Although the New York Giants (0-3 for the first time since 1996) and Carolina Panthers (1-2) each entered Bank of America Stadium seeking their first wins of the season, they couldn’t have played more differently on Sunday.
The 38-0 final score was the easiest victory in Panthers history, the Giants’ worst defeat under head coach Tom Coughlin’s 10 seasons with the team, and New York’s biggest shutout loss in four decades.
But there’s another bit of history that should seriously concern the Giants, going forward — only five of the previous 161 NFL teams that have started 0-3 since the league adopted a 16-game regular season in 1978 have reached the postseason.
For now, those are the only numbers that count for New York, whose embarrassing performance against Carolina was equally as ugly no matter how it was broken down.
While the Giants are dealing with deficiencies in all facets of the game, the most glaring weakness has been the putrid play of an offensive line which has failed to adequately run block nor protect quarterback Eli Manning (12-for-23, 119 yards, one interception), who passed for his fewest yards since New York ended its 2008 season with a loss in Minnesota.
Truly offensive to Manning, that line allowed seven sacks, including a team-record six in the opening half.
A decided 402-150 Panthers edge in total yards actually looked better for the Giants compared to the 163-18 advantage Carolina held at halftime, at which time New York was outgained 97-1 (yes, one) in passing yards.
Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, a Charlotte native and normally one of the Giants’ top two receivers — along with Victor Cruz (who was held to just three catches for 25 yards after amassing 118 yards in each of his first two games this year) — finished without a catch, after having just one ball thrown his way during his first professional game in his hometown.
So, how about the running game?
Eh, not much better.
Aside from an early 14-yard scramble by Manning and an 18-yard rush by running back David Wilson (11 carries, 39 yards), the Giants, who totaled a measly 73 rushing yards over their first two games, managed just 28 rushing yards on the ground on 14 other carries.
On 10 Giants possessions (not counting the one-play trip of five yards just before the end of the half), New York punted five times, missed a chip shot field goal, turned the ball over on downs, and committed three turnovers.
Oh, but yes, it gets even worse.
The Giants’ longest drive (if you want to use that term loosely) over their first seven possessions was for a grand total of eight yards, and their longest for the game (which ended with a lost fumble) was for 50 yards.
Their anemic offense didn’t have a monopoly on the team’s poor play, however, even though in fairness, that unit certainly didn’t make things easy on its defense.
After corner back Aaron Ross intercepted quarterback Cam Newton (15-for-27, 223 yards, three touchdowns, one interception) on the Panthers’ third drive, Carolina, already leading 7-0, scored on each of its next five drives, while finding the end zone on four of those occasions.
Three Panthers scoring drives took double digit plays, and although Carolina took over in New York territory on two of its scoring drives, the Panthers marched 59, 65, 80, and 87 yards for four of their touchdowns.
One play in particular, on the last of those scoring trips, typified the type of day it was for the Giants, when promising rookie defensive end Damontre Moore managed to jump offside as Carolina punted with a 31-0 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter. That mistake led to one final score, a 47-yard touchdown pass from Newton, just three plays later.
As if things can’t sound any worse for New York, the Giants and their weak offensive line next visit the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs (3-0), which is allowing a stingy 11.3 points per game (second-best in the NFL as of Sunday), while far and away leading the league with 15 sacks (six more than the next closest team).
Good luck with that.
Of course, the Giants, under Coughlin, have had a habit of turning things around even after they’ve played their absolute worst and their situation has looked the bleakest.
That doesn’t seem to be the case this time, since New York’s issues are so widespread, but maybe the Giants can at least rest their hopes on a possible minor change next Sunday. With the Chiefs expected to wear their usual home red jerseys, New York should be clad in its usual road whites for the first time this season, despite having already playing twice on the road this year.
After dropping their first three games while being outscored 115-54 thus far, a uniform change seems to be all the Giants can hang their hats on next week.