Panthers part of farewell
By Tom Canavan
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. ó After starting the season with five straight wins, the New York Giants had a feeling there would be postseason games in their final season at Giants Stadium.
They guessed wrong.
A tailspin has the Giants (8-6) in desperate need of wins and help down the stretch. The only so-called playoff game at the 34-year-old stadium in the Meadowlands sports complex will be New York’s crucial contest against the Carolina Panthers (6-8) today at 1 p.m.
The Giants trail Dallas and Green Bay by a game in the wild-card race. They probably will have to win their last two games and hope either the Cowboys or Packers lose one to get to the postseason. New York owns the tiebreaker with both teams.
The Jets, who also play in Giants Stadium and will be the Giants’ partner in the new facility that opens next season, actually will play the final game in the building when they host the Cincinnati Bengals a week from today.
For the Giants, though, this will be their final game in the stadium that opened in 1976, and there is extra motivation for the players.
Defensive end Justin Tuck said winning would be everything for him.
“These fans come out in sunshine, rain, wind, and they are always there rooting us on,” Tuck said. “I am excited about being able to play the last game in Giants Stadium and, hopefully, we can go out there and put on a show and let them know how much we appreciate them and the stadium and all the memories and all the players that have played here before. We want to send Giants Stadium out on a W.”
There are tons of memories.
For the bad times, there is always Joe Pisarcik and “The Fumble” in 1978; the ‘snowball’ game against the Chargers in 1995; and playoff losses to the Rams (’89 season), Vikings (’97) and Eagles (’08).
The good times saw the Giants win three championships, the last in the shocking upset of the then-unbeaten New England Patriots.
“I have only been here six years, but I have a lot of fond memories and great wins,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. “Obviously for the fans and the ownership, it’s a special game for them. You think about how many great teams and great games have been played in Giants Stadium. It will be a special day for us.”
The Giants and Panthers come in off outstanding performances.
Carolina, which is playing for pride at this point, stunned Minnesota 27-6 on Sunday night. Matt Moore threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns and the Panthers’ defense limited the Vikings to 237 yards, with 63 coming on a pass play with the game decided.
Panthers linebacker Na’il Diggs isn’t concerned about either the Giants or this being their last game in the stadium.
“It’s more about us,” Diggs said. “We’ve got our own set of accomplishments that we’ve still got to achieve. No, we’re not going to the playoffs. No, we’re not where we want to be. But we’ve still got some work to do in these next couple of weeks in-house. We’re not worrying about whose party we’re messing up.”
Diggs said last week’s performance gave confidence to a team that also remembers last year’s meeting with the Giants. New York posted a 34-28 overtime win to edge the Panthers for home-field advantage in the playoffs.
Then both the Giants and Panthers were eliminated in the NFC semifinals, so the home field didn’t mean anything.
“I feel that we’re a very dangerous team because we’re talented but don’t have the record to stand behind it,” Diggs said. “But we’re a talented team, and we can get the job done. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
New York played its finest game in almost two months, manhandling the Redskins 45-12 on Monday night. Manning threw for three touchdowns and the defense had three interceptions, five sacks and 12 quarterback hits.
The performance came a week after New York gave up 45 points in a crushing loss to Philadelphia.
“All along everyone was saying the right things and doing the right things,” defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said of the much-maligned defense. “It just wasn’t translating to the field. The question was when was it going to happen and obviously it started and we have to keep it rolling.”
Carolina coach John Fox knows about Giants Stadium. He was New York’s defensive coordinator in 2000 when it went to the Super Bowl. New York beat the Eagles in the NFC semifinal and then routed the Vikings 41-0 in the conference title game.
“That whole run was tremendous,” Fox said. “That stadium, it is almost indescribable the energy and the excitement in that stadium. In those two games, I don’t know if I have ever been in an outdoor stadium that loud.”
Panthers reserve running back Tyrell Sutton won’t play today because of a calf injury. DeAngelo Williams is doubtful with a sprained left ankle, although he made the trip to New York.
nPolice say a man wanted for cyberstalking may be the same person pretending to be Panthers left tackle Travelle Wharton.
A misdemeanor cyberstalking warrant has been issued for Christon Brewer, who has lived in Charlotte and Monroe.
The Panthers announced last week that a Wharton impostor defrauded a handful of people out of about $25,000 in bogus investment scams over the past year.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Sgt. Walter Bowling said Brewer used an alias of Travelle Wharton and is a “person of interest” relating to the impersonation investigation of the Panthers player.