The Carolina Panthers fell, 34-28, to the New York Giants as Brandon Jacobs scored on a two-yard plunge in overtime after John Kasay missed a 50-yard field goal at the end of regulation.
The Giants outscored the Panthers, 21-7, after halftime and rushed for 301 yards, including 215 by Derrick Ward. Carolina lost a chance to clinch the NFC South and secure home-field advantage in the NFC for the postseason.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The assurance of a season that will extend beyond the new year and a placement in the postseason was scant salve for the Panthers’ wounds late Sunday night after the 34-28 overtime loss to the New York Giants.
“It’s tough,” quarterback Jake Delhomme said. “I think I have a lot more anger and despair inside than anything else. That’s why we play this game. The highs are extremely high and the lows are very low.”
And even though there is a tomorrow after next Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints, the circumstances of the defeat that saw the Panthers lose home-field advantage — squandering an 11-point lead, allowing over 300 yards rushing — turned the locker room into a den of lament as the minutes crept towards midnight on the first night of winter.
A POTENTIAL REMATCH WITH THE GIANTS tempted some Panthers, who see not only a chance for redemption, but to prove that they can be better when it matters most against a team with which they traded haymakers for nearly all of the 65 minutes, three seconds that Sunday’s game consumed.
“I hope we do (play the Giants in the playoffs),” safety Chris Harris said. “I really hope we do. It would have been better to see them at our place, but it doesn’t matter.”
A return engagement at the Meadowlands would imply some level of postseason success; the Panthers can’t get another crack at the Giants without winning at least one game in January.
“We know we’re in the playoffs, and if we’re lucky enough to get back here, then that would be fantastic. That means things are going well,” Delhomme said. “But we have to worry about going to New Orleans this week and trying to get a win and clinch the division.”
Added kicker John Kasay: “We’ll take them one week at a time,” kicker John Kasay said. “This is not what we wanted. But sometimes we’ve got to accept what we’ve got.”
And what the Panthers have is a chance for their best regular-season finish in a dozen years.
“If we can get the No. 2 seed, we still get a bye and at least one home game. That’s still something huge to be playing for,” linebacker Jon Beason said. “I know the Saints are going to be upset about what happened the last time we played them (a 30-7 Carolina win), and they’re a good team. Even though they’re not going to make the playoffs, they’re going to be more than willing to get up for us. It’ll be another dogfight this week, and we’ve got to answer the bell.”
SPLIT SECONDS: The two teams combined to commit just four penalties Sunday night. Unfortunately for Carolina, two of the infractions came late in the fourth quarter — a pass-interference call on Ken Lucas in the end zone that set up a Giants touchdown and a holding call against Steve Smith on the Panthers’ final possession of regulation, which wiped out a nine-yard Williams run to the Giants’ 28-yard-line. The downfield holding call set up first-and-13 at the New York 40, which the Panthers couldn’t convert, forcing them to settle for the 50-yard John Kasay field goal attempt that missed wide left …
… Defensive tackle Damione Lewis emerged from the game with a shoulder injury …
… Geoff Hangartner started for Keydrick Vincent at right guard, but Jeremy Bridges also saw substantial playing time at the position. Bridges started 10 games at the slot in 2007 and filled in for Vincent after he injured his groin against Denver …
… Defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu’s absence due to an ankle injury necessitated Darwin Walker’s first start of the season. With Kemoeatu out, the Panthers activated Nick Hayden, who made his regular-season debut one day after being promoted from the practice squad. Hayden, a rookie from Wisconsin, finished the game with one tackle …
… The loss was Carolina’s first by less than a touchdown this year; their previous three defeats came by 10, 24 and 17 points. The Panthers are now 5-1 in games with a single-digit margin in 2008 …
… Carolina failed to extend its streak of games with at least 30 points to four, but the 28-point night continued its trend of prolific outputs; the Panthers have scored at least 28 points in six consecutive weeks, averaging 31.7 points per game in that span.
*****from Andrew Mason at panthers.com*****