Giants vs. Panthers: Takeaways from New York's 38-0 Loss to Carolina
If you told me before Sunday that I'd be writing that headline, I'd have called you crazy.
The loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1 was chalked up to an early casualty in the NFC East, but not something insurmountable. After all, the 1986 New York Giants, who won Super Bowl XXI, lost to the Cowboys in their season-opening contest.
They call it a must-win for a reason.
The Giants needed to win in Week 3, and they didn't do it, losing 38-0. They are 0-3 now, limping after being thrashed on their trip to the jungle, about to face a suddenly formidable Kansas City Chiefs team in Week 4.
Mathematically, of course, nothing is decided by the third week of the season, but it's difficult to imagine how a team as bad as the one that lined up against the Panthers on Sunday finds its way back into contention. After all, the Giants haven't started 0-3 since 1996. They finished 6-10 that year.
6-10? You mean like Eli's rookie year bad? That was the final record of the 2004 Giants, who were quarterbacked in the latter half of the season by a rookie Manning who threw six touchdowns and nine interceptions in seven starts. That ratio looks somewhat familiar...
Sure, the 2007 Giants started 0-2, but they were able to turn around from their slow start in Week 3 en route to a Super Bowl XLII victory. But to say this year's team is off to a slow start is to put it lightly. The 2013 Giants have face-planted right out of the gates.
This isn't the 2007 Giants, though. Nor is it the 2004 Giants or 1996 Giants. These are the 2013 Giants, and they face wholly unique circumstances this season.
Anything can happen, but three losses to start the season prove to be damning more often than not.
More startling than the fact that the Giants are now 0-3 is the manner in which they most recently lost.
They were smoked. Blown out to the tune of 38-0. Not to mention they were up against a previously winless team in the Panthers. Going back to last year, three of the Giants' past six games have been embarrassingly lopsided in their opponents' favor. In each of those games, the Giants were not competitive at any point.
Nowhere was this more apparent than at the point of attack against Carolina. The Panthers were able to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. In the first half, Carolina's defensive front tormented Eli Manning, collecting six of the team-record seven sacks the Panthers had on the afternoon. In the second half, Carolina's O-line paved the way to victory, allowing DeAngelo Williams to rack up his yardage total to 120 yards on 23 carries.
New York entered the game with the league's highest-ranked passing offense, but the Panthers limited Manning to just 119 yards through the air, most of which came when the game was well out of reach. Carolina's injury-depleted secondary must have had Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride salivating before the game, yet his quarterback never had the opportunity to attack it.
To be fair, the Giants have hardly been dominant in the regular season under Tom Coughlin. But this team isn't just an underdog—it might not even be in the dogfight. It is arguably the worst team in the league.
Last year, also in Week 3, the Giants travelled to Charlotte, Hakeem Nicks' hometown, to face the Carolina Panthers. Nicks was scratched from the lineup that game, missing out on a homecoming in which several of his friends and family were planning on watching him play. In his place, Ramses Barden caught nine passes for 138 yards in a 36-7 Giants win.
But Nicks was awarded a rare mulligan this season, as the Giants were headed yet again to Carolina in Week 3. This time No. 88 was fully healthy (although he did miss practice for personal reasons on Friday).
Yet Nicks was equally invisible. Coming off of two impressive performances in which he averaged 98.5 yards per game, the Carolina native was held catch-less by the Panthers. On paper, Nicks should have had a field day, but in reality, he wasn't even targeted until late in the game.
No Giants receiver had a particularly good day against the Panthers, but Nicks' absence from the game was most glaring. What does it say about his No. 1 receiver capabilities? Do the league's elite receivers get shutout by a patchwork Carolina secondary?
The Giants' top priority is to win games, but for Nicks, earning a big contract is a close second. If he plans to be paid the highest going rate for premier pass-catchers, Nicks can't afford to lay any more goose eggs this season.
A first-round draft pick—unless it's a quarterback—is expected to contribute right away in some capacity. Coughlin has a strict policy when it comes to rookie contribution, but he allows for opportunity on special teams. For example, David Wilson, whose offensive leash had no slack, was an All-Pro kick returner in year one.
Now, in his second season, Wilson's role hasn't expanded. In fact, his workload has shrunk from where it was late last season. Two fumbles in Week 1 didn't help his case, of course. Pass-protection concerns combined with overall depth issues have also limited Wilson's ability to make an impact.
In Week 3, New York barely had a chance to feed Wilson the ball. His 11 carries were four more than his total versus the Denver Broncos last week, but his yardage output was comparably minimal. He accumulated just 39 yards, and many were racked up late in the game. That's still a season high for Wilson, though.
Congrats, I guess.
Wilson's two most effective runs on the afternoon were called back by penalties, the first of which negated an early game touchdown. In spite of all the talent Wilson possesses, it's beginning to look like greater forces are hard at work making sure the young runner's production is curiously curbed.
How long can one possibly teeter on the verge of breaking out before one busts?