The Giants were without their starting running back (Ahmad Bradshaw), so journeyman Andre Brown just ran the ball down the Panthers' throats for 113 yards and two scores. New York was without its No. 1 wide receiver (Hakeem Nicks), so Ramses Barden dusted the cobwebs off his uniform before exploding for nine receptions. The Giants were without a starting tackle (David Diehl), and Eli Manning was barely touched all night.
No team exemplifies the "next man up" philosophy better than the Giants. It was this week last year when Victor Cruz emerged out of nowhere. General manager Jerry Reese knows how to find value in odd places. He also can get lucky.
Brown, for instance, has been cut eight times in his NFL career by five different teams, including the Giants (they drafted him in 2009). He was a revelation in this game, showing great vision, patience and power while darting through the soft Panthers defense. He had more yards in the first half than in his entire career up to that point.
Barden is a lanky third-round draft pick who had fewer than 200 career receiving yards entering Thursday night. He had 138 yards in this game alone, continually beating man coverage over the middle.
With Diehl out, the Giants started fourth-year pro Will Beatty at left tackle and Sean Locklear at right tackle. The line looked better than it has all year. Reese's biggest free-agent pickup, tight end Martellus Bennett, had a big night as well.
This win will resonate for the Giants. A few short-term solutions had career nights to get a big road win against a dangerous NFC team. The Giants also might have found a few long-term solutions who can help deep into the season. That's what the Giants do as well as any team in the NFL.Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.