It's been a bit funny to read and listen to the reaction to the season opening victory over the Panthers. The Giants are back! Weapons galore on offense! A defense that's the equal to the Super Bowl champs! The sky's the limit for Big Blue!
Unbridled enthusiasm is the birthright of every sports fan and we'd never want to be the ones to rain on a happy parade, but memories do seem awfully short around these parts. The Giants were 5-0 last season, you'll recall, and a lot of those victories looked an awful lot like the one against the Panthers. There were mistakes on both sides of the ball, dreadful special teams play and sloppiness all over the place, but, ultimately, the Panthers weren't good enough to take advantage.
Of particular interest is the way the defense performed on Sunday. The headlines were all about the return of the pass rush and the four forced turnovers, but, as headlines often will, that only tells a small sliver of the story. Like a half a glass of water, there are two ways of looking at the way the Giants defense performed in the season opener.
Glass Half Full: Perry Fewell did a terrific job of maximizing the talent on hand. There were packages with three defensive ends and packages with three defensive tackles that achieved the desired effect of confusing the Panthers offense. He used a third safety in nickel looks, a wise choice given Deon Grant's superior talent when compared to the cornerbacks on the roster. Fewell's creativity is a welcome addition and his flexibility gives the Giants a great advantage in game planning.
Glass Half Empty: Bend but don't break doesn't work against good quarterbacks and offensive coordinators. The Giants were more than willing to let the Panthers gobble up yardage underneath until they got into the red zone and tightened up. It paid off because Matt Moore threw three interceptions in the end zone, but that kind of passive read and react approach in the secondary is going to fail them when they face offenses stocked with more weapons than the one-man show the Panthers feature with Steve Smith.
Glass Half Full: Fewell made some nice adjustments during the second half to dial up the pressure on Moore after his passivity put the Giants in a halftime hole. That willingness to change things that aren't working was missing all of last season and gives hope that whatever problems arise in the future will be dealt with in a timely and efficient manner.
Glass Half Empty: The Panthers drove right into the teeth of those changes. As the Giants became more aggressive, the Panthers stopped doing what was working for them in the first half. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart went from the focal point of the offense to afterthoughts, a change that was ill-advised given the fact that it was still a close game through three quarters. You're supposed to turn into a skid when you're driving, but in football you're supposed to counter negative actions. The Giants won't always be so lucky.
The net result is definitely positive, but, in the spirit of Fewell's read and react bona fides, let's hold off on any bold pronouncements until there's a bit more evidence to support our conclusions about the Giants defense.