CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Andre Brown ran for a career-high 96 yards and a touchdown and the New York Giants turned in a dominating first-half performance to take a 20-0 halftime lead over the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night.
Eli Manning completed 19 of 25 passes for 208 yards in the half, including a 14-yard touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett to cap the Giants' game-opening drive. With Brown repeatedly bouncing off tacklers and Manning looking sharp after a career-high passing performance last week, the Giants scored on their first four first-half drives to silence the Panthers' crowd.
The Giants were missing three offensive starters, including running back Ahmad Bradshaw and receiver Hakeem Nicks. Those injuries made Brown and receiver Ramses Barden first-time starters — and both players did more than enough to keep New York's offense humming after last week's 604-yard output in the come-from-behind 41-34 win against Tampa Bay.
Brown ran 13 times for 71 yards and a TD last week — the first rushing yards of the third-year back's career — and surpassed that total by the end of the first quarter.
Barden had eight catches for 139 yards by halftime. Before Thursday night, the fourth-year receiver had never managed more than nine catches for 94 yards receiving in a season.
Lawrence Tynes added two field goals, a 47-yarder to cap the Giants' second drive and a 49-yarder on the fourth.
The Panthers struggled to string together drives. Their first drive stalled near midfield, while another drive that had pushed near midfield in the last 2 minutes of the half ended when Jayron Hosley grabbed a deflected pass from Cam Newton for an interception.
Newton completed just 5 of 12 passes for 90 yards in the first half, while the Panthers' rushing game managed just 44 yards. Top receiver Steve Smith had just one catch for 13 yards in the half.
It was a strong start for a Giants team that came in short-handed due to injuries. The Giants were also missing starting right tackle David Diehl, and with the absence of reserve Domenik Hixon, the Giants dressed only four receivers.
It didn't slow Manning, who started the game with a 12-yard strike to wideout Victor Cruz. Brown followed with the biggest gainer of the drive when he bounced off a hit from Jon Beason and broke free on the right side for a 31-yard run. Three plays later, Manning found Bennett for an easy throw that put the Giants up at the 11:38 mark of the first quarter.
The touchdown pass capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive that marked the third straight game the Panthers have given up a touchdown on an opponent's first drive.
After Tynes' first field goal gave the Giants a 10-0 lead, Brown scored on a 1-yard run early in the second quarter to cap a 72-yard drive and push the lead to 17-0. Tynes' second long kick made it 20-0 with 3:13 left before halftime.
The Panthers were missing starting right tackle Byron Bell as well as running back Jonathan Stewart and linebacker Thomas Davis.