- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As incomprehensibly poorly as things had gone for the New York Giants, with 3:45 left in the first half Sunday they still trailed only 10-0. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton had 40 rushing yards, which were key to the Panthers' first touchdown drive, but he had only completed four of his 12 passes for 41 yards. It was not yet clear who was going to win the game.
But at that 3:45 mark, the Panthers got the ball at their own 35-yard line and drove 65 yards in 13 plays for the touchdown that put them in control. On that drive, Carolina converted three third downs, including the one that resulted in the touchdown. On that drive, Newton was 6-for-10 for 71 yards. On that drive, Newton and the Panthers grabbed the game by both hands and sent the Giants reeling into the locker room knowing that they'd have to kick the ball right back to the home team to start the second half.
The key plays were the third-down pickups. On third-and-1 from the Carolina 44, fullback Mike Tolbert ran the ball up the middle for 3 yards. On third-and-11 from the Carolina 46, Newton completed an 11-yard pass to Ted Ginn Jr. But the worst for the Giants was, of course, the third-and-12 from the Giants' 16.
Right before that play, Newton called the Panthers' final timeout of the half with 19 seconds to go. If he wasn't going to score on the play, he would need to throw an incomplete pass or get the ball out of bounds, or else the Panthers might not have had time to set up for a field goal. Knowing this, Giants cornerback still somehow let Brandon LaFell get behind him and into the end zone, where he caught Newton's first touchdown pass of the day. The Giants went into the locker room down 17-0, Carolina would score another touchdown on the first drive of the second half, and the rout was on.