow goal post whipping wildly. They got instead a balmy 40-degree day of sunshine and calm winds.
The way they manhandled the Giants Sunday, you'd think the Panthers were on vacation.
It wasn't quite as easy as it sounded. Carolina did fail to score in the first quarter.
But a shutout? The Panthers probably covered the spread on that one.
Carolina ran with ease, eating up 42 minutes and 45 seconds of game clock. There's only 60 minutes in a football game. They passed effectively, completing 15 out of 22 for 140 yards and a touchdown. Ran for one, too, and chipped in with 3-for-3 on field goals.
Carolina had one kickoff return for 17 yards.
The defense did its job, as well. New York converted 9 first downs, one by rushing. Two of them were on penalties. Only one of those first downs came on a third down play.
New York amassed 132 total yards of offense, 41 of those on the ground.
I mean, what else can you say? The Giants came to New Jersey and got mugged.
A FEW OBSERVATIONS FROM SUNDAY'S CONTEST- I like the extra effort, but DeShaun Foster turns his back too often to defenders and that's an invitation for the defender to punch the ball loose. DeShaun can get hurt that way, too.
- Didn't Brent Alexander learn anything from his short stint in Charlotte?
- For all the criticism Keary Colbert has endured this season, he should at least get some props for the excellent blocking he's doing.
- Jake Delhomme's efficiency was a direct result of good interior blocking. Edge rushers will always pose a threat, but with little push up the middle, Jake appears more comfortable stepping into his throws…and that's the key to keep his passes from sailing – which they didn't Sunday.
- Eli Manning: the young man played like a young man, didn't he?
- Would have been nice to see Ricky Proehl get a catch, though he did have his shot in the second half.
- Here's a personal rant (and this isn't Panthers/Giants specific): there's way too much posturing going on in the NFL, particularly in these playoffs. It seems almost every play has someone beating his chest or standing/looming over a fallen opponent or facing-up an opponent with some smack. I know it's a function of the tremendous quantities of testosterone in circulation this time of year, but there's a fine line between showmanship and making an ass of yourself. Steve Smith knows where the line is. Marlon McCree tiptoes it.
- The Giants' limitations at linebacker were achingly apparent. Not having Antonio Pierce on the field was like the Panthers' without a full-on healthy Mark Fields at the beginning of last season.
- The national media is beginning to coalesce on the Panthers. After being ignored for the better part of the season, Carolina players and coaches will be everywhere next weekend. Except Ken Lucas, of course.
- Ken Lucas was looking to lateral on his initial interception, the one where Eli Manning did the unforgivable by throwing back across the field after scrambling. Lucas, by the way, looks to lateral every time he intercepts a pass.
- I was surprised New York didn't resort to more short passes once they fell behind and appeared to abandon the run.
- Speaking of which, Plaxico Burress didn't catch a pass Sunday because his routes were too long and too slow to develop. By the time he was facing the pocket, Manning was running for his life, eating grass or throwing into coverage.
- Throwing to Steve Smith in the flat and then letting him embarrass the DB is becoming a signature play. It's a quick-pick-six waiting to happen, though, so the Panthers have to be careful with it.
- The Panthers prove once again that they will punish inexperienced quarterbacks.
- One of the real keys to the game was Carolina's ability to covert on third downs in the first half. The Panthers ate up over 18 minutes of the clock in the first half due mainly to getting it done on third downs. The fact that the score was only 7-0 deep in the second quarter was a little worrisome.
- Jason Baker needs to step it up. It's playoff time, dude. Field position is crucial.
- Telling statistic of the game: Panthers total tackles: 35, Giants: 88.
FOURTH AND GOALIt was a total game by the Panthers, on both sides of the ball. The offense dominated the line of scrimmage and the defense dominated whatever the Giants wanted to do beyond the line of scrimmage.
The Giants will be good for years to come, no doubt. The tools are most certainly there. But the better team showed up Sunday.
For the second week in a row.
TOUCHDOWNHere's a few per-game statistics I thought might be appropriate:
Total Yards: CAR – 309.4; CHI – 256.3
Passing: CAR – 204.4; CHI – 125.1
Rushing: CAR – 104.9; CHI - 131.2
Yards Allowed: CAR – 282.6; CHI – 281.8
Passing: CAR – 191.1; CHI - 179.5
Rushing: CAR 91.6; CHI – 102.3
Jake Delhomme: 88.1 passer rating
Rex Grossman: 59.7 passer rating
DeShaun Foster: 4.3 yards per rush
Thomas Jones: 4.3 yards per rush
Muhsin Muhammad: 64 rec., 750 yards, 4 TD
Steve Smith: 103 rec., 1563 yards, 12 TD
Chicago will try to dink-and-dunk on offense, hoping to keep the Panthers off their young, inexperienced quarterback. They'll also try to run and stop the run with SS Mike Brown back on the field.
They'll have modest success on all three fronts, but it won't be enough.
The Panthers will go deep early to set the safeties and then pound Foster between the tackles. The defense will eat Rex Grossman for breakfast.
Carolina 20, Chicago 13
You can reach Chaz at email@example.com