EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -With or without Michael Strahan, the New York Giants defense has a lot of work to do after being exposed by the Carolina Panthers.
Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith combined for an opening-drive touchdown pass and receiver Taye Biddle caught touchdown passes of 23 and 85 yards to lead the Panthers to a 24-21 victory on Saturday night in the matchup of teams looking to rebound from .500 records in 2006.
For the Giants, the preseason opener was a preview of what life may be like without Strahan, the seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end who is holding out of training camp while he decides whether to play a 15th NFL season.
The performance was ugly to be honest, even taking into consideration that New York is adjusting to new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's aggressive system.
The Panthers went 81 yards in 13 plays on their opening drive with DeShaun Foster ripping off several good cutback runs that eventually set up Delhomme's 5-yard TD toss to Smith, the catalyst of the Carolina offense.
John Kasay added a 24-yard field goal for Carolina in the second quarter, capping a 10-play, 64-yard drive.
Biddle's touchdown catches came in a 1:42 span that bridged the end of the first half and the start of the second. He was wide open for a go-ahead 23-yard touchdown catch from David Carr with :07 left in the second quarter for a 17-14 halftime lead. He also split a seam in the defense for an 85-yard catch and run on a Brett Basanez pass 1:35 into the third quarter.
On both plays, Giants free agent safety Craig Dahl was left chasing Biddle, a second-year player who had three catches in two games for 37 yards last season.
Eli Manning threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey late in the first quarter. The score was set up by a 67-yard kickoff return by Derrick Ward right after the Smith touchdown.
Ward also put New York ahead 14-10 with a 5-yard run with 54 seconds left in the half.
Carr, seeing his first action for Carolina, was 6-of-8 for 83 yards. He drove the Panthers 73 yards in four plays, aided by a personal foul against Dahl for a late hit. Carr hit Ryne Robinson for 24 yards before connecting with Biddle.
After Biddle's second touchdown catch, the Giants closed to lead to 24-21 midway through the third quarter on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Jared Lorenzen to Anthony Wright.
Delhomme, who might be pushed by Carr for the starting job if he falters this season, was 5-of-8 for 30 yards, playing one quarter. Carr replaced him at the start of the second.
Foster shredded the Giants defense for 62 yards on five carries, while Nick Goings had 50 yards on 11 carries.
Manning only played two series, completing 3-of-5 for 27 yards. He also missed a key first down pass that would have kept their opening drive alive.
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