EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Nothing that happened in Sunday's season opener at the New York Giants shook Carolina Panthers linebacker and leader Jon Beason's faith in his team.
Beason knows, however, that numerous things that happened in the 31-18 loss at New Meadowlands Stadium can't keep happening.
"That's not Panther football," Beason said after the Panthers turned the ball over five times and allowed the Giants to score on their first three second-half possessions. "We've firmly established a new level of excellence here, a standard of play that's consistent, but we didn't play 60 minutes of football today.
"I like this team. I think we still have an opportunity to be very special. We'll just move forward."
The Panthers took a 16-14 lead into the locker room after Steve Smith scored on a 19-yard pass from Matt Moore with two seconds left in the first half, but the second half belonged to the Giants.
New York took the lead on Lawrence Tynes' 31-yard field goal to open the third quarter, and the Giants extended the lead on Hakeem Nicks' third touchdown catch on the next drive – a 5-yarder from Eli Manning.
They virtually put it away on their next possession, when Ahmad Bradshaw scored on a 4-yard scamper early in the fourth quarter.
The Giants' second-half touchdowns were set up by Panthers miscues. Before the first one, Carolina long snapper J.J. Jansen lost his grip in a punt situation as a heavy mist fell, setting the Giants up 38 yards from the end zone. Before the Giants' final touchdown, a personal foul set New York up near midfield.
"We started off fast, but we just didn't finish the way we'd like to finish," said running back DeAngelo Williams, who gained 62 yards on 16 carries. "They made more plays than we did. We were very inconsistent.
"It's no time to panic at all. It was the first game. We've got 15 left."
While the Giants cashed in on most of their scoring opportunities, the Panthers missed out on several. Moore, who left the game with less than three minutes to play after suffering a concussion on a sack and fumble near his own end zone, was intercepted three times in the end zone after the Panthers had penetrated the red zone.
"In this league, the team that makes the fewest mistakes and makes the plays usually ends up winning," head coach John Fox said. "We hung with them in the first half, but they definitely had the advantage with that in the second half."
The Giants looked like they'd head to half with the lead, answering John Kasay's field goals of 21, 52 and 43 yards by claiming a 14-9 lead when Nicks scored his second TD with just 45 seconds left in the half.
The Panthers, however, capped a solid opening half with an offensive touchdown in rapid-fire fashion, something that eluded them the entire preseason. Mike Goodson returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield, then Moore -- who was 3-for-9 for 32 yards to that point -- hit on 4-of-5 passes to close the half, capped by the touchdown to Smith.
At that minute, Moore looked like he might be ready to duel with Manning, who finished 20-of-30 for 263 yards, and the Panthers defense threatened to keep up the promising pace that it set in the preseason, holding the Giants to 8 rushing yards in the first half.
Moore, however, finished just 14-for-33 for 182 yards, while Manning repeatedly beat Carolina's secondary over the top. The Giants also responded with 110 rushing yards in the second half to finish with a 376-237 edge in total offense.
The performance was enough to leave safety Charles Godfrey speechless about his individual accomplishment of two interceptions.
"That's not something that I'm worried about right now. I don't think we played good as a defense," he said. "We had some miscues assignment-wise, not paying attention to details. That hurt us."
But Godfrey, like many of his teammates, refused to see the Week 1 outcome as the end of the world.
"We've just got to go back to the drawing board and correct our mistakes," he said. "We played our game in the preseason. Now we have to get back to that.
"We'll get back to that defense, and we'll be all right."