January 8, 2006

Carolina crush Giants in wild card playoff

By Larry Fine

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Reuters) - The Carolina
Panthers used a crushing defense and a rugged running game to
rout the New York Giants 23-0 in a NFC wild card game on

Dominating both sides of the ball, Carolina controlled the
clock for nearly 43 minutes and got a pair of touchdowns from
receiver Steve Smith.

The victory lifted the Panthers to a second-round clash
next week at Chicago Bears, who they play for a place in the
NFC championship game against either the Seattle Seahawks or
the Washington Redskins.

"When you get to this time of the season you've got to play
your best," said Carolina coach John Fox. "Our team played as
well as they have all year."

Carolina, who had notched up the same 11-5 regular season
record as the Giants, held New York to just 132 yards of
offense, intercepting Giants quarterback Eli Manning three
times and recovering two fumbles.

DeShaun Foster and Nick Goings led a Panthers ground game
that churned out 223 yards with Foster gaining 151 yards on 27
carries to silence a crowd of 79,378 at Giants Stadium.

Even receiver Smith got into the act, tearing around the
left side on a reverse to score a touchdown from 12 yards out
at 6:57 of the third quarter that made the score 17-0.

Three field goals by left-footed John Kasay, from 31, 45
and 18 yards, completed the scoring for Carolina, who won six
of eight on the road in the regular season.

The hapless Giants could not generate any offense against
the fierce Panthers, ranked third in the NFL on defense under
Fox, a former Giants defensive coordinator.

"Today we didn't play well, we didn't tackle well," said
Giants coach Tom Coughlin. "My hat's off to Carolina."

New York's top running back Tiki Barber gained just 41
yards in 13 carries.

"The emphasis all week was on stopping the run and running
the football," said Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme.


Carolina, who reached the Super Bowl in 2003, controlled
the ball from the start but did not get on the scoreboard until
5:19 into the second quarter.

Smith caught a 22-yard strike from Delhomme, who completed
15-of-22 for 140 yards in the game, capping off 77-yard drive
that took nearly eight minutes off the clock.

The margin increased to 10-0 late in the first half after
the hapless Giants gave the Panthers the ball on their own
15-yard line when a poor Carolina punt bounced up against New
York's Gibril Wilson, who had his back to the ball, for a
fumble that led to a field goal.

Despite the lack of scoring, the play was all going
Carolina's way as they took the Giants by surprise with their
play calling and anticipated New York's every move on offense.

"They have a good defensive team and they made all the
right calls today," Coughlin said.

Besides the interceptions, which came on bad decisions
compounded by poor throws, Manning also lost a fumble late in
the game after a sack.

"Today we couldn't do anything," said Manning, 10-18 for 91
yards in his first NFL playoff game. "I wish I had a reason."

Barber said no one on the NFC East titilist Giants, save
defensive end Michael Strahan who had a pair of sacks, had a
good day.

"We were outplayed and out-coached," he said.