The veteran cornerback made a major impact in his first game back since Week 10. Charles Tillman had been dealing with a knee injury that kept him out but he returned at just the right time as the Panthers' lost Bene Benwikere the previous week with a fractured leg.
Tillman finished the game with five total tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and an interception in the second half as the NY Giants were driving. While the interception helped keep points off the board, the forced fumble was the play that jump started the Panthers' offense. The game was tied at seven and Rashad Jennings took a run play to the left and as he went down to the ground, Tillman came in and punched the ball lose.
After the turnover, it took the Panthers' only three plays to break the tie thanks to a 37 yard pass from Cam Newton to Greg Olsen. Due to the quick score, the Panthers' had time to put another touchdown on the board and extend their lead to 21-7 at halftime.
The biggest positive from this game was the fact that Tillman was able to play every snap, something he had not done all season. This is potentially a good sign that the knee is completely healed because the Panthers are lacking depth at the cornerback position and will need Tillman on the field as much as possible.
The Panthers were going to be without the player who is probably the most important person to this offense, other than Cam Newton, in Jonathan Stewart. The Panthers' rely heavily on their run game so to not have Stewart against the Giants could have been a devastating blow to this offense.
However, the team turned to running back Cameron Artis-Payne, who only played one snap since Week 4 and played very well. He finished the game with 93 total yards from scrimmage with 54 yards rushing on 14 carries.
The rookie year for Artis-Payne has been a bit of a disappointment as he has been inactive for a number of games and hasn't really had much of an impact. This isn't necessarily all his fault as the coaching staff has leaned heavily on Stewart and the other running backs have not had much of an impact.
However, it would not be surprising to see Artis-Payne see more work through the remainder of the regular season as a way to try and keep Stewart fresh for the playoffs.
Field Goal Protection
The Carolina Panthers have one of the more consistent field goal kickers in the league in Graham Gano but a troubling trend has started to develop with this group. The Panthers are seeing an alarmingly high number of kicks being blocked.
According to Sporting Charts, there has been 20 field goals blocked this year and the Panthers have four of them. They also have had one extra point blocked this year. There are currently 19 teams in the NFL who have not had a single field goal blocked.
Against the Giants, the Panthers had a field goal blocked after Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie timed the snap perfectly and blocked the kick. This turned out to be a key field goal because that would have extended their lead to 38-21 and would have essentially iced the game.
Ron Rivera addressed this during his press conference on Monday and discussed possibly changing things up at the line because he thinks the opposition has caught on to their counts.
Hopefully this will improve the protection because in the playoffs these kind of plays can be the difference between advancing and going home.