Giants exact revenge on Panthers with sloppy win in new stadium

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Once they got cozy in their new digs, the New York Giants weren't about to let Carolina spoil their homecoming.

It took the Giants more than a half to fully feel comfortable in their $1.6 billion stadium. Then they surged past the Panthers, getting a little revenge along the way, in a 31-18 season-opening victory Sunday.

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"It was a whole new half, and all the errors we made were out the window," said Hakeem Nicks, who caught three touchdown passes from Eli Manning, all in the left corner of the end zone. "We just wanted to go out there and click."

Did they ever.

Ahmad Bradshaw set up his own 4-yard TD run in the fourth quarter with a 39-yard romp as New York outscored Carolina 17-2 in the second half. The Giants outgained the Panthers 196-72 in the last two periods of a generally sloppy game marred by nine turnovers -- five by Carolina -- and 16 penalties.

"We'll learn from what we did wrong and capitalize on it next week," Nicks said.

Actually, they learned quickly enough to take advantage right away against a team that routed them 41-9 in the hosts' final game at Giants Stadium last December. In 2005, the Panthers shut out the Giants in a playoff game at the same venue.

But Carolina couldn't match New York in the second half this time before 77,245 fans -- considered a sellout despite the unusual sight of hundreds of empty seats in the $1.6 billion New Meadowlands Stadium. The Giants could not sell all the club seats, which don't count under league blackout rules.

"It was a good win," guard Rich Seubert said. "Everybody knew what happened against them last season. It's always good when you open a new place, the new Giants Stadium, and get a win in it. It is going to be remembered for a long time."

Nicks finished with four catches for 75 yards, while Manning went 20 for 30 for 263 yards. But he also was picked off three times.

So was Carolina quarterback Matt Moore, who left the game wobbly in the final minutes after being sacked by Osi Umenyiora.

"Like all openers, everybody struggles to some degree," said Panthers coach John Fox, who in the final year of his contract doesn't need such collapses by his team. "The first half, we did some decent things in the pass game. As they game wore on, it got more in their advantage. There's no question they made more plays than we did. We made a few more mistakes than they did."

The opener hardly was a classic, often matching the gloomy weather and gray colors that dominate the stadium that already has hosted concerts, international soccer matches and preseason football.

New York turned a botched snap on a Carolina punt into seven points as Nicks caught his third TD pass late in the third quarter for a 24-16 lead. The second-year receiver already has half as many touchdowns as he scored as a rookie.

The Giants had taken the lead for good on Lawrence Tynes' 31-yard field goal earlier in the period, a series kept alive by Manning's quarterback sneak to gain the necessary few inches on fourth down.

Although 30 points were scored in the opening half, neither offense was particularly sharp. Each side made some big plays through the air, but so did the defenses, with Carolina's Charles Godfrey and New York's Deon Grant each making interceptions.

John Kasay had field goals of 21, 52 and 43 yards. New York offset that thanks mostly to the Manning to Nicks connection, which produced touchdowns of 26 and 19 yards.

Nicks' second TD capped an 80-yard drive that took just over a minute, but Mike Goodson's 45-yard kickoff runback followed. That gave Moore 33 seconds, enough time to boost the Panthers ahead 16-14 with a pinpoint 19-yard pass to Steve Smith between three defenders.

It was the first touchdown for the Panthers, who never got into the end zone in the preseason.

Yet that was about the last gasp for Carolina, the league's youngest team. The inexperience showed in the last period, particularly when Moore was picked off by Terrell Thomas and Kenny Phillips, both in the end zone.

For New York, the second-half stinginess was a welcome change from the final two games of 2009, when the Giants yielded 80 points.

Notes: The Giants, who opened last season 5-0 before slumping to 8-8, lost tight end Kevin Boss (neck/concussion) and special teams captain Chase Blackburn (right knee). In addition to Moore, Panthers WR Charly Martin sustained a concussion. Placekicker Todd Carter suffered back spasms ... Carolina's only second-half points came when Greg Hardy blocked a punt through the end zone for a safety with 3:57 to go.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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