It took them a half, but the Giants finally shook off the ghosts of 2009.
Big Blue scored on their first three possessions of the second half and used a second half surge to escape with a win in the first regular season game at the New Meadowlands Stadium. The 31-18 win wasn't pretty and no one should be doing much more than cracking a small smile while letting out a sigh of relief, but a win is a win and the Giants clearly earned this one.
The reason for such a reserved reaction to the win is that it looked a lot like the same old Giants for much of the afternoon. All of the problems from last year -- invisible pass rush, woeful rushing attack and listless effort from players on both sides -- were in evidence as the Panthers ran out to a 16-14 lead at halftime.
Then, suddenly, the skies opened up and the Giants recovered their footing. Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks hooked up for their third touchdown of the day and the running game finally came to life as the Giants piled up 111 yards after gaining just eight on the ground in the first half. The pass rush began to make life difficult for Panthers quarterback Matt Moore and recorded four sacks while pressuring him into three fourth quarter turnovers.
Despite all those positive developments, the Giants have to keep working to get themselves in shape for the long haul. Two of those Moore turnovers were end zone interceptions and better players aren't going to make mistakes like that very often. The special teams play was especially sloppy, with the Panthers churning up huge chunks of return yardage and blocking a punt for a safety. That wasn't entirely Matt Dodge's fault, but the rookie earned the derisive "We Want Feagles" chants he heard after the ball went through the end zone. The Giants also turned the ball over four times with three interceptions coming on balls that Giants receivers should have caught.
Also in need of some work is the Giants mathematics. The announced attendance at the game was 77,245, more than 5,000 below capacity. That's odd, because the Giants claimed that there were only 1,200 PSLs unsold and it stretches credulity to believe that 3,000 people didn't show up for the first game in the new stadium. We're curious to hear the explanation on that one, but if those people did indeed just decide not to show up perhaps they could have shared the advance knowledge that this was going to be a dreadfully played football game with the rest of us.
Again, though, a win is a win. The Giants showed enough to make you think that a little more practice and a few tweaks could lead to crisper football in the weeks to come. They responded to the need for more passion and more effort than they showed last year or in the first half and they put a whipping on a team that wasn't very good. They'll have to be better in the future, but it never hurts to get off on the right foot.