Manning makes first start for Giants

Friday, August 20, 2004

By Jenna Fryer ~ The Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Although the spotlight was on Eli Manning, Jake Delhomme shone the brightest.

Manning had a decent debut as a starter, but Delhomme overshadowed the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft by throwing for a touchdown and running for another in the Carolina Panthers' 27-20 preseason victory Thursday night over the New York Giants.

The game was the first test for Manning, the $45 million quarterback competing with two-time MVP Kurt Warner for New York's starting job.

After backing up Warner in last week's preseason victory over Kansas City, Manning got the start against the NFC champions. He looked every bit the carbon copy of his brother, Peyton, pointing out the defense and calling audibles at the line early.

And his passes were smooth and on the mark. He went 9-for-15 for 117 yards.

But as the first half went on, the Panthers began to figure him out.

Brentson Buckner pushed through the line for a nasty takedown of Manning in the second quarter -- Buckner was flagged for encroachment -- and Mark Fields sacked him three plays later to bring his night to an end.

There were a few bobbles: On his second series, Manning tried to change the play from the shotgun position but ran out of time and earned a delay of game penalty.

But Manning also proved to be elusive, avoiding a safety by dumping the ball off just as Julius Peppers closed in on him in the end zone.

"Eli did all right," new Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "He did OK. We don't have any problems with that."

The 23-year-old Manning made a good impression on some of the Panthers.

"He's going to be good," defensive end Mike Rucker said. "They're trying to protect him with quick counts and hard counts and quick throws. That's understandable. He'll be good when he gets older."

On this night, it was Delhomme who sparkled.

An unheralded quarterback until he led Carolina into the Super Bowl last season, Delhomme picked up right where he left off with a sharp and confident passing game.

He went 11-of-13 for 144 yards, including back-to-back pretty passes to Steve Smith. One was for 38 yards, and Smith added a leap over his defenders on the next one, an 18-yard completion that moved the Panthers to the 7-yard line.

Delhomme threw a touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad on the next play for a 10-3 Carolina lead.

He later led the Panthers on a 12-play, 71-yard scoring drive and capped it with his own 1-yard TD run. The snap on the play was bad, and Delhomme had to fall away from the end zone. He recovered about four yards out, then scrambled left and into the end zone untouched for a 17-6 lead.

Manning probably moved ahead of Warner in the battle for the starting job.

Warner was sacked on his first two plays of the game and four times overall. He was intercepted late in the fourth quarter by William Hampton, who returned it 49-yards for a touchdown to seal the Carolina win.

Warner finished 9-of-11 for 71 yards.

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