For the first eight years of his career, Chase Blackburn practiced against Eli Manning and the Giants offense, but Sunday was the first time he played against them in a game.
It was helpful to the Panthers defense that Blackburn, now a Panthers linebacker, called out the plays before the ball was snapped.
I had an idea of what they run and what they like to do in situations, Blackburn said. We had a great game plan going in. Ive been sharing all the information all week. Guys, all of us, linebackers were out there knowing what to do; (defensive backs) knew what kind of routes they were going to get off the route combinations.
It makes for a big difference when you can play the game at that speed. We were able to play fast because we were aware of what they were going to do.
Blackburn enjoyed the best year of his career last season with New York, with 61 tackles, four forced fumbles and three sacks. Despite starting 15 games for the Giants last year, he was unable to get a snap for the Panthers through two regular-season games.
Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis held down the middle and strongside linebacker positions, respectively, and Jon Beason had gotten the starts at weakside after microfracture knee surgery in October.
Beason has struggled, though, and Rivera saw an opportunity this week to get Blackburn reps on defense and not just on special teams.
This was one of those things when you have a guy who knows the other team and you sit there and you listen to him when he is watching tape, before the play even happens, he calls the play out, Rivera said. You go, He has a grasp of it. We saw it in practice. He was focused, he was excited and he brought a lot of energy.
Beason played just one snap Sunday, on a third down. Blackburn said last week he knew the situation when he came to Carolina that he was brought on to be a backup with the Panthers.
With that in mind, Blackburn didnt publicly complain about his lack of snaps. But his knowledge of the opposing offense and helping hold the Giants to 150 total offensive yards helped make a statement for him.
It felt great, especially against these guys, Blackburn said. Being a part of this game feels fantastic. Its tough, we got a lot of great linebackers on this squad and to get guys snaps, its tough to come by. When you get them you got to make the most of them, and when we watch the film, hopefully I did that today.
LaFell shines : Perhaps no player felt like a bigger weight was off his shoulders on Sunday than wide receiver Brandon LaFell.
LaFell, Carolinas No. 2 receiver who had struggled through the first two games, caught three passes for 53 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants, his first multiple-touchdown game in a four-year career.
Entering Sunday, LaFell had four catches for 13 yards.
I could have been the guy not getting the ball, whining and complaining and shutting it down, but thats not me, LaFell said. I know first things first; (Steve Smiths) going to get the ball then its my turn. Ive just been ready when my numbers called. Today my number was called; I was ready, and I scored two touchdowns.
Cam Newton hit LaFell on a 16-yard touchdown in the second quarter to put Carolina up 17-0 heading into halftime. And on the first drive of the second half, LaFell made a good play on an underthrown pass from Newton to haul in the 20-yard touchdown.
Its great because it gets people to stop coming down on him, saying hes not doing his job, Smith said. Hes doing a great job. He only can do what he can do when he has the ball, and he did it today. So he got his opportunity and made the best of it.
• In the first professional game he has played in his hometown, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks left Charlotte with zero catches and just one target.
• Veteran Colin Cole got the start at defensive tackle in place of Dwan Edwards, who was inactive with a hamstring injury.
• David Wilson became the first player this year to return a Graham Gano kickoff when he went 24 yards from 9 yards deep in the end zone.
• The Giants consistently punted the ball short in an effort to keep the ball out of Ted Ginns hands and also potentially get a turnover, which they did when the ball hit Richie Brockel in the first quarter.
• Smith and LaFell greeted Giants wide receiver Louis Murphy at midfield before the game. Murphy was Carolinas No. 3 receiver last year.
By the numbers
8 Yards on Domenik Hixons first, and so far only, catch for Carolina this season.
6,075 Career rushing yards for DeAngelo Williams, who became the third player in NFL history with 6,000-plus yards in college and the NFL.
18 Net offensive yards in the first half were the second-fewest allowed by the Panthers in team history.
1 Net passing yard for the Giants with 6:58 remaining in the third quarter.
Just for our confidence and hard work, 1-2 is so much better than 0-3. Carolina offensive tackle Jordan Gross.
As the New York Giants, we take a lot of pride for keeping Eli clean and that was definitely not the case today. New York center David Baas.
I guess we didnt fight enough. Coming up short, were coming up extremely short. New York safety Antrel Rolle.
Mike Tolbert got a big cramp in the middle of (a punt), and when he gets a cramp, its big. Carolina coach Ron Rivera.
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9