Carolina Panthers vs. New York Giants: Biggest Winners and Losers for Carolina

Charles Edwards@@CEdwards80Contributor ISeptember 21, 2012

Carolina Panthers vs. New York Giants: Biggest Winners and Losers for Carolina

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    The Carolina Panthers and New York Giants met Thursday night in what was expected to be a good game, perhaps one which should have favored Carolina in light of the key players that were out of action prior to the game's start. 

    Unfortunately, things did not happen to go that way.

    The Giants destroyed the Panthers on the arm of Eli Manning and the contributions of two backup players in Andre Brown and Ramses Barden.

    Carolina was shut out in the first half and never had a chance in this one as they fell 36-7. The loss would drop them to 6-9 overall in prime-time games and to 0-4 on Thursday nights. That isn't a great stat for a team playing under the lights, especially with another one later in the season. 

    Moving on...

    Everything that could go wrong did in this game, and one would be hard-pressed to find any positives to take from this game, especially if it involves the Panthers. 

    This game was ugly, and it has left many wondering what kind of team Carolina will be throughout the course of the year. A win would have been huge for the Panthers with division rival and leader Atlanta up next week. 

    However, before moving ahead to next week, let's examine the winners and losers of Week 3. 

Winner: Greg Olsen

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    Greg Olsen had his best game of the young season and arguably the best one of his Panthers career. Despite an offense that struggled to get much of anything going, he was targeted 14 times and caught seven balls for 98 yards.

    He probably could have had a touchdown in this one, but Cam Newton could not connect with him in the end zone. Still, his production was enough to lead the team in receiving and provided enough to show that he has the potential to break out in this offense.

    The other receiver to come close to matching his production was Steve Smith, but ultimately, the overall failing of the offensive unit led to little production and numerous mistakes by Newton.

Loser: Cam Newton

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    Cam Newton entered the game expecting to make big plays and to build upon the success of last week. Unfortunately for him and the Panthers, that would not be the case. 

    Newton was a below-average 5-of-12 for 90 yards and an interception after one half of football. After it was all said and done, he would have three picks—one of which came in the end zone. His final stats were 16-of-30 for 242 yards. The only touchdown to his credit was the one he rushed—or rather leaped—for at the goal line in the third quarter.

    It would be nice to say that was the extent of Newton's problems, but it was not. He seemed a bit off-target with some of this throws, and early on, he did not look comfortable in the pocket. A couple of his passes were batted down at the line of scrimmage.

    It should be noted that the Panthers have yet to win a game when Newton throws an interception, and that is a trend that needs to stop if Carolina is ever going to compete in their division.

Winner: Steve Smith's Intensity

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    Steve Smith has a never-say-die attitude. 

    While he failed to reach 100 yards receiving this week, he still did enough to finish second amongst Carolina receivers. He had four catches for 86 yards. What makes this an even more interesting statistic is that he was only targeted four times. 

    However, despite the Panthers being down late in the game, Smith remained fired up and was doing his best to rally his teammates in order to turn the tide of the game—or at least to try to keep it close. He was instrumental in getting some flags thrown against the Giants, but it still wasn't enough.

    Regardless of what week it is or how well the Panthers are playing, Smith is a competitor. He plays at a high level and isn't afraid to mix it up with anyone. It should be interesting to see if he spends the next week working with his fellow receivers and Newton in order to make the necessary corrections and start winning games consistently.

Loser: Failure of the Defense

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    Where does one start when it comes to Carolina's defense? 

    For starters, they gave up a touchdown on the game's opening drive and are the only team to have done that for all three games this season. It was downhill from there.

    The defensive line was atrocious, giving up big yards and allowing huge holes to open up. The Giants did not need Ahmad Bradshaw in this one because Andre Brown came in and took care of business. The Panthers rush defense gave up 125 yards at 4.3 yards per carry. Considering this was the second string, those numbers are unacceptable.

    However, it does not end there.

    The secondary was equally bad, playing a soft zone and giving up too many yards and leaving many receivers open. Josh Norman could not do anything in terms of covering his man, but Chris Gamble was shown up a few times by Victor Cruz.

    What made the secondary play even more troubling were the missed opportunities. Charles Godfrey had two chances, back-to-back, to grab an interception. Both times he failed to do so.

    All in all, the defense was a mess, and the only bright spot was Frank Alexander's sack late in the second half. The defense that hurried and harassed Drew Brees last week was nowhere to be found Thursday. 

    After a showing like this and how the defense has played overall since the new coaching staff took over, it is not out of the question to wonder if defensive coordinator Sean McDermott's seat is starting to get a little warm.

Winner: Loyal Fans

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    Any fan that sits through a blowout loss like that to the bitter end and still supports their team deserves some kudos. Given that there was a lack of good things to mention here for Carolina, it seems appropriate that the fan base gets some love here.

    The same could be said for those watching at home or in a sports bar. 

    There is nothing fun about watching your team be humiliated on game day, and it's even worse if it's on national television. So to all the Carolina fans at the stadium and those who watched the entire game on television, pat yourself on the back. 

    When your team has high expectations, they should be met, and the Carolina faithful is no different.

    There are many steadfast fans that have been through a lot and would like to see a change in fortune. Hopefully, that kind of loyalty will be rewarded one day.

Loser: Joe Adams

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    When Joe Adams was drafted in the fourth round, there was a general sense of optimism that he was the solution to the Panthers special-teams woes on returns. Three games into the season, he has been less than impressive.

    His performance on Thursday did not help his cause.

    He fumbled the kickoff to open the second half of the game, allowing the Giants to build upon their lead—if not drive the final nail in the proverbial coffin. He would later follow that up by botching a punt in the fourth quarter, thus turning it over to the Giants, who once again capitalized on the turnover.

    With this kind of play, it is hard to blame fans for wanting to see a change at the return position. Whether it's Kealoha Pilares or Armanti Edwards, whoever is charged with fielding kicks needs to do a better job than what Adams did Thursday.

    It should be interesting to see how next week plays out, because Adams could find himself on a very short leash. He may be a rookie, but that is not an excuse to be making unnecessary mistakes.