Carolina looked like it wanted to bungle the ballgame away again - two backed-into punts in a three week season? - but just for a second or two. Starting with a dominant pass rush, followed by oddly good play that helped throw in some coverage sacks (featuring two undrafted rookies, Melvin White and Robert Lester, and 32 year old Drayton Florence signed this week), and a spark started by Cam Newton's legs (4 rushes for 40 yards early on) but finished by his arm (223 yards, 3 touchdowns).
Newton hit Ted Ginn on a nice 47 yard TD, as well as Brandon LaFell twice; he finished with 45 yards and a score rushing, as well. Deangelo Williams knocked down 120 yards on the ground; Mike Tolbert added a score as a backup.
The only hiccups? A punt that hit Richie Brockel, and an interception by Aaron Ross, neither of which the Giants turned into points. By the first full drive of the second half, Carolina has 24 points, the Giants had 18 yards of total offense (one yard net passing).
The OL held its own against the Giants' top DL as well. Carolina gave up one sack - a shifted formation putting Greg Olsen on Matthias Kiwanuka - and its own defensive line brought an impressive amount of pressure. 7 total sacks (Greg Hardy, 3; Thomas Davis, Kawann Short, Star Lotulelei, and Charles Johnson with 1) set the defensive tone early and never let Eli Manning have a shot at making plays.
So, I vastly underestimated Carolina today. Luckily, it was a disaster for NY, not for Carolina; luckily, Carolina picked it up.
What's next, though?
It looks like Carolina will continue to play traditional run games and traditional QBs fairly well. They will probably be somewhat negated against running QBs to a point (Carolina plays only Colin Kaepernick with a true running threat, depending on how you view Josh Freeman).
The rest is hard to say. Will Carolina run the ball this well moving forward? Will the offense be as potent? Probably not, but maybe the team learned what flavor it is offensively. Maybe they can be aggressive without being low percentage. If so, things are turning up.