Safety Mike Minter scored on 43-yard fumble return and Carolina shook off the effects of a blackout to beat New York 20-10 on Friday in Fox's first game at Giants Stadium since resigning as the team's defensive coordinator to become the Panthers coach last season.
"Coach Fox has been here a long time," Minter said. "He made a stand here and a statement as a defensive coordinator. Any time a coach comes back, you want to go out and play hard for him and get a win for him."
The Panthers (2-0) didn't have an easy time in the 24 hours leading up to the game. They landed in New Jersey on Friday night and walked into the biggest blackout in U.S. history.
The team's hotel in Teaneck was without power until 11:30 p.m. et.
"We had some food," Minter said. "I don't know how they were cooking it, but they were cooking it. It was pretty rough. But that shows the focus of this football team and shows we have a great coach to keep us focused like that."
Chris Weinke, who hit 6 of 7 passes for 76 yards and led the Panthers on an 85-yard TD drive to start the second half, said Fox made a point of saying the blackout was a distraction.
"He told us there are going to be distractions and adversity and how you handle it builds character," Weinke said. "I think we came out tonight after laying around a hotel all day without an A.C. and performed well."
John Kasay added field goals of 22 and 31 yards in a 13-point second quarter, and Rod Smart scored on a 1-yard run early in the third quarter as the Panthers sent the Giants to their second straight preseason loss.
Kerry Collins, who fumbled on Minter's touchdown after being hit on a blitz, threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to fullback Jim Finn. Mike Hollis added 34-yard field goal for the Giants, who failed to get a first down in the second half with Jesse Palmer at quarterback.
"I wouldn't say we're on course, but we improved and that's what we were looking for," Giants receiver Amani Toomer said. "We still need to pick up."
Outspoken tight end Jeremy Shockey left the game in the first half after bruising his ribs. He dropped two passes on the opening drive and finished with one catch for 8 yards. X-rays were negative, coach Jim Fassel said.
The game's biggest play was made by Panthers linebacker Will Witherspoon. He beat tight end Marcellus Rivers on a blitz and hit Collins as he was throwing. Minter caught the ball in the air and wasn't touched on his touchdown run for a 10-3 lead with 11:10 to play in the second quarter.
"It was a heck of a play by Will," Minter said. "He got outside the blocker. He hit the guy and the ball was floating in the air. It was a gift from God, so I had to grab it."
Collins, 11-of-19 for 127 yards, tied it with 3:38 left in the second quarter by completing all six of his passes on a 75-yard drive.
Jake Delhomme and Weinke, battling Rodney Peete for the Panthers' quarterback job, gave Carolina the lead with consecutive scoring drives.
Kasay kicked a 31-yard field goal with 14 seconds left in the first half after Delhomme engineered a 10-play, 59-yard march that featured a 24-yard pass to Ricky Proehl.
Weinke drove Carolina 85 yards in 13 plays to open the second half with Smart scoring. The march was kept alive when Fox asked for a review after a third-down catch by Walter Young was ruled out of bounds. It was overturned.
Collins also engineered a 13-play, 67-yard drive on the opening series that Hollis capped with his 34-yard field goal.
Kasay tied it early in the second quarter on a short drive that was set up by a good punt by Todd Sauerbrun and a 15-yard run by Stephen Davis.
Giants defensive end Michael Strahan missed his second straight game with a broken toe. Starting safety Shaun Williams (shoulder) also was sidelined.
Carolina also was missing two starters -- linebacker Mark Fields and receiver Steve Smith.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2003, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved