The New York Giants earned their first home victory of the season on Sunday by defeating the Carolina Panthers, 25-3. Big Blue improves their record to an uninspiring 2-5. The defense only allowed this shoddy Panthers’ offense to accrue 173 yards of total offense while forcing three total turnovers (two on downs, one interception), seven punts, and a safety by Leonard Williams.
New York harassed quarterbacks Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker. They sacked each quarterback three times and held the Panthers’ rushing attack to 3.3 yards per carry after Matt Rhule bloviated (just a bit) about the importance of winning the physical battle up front before the game.
Logan Ryan didn’t, as he put it, pull a Michael Jordan and “take Rhule’s comments personally.” Still, Ryan and other defensive players made it clear that their mentality wouldn’t allow the Panthers to impose their will by force or physicality. The defense answered the bell and rose to the occasion consistently throughout the game. They were the impetus to victory, and Patrick Graham deserves his first game ball of the season. Here are five plays, drives, or clusters of plays that led to the Giants’ second victory.
Play(s) 1: Defense, take a stand!
More defense! Patrick Graham and the New York Giants defense were the catalysts to victory in this 25-3 home win over the Panthers. Here are all the big-time stops on third- and fourth down. The confidence, communication, coverage, and pressure were all working in unison against a Panthers’ offense that has struggled over the last three weeks. Pass rush and coverage are married - tied at the hip - and they worked excellently together on Sunday.
Play 2: Two points for the Giants’ defense
The Giants defense’ was one point away from tying the Panthers’ offense. As you saw in play(s) 1, the Giants’ defense was phenomenal against a struggling Panthers’ offense. They were able to pressure Darnold, force turnovers, and come up with several big stops in the game. One of the game’s biggest plays, a possible turning point after the Giants were stuffed on fourth down on the 1-yard-line, was this safety from Leonard Williams.
The Giants thought they had a touchdown to Kyle Rudolph on their previous offensive drive. However, Rudolph stepped out of bounds, and the Giants failed to earn a yard on three plays, forcing a turnover on downs. I love the aggressive call from Joe Judge in this situation. The Giants’ defense bailed their offense out by getting this safety and effectively swinging the momentum back towards the Giants.
Lorenzo Carter (59) and Leonard Williams (99) run a twist that is poorly handled, and Darnold (14) throws the ball into the turf while in the end zone, causing the intentional grounding. Big defensive plays have evaded the Giants in key spots this season, but they played a different game on Sunday. Plus, they didn’t allow an end of half touchdown to conclude the first half for the first time this year!
Play(s) 3: 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive
Here's the #Giants 11-play, 75-yard drive to take the weird 11-3 lead (before XP)...— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) October 25, 2021
Love the 3x1 #3 flat underneath vertical releases from #1/#2 to defeat man coverage for the TD...
New York has struggled all season in the red zone, but they were able to capitalize here. pic.twitter.com/lfEGProbGD
I get it; it’s not a play, but this drive by the Giants offense was a crucial moment to secure the ever too elusive home victory. The drive had a few move the pocket plays, a screen, a nice check down turned into a first down by Devontae Booker (28), a Philly Special where Jones made an impressive one-handed catch, an option play to Booker, and several good runs by Jones.
The touchdown ruling stood after the 3x1 under to the flat to Dante Pettis for the touchdown. Pettis’ shin was very close to parallel on the ground, but his knee never touched the deck. Kyle Rudolph’s touchdown was called back earlier in the game, so it was nice to see this touchdown stand.
Play 4: Bradberry interception
The best Carolina drive ended in this Bradberry interception. With the score 5-3 (weird), Darnold led a nine-play, 52-yard drive and got the football down to the Giants’ 15-yard-line. He inexplicably threw this football into an area with five Giants’ defenders and two Panthers’ receivers, and no one was open on the play. Darnold’s mechanics, footwork, and decision-making are highly questionable on this rep. Bradberry still deserves credit on the play; he read Darnold and bailed his assignment to secure the interception.
Play(s) 5: The effort of Jabrill
The Giants have allowed a touchdown to conclude every first half this season. Darnold and the Panthers received the football Sunday with two timeouts and just north of 50 seconds on the clock; a touchdown, or at least a field goal, had to be on the minds of Matt Rhule and company. However, on first down, Patrick Graham dialed up five-men pressure with Jabrill Peppers (21). Carolina running back Chuba Hubbard (30) did a great job undercutting Peppers, but the New Jersey native sprung up like Popeye after some spinach and sacked Darnold, anyway.
A quick pass to Kieth Kirkwood set up a third-and-7 where the Giants forced a punt as time dwindled to end the first half. It was great to see the Giants not surrender any points on this Panthers drive, or for the majority of the game, for that matter. This was a great effort by the Giants’ defense. Hopefully, it sparked some much-needed confidence as the Giants prepare to face the Kansas City Chiefs and Las Vegas Raiders.