It was another masterful performance from Cam Newton as he once again led his team on a game-winning drive on clutch plays through the air and with his feet. Newton had one of the best statistical games of his career throwing for 340-yards and five touchdowns (his third game this season with five passing scores) and also picked up 100-yards on the ground. It also happened to be the first game in NFL history where a quarterback threw for five scores and rushed for over 100-yards. The most important drive of this game though came with under two minutes to go in this tie ball game when Newton commanded his team to yet another game-winning drive capped off with a field goal, but set up on a 10-yard scramble from the Panthers’ quarterback. Another standout performance propelled Carolina to another win and all but sealed Newton as the leading MVP candidate.
Without Jonathan Stewart out it was an interesting day for the backfield and as Ron Rivera said it was the hot hand that got a majority of the carries. Cameron Artis-Payne, in his first game active since Week 6, showed the most burst and led the group with 14 carries and 59-yards to go with two receptions for 34-yards. The rookie made the most of his opportunities and clearly outplayed Fozzy Whittaker and Mike Tolbert to earn the most carries. There was a near costly fumble in an exchange between Newton and Artis-Payne due to lack of reps but luckily, the team was able to overcome. Although it was not a terribly stellar day from the backups, Artis-Payne proved himself to be a solid contributor in the run game.
It was another excellent performance from the no-name receiving corps of Carolina as a multitude of pass catchers made their mark on the scorecard. Four of Newton’s five scores went to the receiving crew with Ted Ginn Jr. grabbing two for himself to go with six catches for 85-yards in what was a tremendous game for the journeyman who now has 10 scores on the year. Devin Funchess and Philly Brown also made their mark as Funchess grabbed two catches for 30-yards and a score to go with some excellent downfield blocking and Brown had three for 51 and a score. The lone Panthers receiver that didn’t find the end zone was Jerricho Cotchery who still made an impact with his clutch third down catches to keep the offense moving. He caught four passes for 47-yards and rounded out an excellent day for the Panthers receivers.
Greg Olsen didn’t let the receivers have all the fun and did his part once again helping out his offense. The veteran tight end caught six passes for 79-yards and a score giving Newton his ever-reliable target throughout this one. Olsen made a number of big catches including one for 16-yards and a first down on the Panthers last drive. This performance also marked Olsen’s second straight 1,000-yard season as he now has a career high 1,048-receiving yards.
This was certainly not the best performance of the year for this group. Newton was pressured frequently and the Giants defense did all it could to get to the Panthers quarterback en route to three sacks and six quarterback hits, but they affected more than a few plays for the Carolina offense. Ryan Kalil had a scare on one run when he was hit head-to-head but returned to the game and should be okay going forward. Not a great day but clearly enough to get the win.
The defensive front for the Panthers did not perform well at all in this one. The stat sheet did not lie here as a big zero in the sack column clearly affected the defense as they allowed 21 fourth quarter points to the Giants with Eli Manning having all day to find his targets. Charles Johnson has been almost nonexistent since his return and not even Kawann Short or Kony Ealy could muster up anything against a Giants offensive line that has given up just 21 sacks on the year.
The Panthers’ star linebackers were all over the place in this one racking up tackle after tackle. Luke Kuechly led the team and tallied 15 and Thomas Davis contributed nine while both had a deflected pass. Outside of the tackle numbers though, it wasn’t the greatest performance from these two. Davis was responsible for the Shane Vereen touchdown in the fourth and the Giants rushing attack was explosive as ever and rushed for 161-yards.
It was an up and down day for a secondary that started off strong but had their fair share of miscues late. The Josh Norman-Odell Beckham Jr. matchup did not fail to excite as the two were quite literally fighting it out all game long with multiple scuffles, cheap shots and penalties from the two. In the first half, Norman clearly had the upper hand though as he held Beckham to zero catches for the first time in his career. The second half, notably the fourth quarter, was where things started to unfold though as Manning was able to throw almost at will against this group finding multiple holes on his way to a four touchdown day and nearly leading New York to an epic comeback win. Charles Tillman had a nice day though with a forced fumble, recovery and a clutch interception and Kurt Coleman had 13 total tackles to make this a respectable day in the stat column at the very least, even if it wasn’t the case through four quarters.
Graham Gano’s 43-yard field goal as time expired helped the Panthers remain undefeated but all was not great with the special teams. Ginn had a nice return on a punt to set up one Carolina score and Brad Nortman and the punt coverage team did a solid job of neutralizing Dwayne Harris and the return game. But a blocked field goal that would have given the Panthers a three score lead turned into a Giants’ score and nearly became the deciding factor. That now makes five total blocked kicks for this unit, an issue that must be corrected.