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Nicks' big day leads Giants to 31-18 win over Panthers

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By BARRY WILNER, AP Sports Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The New York Giants finally can feel at home against the Carolina Panthers.

They just needed a new home to get that feeling.

Hakeem Nicks caught three touchdown passes from Eli Manning, all in the left corner of the end zone, and the Giants surged in the second half Sunday for a 31-18 victory.

Ahmad Bradshaw set up his own 4-yard TD run in the fourth quarter with a 39-yard romp that provided the cushion New York needed to get some revenge on Carolina.

The Panthers routed the Giants 41-9 in the hosts' final game at Giants Stadium last December. In 2005, the Panthers shut out the Giants in a playoff game at the same venue.

But Carolina couldn't match New York in the final two quarters this time before 77,245 fans - considered a sellout despite the unusual sight of hundreds of empty seats in the $1.6 billion New Meadowlands Stadium. The Giants could not sell all the club seats, which don't count under league blackout rules.

Nicks finished with four catches for 75 yards, while Manning went 20 for 30 for 263 yards. But he also was picked off three times.

So was Carolina quarterback Matt Moore, who left the game wobbly in the final minutes after being sacked by Osi Umenyiora.

The opener hardly was a classic, often matching the gloomy weather and gray colors that dominate the stadium that already has hosted concerts, international soccer matches and preseason football. Both teams were sloppy more than they were efficient - they combined for 16 penalties and nine turnovers, five by the Panthers- but the Giants got going in the second half.

New York turned a botched snap on a Carolina punt into seven points as Nicks caught his third TD pass late in the third quarter for a 24-16 lead. The second-year receiver already has half as many touchdowns as he scored as a rookie.

The Giants had taken the lead for good on Lawrence Tynes' 31-yard field goal earlier in the period, a series kept alive by Manning's quarterback sneak to gain the necessary few inches on fourth down.

Although 30 points were scored in the opening half, neither offense was particularly sharp. Each side made some big plays through the air, but so did the defenses, with Carolina's Charles Godfrey and New York's Deon Grant each making interceptions.

John Kasay had field goals of 21, 52 and 43 yards when Carolina drives stalled. New York offset that thanks mostly to the Manning to Nicks connection, which produced touchdowns of 26 and 19 yards.

Nicks' second TD capped an 80-yard drive that took just over a minute, but Mike Goodson's 45-yard kickoff runback followed. That gave Moore 33 seconds, enough time to boost the Panthers ahead 16-14 with a pinpoint 19-yard pass to Steve Smith between three defenders.

It was the first touchdown for the Panthers, who managed only 33 points in the preseason, none by getting into the end zone.

Yet that was about the last gasp for Carolina, the league's youngest team. The inexperience showed in the last period, particularly when Moore was picked off by Terrell Thomas and Kenny Phillips, both in the end zone.

For New York, the second-half stinginess was a welcome change from the final two games of 2009, when the Giants yielded 80 points.

Carolina's only second-half points came when Greg Hardy blocked a punt through the end zone for a safety with 3:57 to go.

The Giants, who opened last season 5-0 before slumping to 8-8, lost tight end Kevin Boss (neck/concussion) and special teams captain Chase Blackburn (knee).

Game stats

Copyright 2009 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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