EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Matt Moore and the Carolina Panthers turned the New York Giants’ farewell to Giants Stadium into one of their ugliest moments in franchise history.
Playing in front of Lawrence Taylor — possibly their greatest player — and knowing they still had a shot at a fifth straight playoff berth, the Giants (8-7) embarrassed themselves against the Panthers, a team with nothing at stake. Moore threw three touchdown passes, Jonathan Stewart rushed for a career-best 209 yards and the Panthers (7-8) shredded New York’s defense with scores on six of their first seven possessions in a 41-9 victory before a disgusted final sellout crowd Sunday.
The Giants’ postseason chances are microscopic. After stating the season 5-0, New York would have to beat Minnesota next week and hope Dallas lost its final two games, starting on Sunday night against Washington.
Can you say wishing thinking? Giants fans are skeptical: After booing their defense most of the day, many left the stadium well before the game ended.
Stewart ran for a 29-yard touchdown and set up another score by Brad Hoover with a long run. The Panthers forced three turnovers in their third win in four games for coach John Fox, whose future with the team remains cloudy.
Eli Manning threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith and Lawrence Tynes kicked a 40-yard field goal for the Giants, who didn’t score until Carolina built a 31-0 lead early in the third quarter. Manning finished 29 for 43 for for 296 yards and two interceptions.
Coming off a 45-12 throttling of the Redskins on Monday night, the Giants seemed ready to shed their late-season slump and make a final run to the postseason.
Their opening drive seemed to reaffirm that. Manning methodically drove New York downfield and appeared to cap an 80-yard drive with a 26-yard touchdown pass to the Giants’ Steve Smith.
However, the play was called back by a holding penalty against fullback Madison Hedgecock and the drive eventually ended when Mario Manningham fumbled on third down at the Panthers 17.
Everything after that was all Carolina.
Moore, who was 15 of 20 for 171 yards in his seventh career start, led the Panthers on a 15-play drive before settling for a 38-yard field goal by John Kasay.
Carolina scored on drives of 63, 51 and 29 yards on its next three possession, the last set up by Richard Marshall’s interception.
The sloppy Giants, who missed tackles all game, didn’t get a hand on Stewart on his cutback touchdown run that stretched the lead to 10-0.
Moore extended the lead to 17-0 with a 22-yard sideline go pattern to Muhsin Muhammad, and encouraged more boos from the crowd with a 2-yard TD toss to wide-open tight end Jeff King minutes later.
Moore found Carolina’s Steve Smith for a 27-yard TD on the opening possession of the third quarter, but Smith hurt his left arm and had to leave.
Carolina, which rolled up 416 yards in total offense, also got a 27-yard field goal from Kasay and a 1-yard touchdown run by Hoover, a score set up by a 52-yard run by Stewart.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.