It appeared the contest was heading to overtime until Tommie Hill miraculously grabbed a fumble out of the air and returned it 18 yards for the game-winning touchdown on the game’s final play.
“We went out there with a lot of energy,” LB Antonio Piece said. “We were excited to get out there and hit somebody else beside ourself. We did a good job of gett ing three-and-outs. It was just good to be out here under these conditions in this weather against a real opponent. Defensively, we did a good job for our first time out.”
The starting defense started things off with a three-and-out.
“We played well,” Justin Tuck said. “Normally in the first preseason game, we've got a lot of mistakes, but I don't think we had too many tonight. We were fluid, and our checks went well.”
Ahmad Bradshaw, who was the offensive star of the first half with 35 yards on only five carries, belted a pair of defenders en route to a 19-yard TD run for the game’s first points. He followed a nice block by Tutan Reyes.
“We ran the ball really well, hit a couple passes and we got a touchdown,” said Eli Manning, who finished two-of-three for 31 yards. “That is always the goal. We did a nice job with it, so I thought we were effective as the first group.”
Brandon Jacobs looked regular-season ready as well, averaging a gaudy 7.8 yards per carry on his four rushes.
“Overall, we were good,” Jacobs said. “Guys were confident and felt good about what they were doing. We just have to keep rolling and get better as a team.”
In the second quarter, Carolina LB James Anderson came through free and blocked Jeff Feagles’ punt late in the second quarter, resulting in a safety for the Panthers.
Rookie free agent DE Maurice Evans forced a fumble late in the half that set up a 36-yard screen catch-and-run TD by Danny Ware, which gave New York a 14-2 halftime lead.
This game marked the first contest for Osi Umenyiora in close to a full year. He responded with a sack and forced fumble.
“It felt good. It's great to be back out there,” Umenyiora said. “This is a good start. I'm paid to hit the quarterback. That's what I do.”
“Obviously with Osi being back, you quickly see the type of player he can be,” Tuck said. “When he's on that football field, it's definitely big to have him back out there. He's a guy who has been in the trenches and knows what it takes to help us win games.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Lawrence Tynes made amends for a previous miss with a 46-yard field goal that extended Big Blue’s lead to 17-9. But Big Blue’s reserve defenders allowed Carolina to drive 88 yards and convert a two-point conversion to tie the game with 57 seconds to play.
Injury list a mile long
Needless to say Tom Coughlin wasn’t going to put anyone with even the slightest injury in harm’s way against the Panthers. More than a half-dozen starters were held out of the lineup as were numerous other key players. Here’s the list of substitute starters and the players they were replacing. Tutan Reyes replaced Rich Seubert at LG, Kevin Boothe replaced Chris Snee at RG, Sinorice Moss replaced Steve Smith at WR, Jay Alford replaced Fred Robbins at DT, Bryan Kehl replaced Michael Boley at WLB, Kevin Dockery replaced Corey Webster at CB and Terrell Thomas replaced Aaron Ross at the other CB spot.
Other players out of action against Carolina included RB Andre Brown, DT Rocky Bernard and DT Chris Canty.