Kenny Phillips hasn’t played in nearly a year, since microfracture surgery forced him to the sidelines. It may have been a long road back, but the Giants' safety may have singlehandedly cost Carolina two touchdowns Sunday.
“Whoever doubted me, my teammates didn’t, the coaches didn’t, trainers didn’t,” Phillips said. “Everyone around me believed in me and that’s what kept me going.”
Phillips had an interception in the end zone -- one of three for the Giants -- and stopped Carolina running back D’Angelo Hall on a goal-line stand.
Through it all, Phillips said he didn’t feel any lingering effects from the injury; he didn’t feel any pain, or limited in any way. His teammates were happy to see such a strong debut.
“I’m pretty sure his nerves were jittery but he kept everything pretty poised,” fellow safety Antrel Rolle said. “He played the way he knows how to play which is Superman, go get the ball.”
By the end of the game the third-year player felt indescribably back.
“It felt great, if I was kind of wimpy I probably would’ve shed a tear,” Phillips said, and laughed.
Phillips' effort was part of a strong showing by the secondary, which capitalized on mistakes made by the Panthers. After last season’s loss to Carolina, the Giants' defense wanted to make sure that wasn’t going to happen again.
“You know what? We’ve got some ball hawks in the secondary, from No. 1 to No. 7,” defensive end Justin Tuck said.
“It’s guys playing in the system and understanding what their responsibilities are,” said Rolle, who had eight combined tackles. “And most of all just playing relentless.”
Of those three end zone interceptions, Deon Grant and Terrell Thomas had the others.
Coach Tom Coughlin praised Grant saying he was “a very wise and intelligent player that has been in the game, and with both Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle and the way they came down today, they gave us a little pressure in the running game.”
Thomas was glad to have the win, but accepted responsibility for the one touchdown the Giants allowed, a 19-yard pass from Matt Moore to Steve Smith with three seconds left in the second quarter.
“The touchdown we gave up was my fault,” Thomas said “I didn’t put my hands up at the line and I got to trust the defense. If I did my job there, there would have been no touchdown.”
In a messy game with three Carolina fumbles and six interceptions, The Giants won, and for that the nimble-fingered defensive backs -- and the entire team -- could be happy.
“We had a turnout crowd for the opening of our new stadium and what we wanted to do is put a smile on everybody’s face,” Grant said.