Here is a breakdown, position by position, of how the Giants performed against the Panthers.
Game Story: Giants 34, Panthers 28 (OT)
Stat worth noting: New York absolutely dominated the game's time of possession. Big Blue had the ball for 39:07 compared to only 25:56 for the Panthers.
Stat worth noting II: When the stakes were highest, the Giants' discipline shone through. New York only committed two penalties against Carolina for 10 yards.
Turning point: As he had done all game long, Derrick Ward grabbed the bull by the horns when the Giants needed him most. Only moments after R.W. McQuarters almost fumbled the game away in overtime, Ward took the handoff off right tackle and didn't stop until he was pushed out of bounds 51 yards later. That run set the Giants up for the game-winning TD in overtime.
Play to remember: The Giants had come all the way back against the stingy Carolina defense. Yet, with 3:21 to play, they still needed to convert the20two-point conversion after Brandon Jacobs' TD in order to tie the score. Eli Manning faked the handoff before firing a strike to Domenik Hixon, who grabbed the two-pointer to tie the game at 28.
Play to forget: The Panthers were leading, 14-10, when Jake Delhomme decided to go for more. On a first down play midway through the second quarter, he dropped back and lofted a perfectly-placed bomb in the direction of Muhsin Muhammad. The veteran Panthers receiver had gotten behind Aaron Ross, but the ball had enough air underneath it that Ross had plenty of time to recover and make a play on the ball. However, he was unable to, Moose made the grab, and three plays later Carolina was in the end zone with a 21-10 lead.
What went right
The Giants found out before the game that they had clinched a first-round bye after Atlanta knocked off Minnesota, 24-17. By the end of it, they had wrapped up the much coveted top seed in the NFC playoffs.
While Brandon Jacobs returned to the lineup, it was actually Derrick Ward who was New York's rushing star. Ward broke off multiple big runs and rolled up 215 yards on only 15 carries. He finished with a gaudy 14.3 yards per carry average.
Beaten up pretty badly in the first half, the Giants defense rebounded in the final two quarters, allowing only seven points after intermission. That allowed Big Blue to overcome an 11-point deficit.
After concern all week that Domenik Hixon wouldn't even be able to play due to ankle and foot injuries, he made a huge play on New York's first drive. On third down, Manning eluded Carolina pressure and uncorked a beautiful long pass that Hixon collected for a 40-yard gain. That set up the game's first points, a John Carney field goal.
What went wrong
DeAngelo Williams was a scoring machine for the Panthers – in the first half alone. Williams posted a hat trick, scoring three TDs during the game's first 30 minutes. The former Memphis star scored on runs of 13 yards, 5 yards, and 1 yard. He added a 30-yard TD run in the fourth quarter for good measure.
The Giants dropped at least three interceptions in this game. Ross was unable to break up the 60-yarder to Muhammad, Terrell Thomas dropped what would have been a certain TD when he couldn't handle a Delhomme pass in the flat and Kevin Dockery couldn't corral another errant Delhomme offering.
Kevin Gilbride's play-calling was easily called into question in the second quarter after Madison Hedgecock was dropped for no gain on a third-down play with the Giants needing less than a yard. Hedgecock's first carry of the season was a bust.
Aaron Ross was forced from the game with what the team called a concussion. The good news is that Ross will basically have three weeks until the Giants again take the field in another meaningful game.
0 – Number of turnovers in the game; this was playoff football at its finest
1 – New York's seed in the upcoming playoffs; they accomplished their primary regular-season goal
14.3 – Average yards per carry for Derrick Ward, who is headed for NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors
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