Samuel gives Panthers another speedy option on offense
By STEVE REED
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is thrilled to have another big-time player in his arsenal moving forward.
Speedy wide receiver Curtis Samuel, the team's second-round draft pick in 2017, returned to action Sunday after missing the first three games due to a minor heart procedure and made an immediate impact in the team's 33-31 win over the New York Giants .
Samuel scored on a 25-yard catch-and-run reception in the first quarter in which he broke three tackles , and also had a key strip on a muffed Giants punt return as a gunner that resulted in a Carolina recovery in the end zone for touchdown .
"He's always been a key asset for us since day one," Newton said of Samuel. "He may not understand his threshold of greatness. Today you saw it. A guy who is very slippery when he gets the ball, resilient when he's running, and shows you the capabilities that he has."
Samuel's rookie season with Carolina was marred by injuries.
He missed time in training camp with a hamstring injury and later, just as he was beginning to contribute on offense and special teams, broke his ankle causing him to miss the final seven games, including the team's playoff game against New Orleans. He gives the Panthers another deep threat along with rookie D.J. Moore.
"We have to get the ball in his hands as much as possible," Newton said of Samuel.
"When I touch the ball I don't feel like anybody can stop me," Samuel said. "Just getting back in the groove, going back to what I was doing in college (at Ohio State), I feel like it's similar to me. My skillset hasn't changed, I can do all those types of things. I just got to show it at this level."
Next week the Panthers will get back a big-time player on defense when outside linebacker Thomas Davis returns from a four-game suspension following a positive test for PEDs.
Things we learned from the Panthers' 33-31 win over the Giants:
MANNING CAN STILL DO IT
The Giants didn't win, but the much-maligned Eli Manning showed he can still perform in the clutch. Manning nearly had comeback win No. 36, putting the Giants up 31-30 with 1:08 to play on a 15-yard scoring strike to Saquon Barkley. That capped a four-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in which he completed all four pass attempts. "I did not need that drive to know about the magic of Eli Manning," Barkley said. "I knew about Eli before I got here, the way he worked, the way he played, how great he is as a leader, how smart he is."
ADAMS CAN PLAY TOO
With so many eyes on Eric Reid's Panthers debut , it was team's other safety, 37-year-old safety Mike Adams, who picked off the 37-year-old Manning on consecutive plays in the second half. Panthers coach Ron Rivera called Adams a veteran guy who is a "calming, steadying force out there." Carolina's defense will have a challenge next week in Washington. Redskins quarterback Alex Smith entered this week's Monday night matchup with New Orleans with only one interception and four touchdowns.
BECKHAM THROWS TD
Strangely enough, Beckham got into the touchdown column with his arm before he did with his hands in 2018. After some controversial comments earlier in the week, Beckham ignited the Giants offense at just the right time by taking lateral from Manning on the left and heaving the ball to Barkley, who'd broken free on the right sideline. The 57-yard score was the longest pass play of the game. "It was a big lift, particularly when you're in a tight game and you have something good that happens," Giants coach Pat Shurmur said. "It jump-starts your team and emotions."
Shurmur's plan to get Barkley more involved on the ground didn't produce the same type of spark, though. Barkley finished with more receiving yards (81) than rushing (48) and scored twice through the air. He was repeatedly corralled behind the line of scrimmage for negative yards, starting the game with five carries for minus-4 yards.
GANO'S HISTORIC KICK
The NFL hasn't seen a 63-yard game-winning field goal like Graham Gano's since Nov. 8, 1970, when the Saints' Tom Dempsey hit what was then the longest field goal in league history to down the Lions 19-17. It was tied for the second-longest field goal in NFL history, second only behind Matt Prater, who converted a 64-yarder against Tennessee on Dec. 8, 2013.
CAM ON THE RUN
Carolina's running game wasn't as productive as it has been in the previous three games, held to 118 yards rushing - below the Panthers' season average of 166. A big reason is the Giants held quarterback Cam Newton to 29 yards on eight carries. Carolina will be tested coming up, facing two top-five rushing defenses in the Eagles and Redskins. While Newton didn't have a huge game on the ground, he did come up with a huge pancake block on Giants defensive end Kareem Martin. Said Panthers coach Ron Rivera: "He is going to lay it out on the line and he is going to help this football team in any capacity he can."
AP stringer Eli Pacheco contributed to this report.
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Updated October 8, 2018