Giants spook Sam Darnold, Panthers in upset win

James Bradberry Giants
New York Giants cornerback James Bradberry (24) reacts after an interception against the Carolina Panthers during the first half at MetLife Stadium.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Just in time for Halloween, the New York Giants prompted Carolina Panthers quarterback and former Jet Sam Darnold to see ghosts once again at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

A defensive clinic coupled with Carolina ineptitude led the way in a Giants’ 25-3 upset victory in Week 7 to improve Joe Judge’s side to 2-5 on the 2021 season.

Darnold’s broken Panthers offense posted just 173 total yards on the day while the fourth-year passer completed just 16-of-25 passes for 111 yards and an interception before he was benched for PJ Walker in the fourth quarter.

Rookie linebacker Azeez Ojulari led the way with his finest game as a pro to date, recording 2.5 sacks while Leonard Williams added 1.5 sacks of his own.

A resolute defense afforded the Giants offense enough time to rectify a slow start, which included five trips into Panthers territory during the first half but resulted in just three offensive points.

The Giants overturned a Panthers opening field goal with one of their most efficient looking drives of the season late in the first quarter.

After a short 28-yard punt gave the Giants plus field position on the Carolina 41-yard-line, Daniel Jones drove down to the Carolina 2-yard-line. It looked as though he hooked up with Kyle Rudolph for a touchdown, but the veteran tight end’s first score as a Giant was wiped away after his tip-toe act on the right sideline while stretching for the pylon was reversed and brought back to the 1-yard-line.

Jason Garrett’s ineptitude to punch the ball in the end zone continued after Devontae Booker was stuffed and Jones was forced to throw the ball out of the back of the end zone on third down. Head coach Joe Judge remained aggressive, going for it on fourth down, but a predictable run up the middle by Booker was stuffed again and the Giants turned it over on downs.

The defense bailed Garrett out after the Panthers took over as Leonard Williams pressured Darnold into an intentional grounding while in the end zone. It resulted in a safety to pull the Giants within one point for a peculiar football scoreline of 3-2.

It was a part of an eight-possession stretch that forced six Panthers punts, that safety, and a turnover.

The Giants took the lead while maintaining a baseball scoreline with 12:53 to go in the second quarter when Nick Folk knocked through a 49-yard field goal to make it 5-3.

The defense continued to make big plays as James Bradberry picked Darnold and his former team off on the Giants’ 5-yard-line to snuff out a threatening Panthers drive and keep New York’s slim lead intact.

The interception was Darnold’s seventh in his last four games — and an all-too-familiar sight at MetLife Stadium.

While the Giants offense struggled to generate anything, the defense continued holding Darnold, yielding just 21 total yards on their first two drives of the second half.

With time to figure things out, the Giants got creative when Dante Pettis received a reverse toss and looked for Jones down the right sideline. The running throw was too strong, but the athletic quarterback made a miraculous diving, one-handed catch off his facemask for 16 yards to move into Panthers territory.

It was the highlight of Jones’ afternoon, which ended with a modest 203 passing yards with a touchdown.

After leaning on the RPO to get on the doorstep, Jones and Pettis hooked up more traditionally — the quarterback hitting the wide receiver for a five-yard tumbling touchdown to extend the Giants’ lead with 59 seconds left in the third quarter. The lead grew to 12 with 12:41 left in the game when Graham Gano nailed a 53-yard field goal.

On the ensuing possession, Darnold was benched for Walker, who didn’t fare much better as the Giants extended their lead to 15 with 5:54 to go after another field goal by Gano.

Booker put the exclamation point on the afternoon with a 19-yard touchdown scamper with five minutes to go after the Giants forced a desperate Panthers turnover on downs deep in their own territory.

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