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Panthers coach Matt Rhule boldly says he'll test Giants' run defense

Head coach Matt Rhule of the Carolina Panthers

Head coach Matt Rhule of the Carolina Panthers on the sidelines during the first half against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. Credit: Getty Images/Richard Rodriguez

Carolina coach Matt Rhule came right out and said what he expects the Panthers offense to do against the Giants at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. Even without injured running back Christian McCaffrey, Rhule wants Carolina to ground and pound against the Giants’ 29th-ranked run defense.

"You’ll see a vastly different look from us moving forward," Rhule said. "We’re not going to line up and drop back and throw it 40 times a game and think that’s going to win the game for us. It hasn’t."

The Panthers are 3-3 after starting 3-0. They have turnover-prone former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold behind center and rookie Chuba Hubbard filling in for McCaffrey.

"So there’s no McCaffrey," Rhule said. "Chuba’s showing us he can run the ball at a high level when given enough opportunities. So we’re going to redefine who we are."

The Giants don’t think Rhule was just blowing smoke.

"Hell, no, it’s not misdirection," defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said. "A head coach does that, he’s letting you know. He’s letting everybody in that building know, ‘Giddy up, let’s go, we’re running the ball.’ I can’t blame him. I think I’ve read the quote and I heard the press conference, ‘The first three games, two turnovers running the ball, blah, blah, blah. Last three games, eight turnovers. We’ve got to protect the quarterback. We’ve got to protect the o-line, blah, blah, blah, by running the ball.’

"I take him for his word. They’re going to come in here with the intent to run the football. He put the challenge down for those guys and I’m sure it was a motivating thing for his team. I mean, I like for a head coach to say something like that. That was pretty good. He’s like, ‘Hey, we’re going to run the ball.’ It kind of displays the toughness that you can see from their team."

Can the Giants’ defenders, who have given up an average of 167.3 rushing yards in the last three games, get some motivation from Rhule’s declaration?

"They’re aware of it," Graham said. "I did see it. I’ll say that right now."

Coach Joe Judge sounded a note of caution, however.

"We’ll see on Sunday," he told the team web site. "You can read the headlines, and you can overcommit yourself to something somebody says. We’ll see how the game develops. Obviously, they’ve got a very good passing game and very talented receiving group. Whether or not the focus is to run the ball, I’m sure they’re going to throw the ball, too, so we have to be able to play balanced on defense."

Notes & quotes: Darius Slayton (hamstring) is listed as questionable. But the wide receiver hopes to play, as do receiver Sterling Shepard (hamstring) and tight end Evan Engram (calf). They also are questionable after popping up on Thursday’s injury report and practicing on Friday…Receivers Kenny Golladay (knee) and Kadarius Toney (ankle) and running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) were ruled out, as expected.

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