Despite the Panthers’ won-loss record, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin pointed out this week that this week’s opponent is far from being a pushover.
“They’re a well-balanced, well-structured team,” he said. “They’re battling and scrambling just like we are, but I certainly do recognize the fact that they’re a good team.”
Just how good can a winless team actually be? The Panthers have been outscored 36-30 so far, and have the sixth-best rushing offense, led by DeAngelo Williams, who has 171 yards on 39 carries and a 4.4 yards-per-carry average.
The Panthers are also fourth in the league on third-down conversions, thanks to the contributions of receiver Steve Smith and tight end Greg Olsen.
Perhaps the biggest test for the Giants when they meet the Panthers on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium is, that in Newton, they’ll face the first of several scrambling, option quarterbacks that are coming up on their schedule.
Coughlin said that the coaching staff spent a great deal of time studying how to best defend quarterbacks capable of running the option, and that he feels confident with where the team is at in terms of making progress in that area.
“We’ve studied in the offseason and studied a lot of these option-type quarterbacks and we have a plan,” he said. “We haven’t really been tested in that area, but we have worked in training camp on responsibilities. I’m confident we’ll have a guy in the right place, hopefully at the right time.”
The key to succeeding against Newton, according to Giants safety Antrel Rolle, is to remain alert.
“You have to stay active more importantly than anything and stay and play within the defense,” he said. “Don’t try and do too much. If the opportunity presents itself, make the play that’s given to you. Other than that, just play within the defense, play smart, and play sound technically.”
Besides wanting to avoid an 0-3 start for the first time since 1996, the Giants players want to make sure they put a smile on the face of their head coach, who this week lost his younger brother John.
Despite the tragic circumstances of John Coughlin’s passing from a freak accident, as reported by the New York Daily News, his older brother has somehow managed to stay focused in preparing his team for the challenges posed by the Panthers. Coach Coughlin will see the game through to the end before getting away for a day to attend his brother’s funeral.
His players have taken note of how their head coach has gone about his business this week, and they’re determined to put a smile on his face with a winning effort.
“Anytime you have to heal somebody in your circle going through a hardship, you always want to do your part to pick them up,” said defensive end Justin Tuck, who last year went through his own personal strife in losing his grandfather and uncle within a matter of weeks.
“If that’s winning a football game or that’s saying a kind word, whatever it may be, you always have to try your best to pick their spirits up. That’s what they did for me, and obviously, I was better for it. Any way I can return the favor or we as a football team can return the favor, we need to jump on doing that,” Tuck added.
The spotlight is on the entire Giants team, but here’s a look at five players whose performances could be key in determining the outcome of Sunday’s game.
Note: All quotes obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.