Manning shines as Giants fall to Panthers

CHARLOTTE – Score round two in Eli Manning's favor. New York's prized rookie wasn't perfect, by any stretch, but for the second consecutive game, he showed to be as good, if not better, than his competition, Kurt Warner. The veteran Warner's evening ended following an interception that was returned 49 yards for a touchdown by William Hampton. That helped the Panthers hand Tom Coughlin's Giants their first loss, 27-20.

"None of us were pleased with this performance," Coughlin said. "It's disappointing that our first teams didn't play better."

Manning displayed marked improvement over last week, showing exceptional poise under heavy pressure on numerous occasions. Manning got the ball off in time from his own end zone to avoid a safety with Carolina DE Julius Peppers draped all over him. He also showed good mobility maneuvering around the pocket. Manning completed nine-of-15 passes for 117 yards.

"Eli did all right, he did okay," Coughlin said. "We don't have any problems with that."

"I thought I managed the game well," Manning said. "I got one delay of game penalty, which is unacceptable.

"We moved the ball down the field a little bit and got some points on the board, so I guess that's good. But I would have liked touchdowns instead of field goals."

On the first play of the second quarter, Manning shook off pressure and dumped the ball to Tiki Barber, who turned it into a 20-yard gain. On the next two plays Manning hit Amani Toomer for a 21-yard gain and Marcellus Rivers for 12 more.

Manning also seemed very comfortable, often changing the call at the line of scrimmage. He certainly did nothing but help himself in his ongoing battle with Kurt Warner for the starting QB job.

"I felt comfortable in the pocket and moved around well," Manning said. "But I need to improve on my awareness of the rush."

Manning's mobility looked even more impressive after Warner was sacked on his first two snaps late in the second quarter. Coughlin blamed both sacks on missed blocks. Warner looked pretty good in his own right, connecting on 9-of-11 passes for 71 yards, with a suspect reserve offensive line making his performance all the more impressive. However, his stamp on this game was the fourth-and-two INT that salted the game away in Carolina's favor.

The game also featured Ron Dayne being stuffed by Carolina DT Brentson Buckner on third-and-one in the first quarter. He later barreled in for a one-yard TD run in the third period after he fumbled on the two previous two plays. Dayne lucked out twice because of a Carolina challenge that ruled him down and a penalty on the Panthers. Dayne mostly ran the ball effectively, averaging more than five yards a pop.

With Bill Gramatica out with a bad back, Todd France took a step toward winning the kicking job when he nailed a 51-yard field goal that was good by plenty and a 42-yarder in the first half.

"A positive was Todd France," Coughlin said. "He rose to the occasion."

The Panthers first-team offense sliced right through New York's defense midway through the opening period, moving 63 yards in only four plays. Shaun Williams and Will Allen both had misplays during Carolina's drive.

"We didn't play well defensively," Coughlin stated. "We didn't stop the run, we didn't stop the pass."

Game Notes

* Not surprisingly, Tom Coughlin did not make any announcements regarding which QB would start next week's preseason contest against the Jets.

* Second-year man Wayne Lucier filled in for Barry Stokes at left guard and appeared to play well. "I felt good," Lucier said. "I feel I did a pretty good job."

* David Tyree suffered a bruised shoulder, but returned to action.

* Former Giants Pro Bowl LB Jessie Armstead missed the game with a shoulder injury. Brandon Short, whom New York opted not to re-sign during the offseason, is backing up Mark Fields at SLB in Carolina. He forced a fumble on special teams in the first quarter and stopped Ron Dayne just shy of the goal line later in the game. He finished with four solo tackles.

* Will Allen made a great hit on Stephen Davis to prevent him from scoring in the second quarter.

* Reserve DT Radell Lockhart played very well, posting two sacks among his three tackles.

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