EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers ruined what could have been a stirring come-from-behind victory by the New York Giants on Sunday. Graham Gano's 43-yard field goal as time expired gave the Panthers a 38-35 victory at MetLife Stadium.
The Giants ralled from a 35-7 deficit but the Panthers drove to the Giants' 25-yard line before Gano made the game-winning kick. The Giants are now 6-8 and in deep trouble in the race for the NFC East title. The Panthers, 14-0, remain the league's only unbeaten team.
The game was, in many ways, a microcosm of the Giants' season. This is the sixth time this season the Giants have lost in the final two minutes and the fourth time they have been beaten on the final play of a game. They showed grit and determination, but made too many mistakes, showed too many lapses in discipline and missed too many opportunities.
The Giants let 14 points slip through their fingers in the first half. Odell Beckham Jr. dropped what would have been a 48-yard touchdown pass on the game's first possession, when he got behind Josh Norman but couldn't hold on. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie dropped an easy second-quarter interception at the Carolina 40-yard line that would have been a Pick 6.
In all, the Giants dropped five passes. An out-of-control Beckham also spent much of the day fighting with Norman and Cortland Finnegan of the Panthers, ending up with three unnecessary roughness penalties.
The Giants missed a pair of chances to take an early lead. Odell Beckham Jr., matched up with Josh Norman, dropped what should have been a 48-yard touchdown pass on the Giants' opening possession. On the second possession the Giants went three-and-out after taking over at midfield.
Carolina responded by going 88 yards in nine plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 3-yard pass from Cam Newton to Ted Ginn with 5:33 left in the first quarter. A 47-yard run by Newton was the drive's key play.
The Giants struck back with a 27-yard scoring pass from Eli Manning to Rueben Randle with 1:24 left in the first quarter. That finished off a 10-play, 80-yard drive.
The Panthers took the lead on a 37-yard pass from Newton to Greg Olsen with 2:14 left in the half. The Giants were their own worst enemy here. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie dropped what would have been a clear Pick 6 at the Panthers' 40-yard line. After a Panthers' punt, Rashad Jennings fumbled and Carolina took over at the Giants' 46-yard line. Three plays later, the Giants trailed.
Carolina pushed their advantage to 21-7 on a 14-yard pass from Newton to Devin Funchess with 15 seconds left in the half. That ended a nine-play, 72-yard drive in the final two minutes by the Panthers.
Carolina turned the game into a route. Quickly.
The Panthers stretched their lead to 21-7 with 10:03 left in the third quarter on a 20-yard pass from Newton to Corey Brown. That completed a seven-play, 80-yard, 2:43 second drive.
A 14-yard touchdown pass from Newton to Ginn made the score 35-7 with 5:32 to go and sent thousands of unhappy fans scurrying to the exits.
The Giants made it 35-14 on an 8-yard pass from Eli Manning to Will Tye with 1:18 left in the third quarter. That capped a 13-play, 64-yard, 4:14 drive.
The Giants showed a little life, raising the hopes of the fans who had not already left, when Rashad Jennings went 38 yards to pull the Giants win 35-21 with 13:24 remaining.
The comeback continued when Rodgers-Cromartie blocked a 34-yard Graham Gano field goal with 9:00 remaining and Prince Amukamara recovered at the Carolina 45-yard line. That resulted in no points, though, as a Manning pass for Hakeem Nicks was intercepted in the end zone by Charles Tillman. Nicks had position on Tillman, but stumbled and fell.
The Giants got another opportunity when Kerry Wynn recovered a Newton fumble at the Carolina 14-yard line with 6:50 remaining. Three plays later, the Giants pulled within 35-28 on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Shane Vereen with 5:27 remaining.
The Giants tied the game on their next possession when Beckham beat Norman and corraled a 14-yard touchdown pass from Manning with 1:46 to play.
The Panthers drove to the Giants' 25-yard line before Gano made the game-winning kick.
What it means
It means the Giants are in deep trouble in the NFC East playoff race. Washington blew out the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The Redskins are now 7-7 with two games remaining and hold tie-breaker advantages over the Giants. The Philadelphia Eagles (6-7) play the Arizona Cardinals in the Sunday Night Football game.
Jason Pierre-Paul got his first sack of the season, dropping Newton for a 9-yard loss in the second quarter. Manning finished 26-of-49 for 245 yards and four touchdowns. Shane Vereen had eight catches for 43 yards and Beckham had six for 76. Jennings had 16 carries for 107 yards, becoming the first Giants' running back to gain more than 100 yards in a game this season.
The Giants travel to face the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday. The game has been flexed from its original time slot and will be the Sunday Night Football, starting at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC.