The inclination the day after watching Eli Manning scramble for his football life is to lament the Giants’ offensive line play.
Yes, the Giants’ line failed miserably on Sunday in Charlotte. The line is a major reason the Giants fell to 0-3 after scoring zero points to the Carolina Panthers' 38.
But let’s not put all the blame on the line. That would be missing the point about the 2013 Giants. The offensive line was fine in the Giants’ first two games against the Cowboys and Broncos, and Manning generally had the time he needed in the pocket.
Manning, of course, didn’t have that time on Sunday. He was sacked seven times. There's not much more to say on that. But here’s the bigger issue for these Giants: they aren’t playing well-enough on offense, defense or special teams right now.
The offense was a collective disappointment on Sunday -- and an enormous one. Circumstance was smiling on the Giants; the Panthers were hurting in the secondary. The Giants couldn't capitalize. That’s not just on the line. The Panthers’ defensive line should not have been able to have completely short-circuit the Giants’ attack, especially considering it was missing three starters in the defensive backfield.
Sunday didn't flatter any facet of the Giants’ offense. This includes the coaching. The Giants need a better plan for next Sunday’s game at Kansas City. The Chiefs too have an excellent pass rush, and their secondary is significantly better than Carolina’s.
After Sunday’s loss, Manning spoke of the importance of countering a strong pass rush.
“We knew they had a good defensive line, and they had guys who could get to the quarterback and get some pressure, and obviously they did a good job,” Manning said, according to the club. “So we have to find ways to slow down the pass rush, whether that is running the ball with screens or getting the ball out quicker. They won the physical battle today.”
The guess here is the Giants make some adjustments in next week’s game. Manning probably won’t be sacked seven times. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride’s play calling will be better. The ball will be out quicker against Kansas City.
The Giants’ other units didn’t exactly play well, either. The defense surrendered 402 yards and five touchdowns to the Panthers, who had scored all of three combined touchdowns in the first two games.
The special teams also didn’t impress. An off-sides penalty on a punt kept Carolina’s final scoring drive alive, and kicker Josh Brown missed a 38-yard field goal with the Giants trailing just 7-0 in the second quarter.
We began with an inclination, so let’s finish with one. It is reasonable to wonder if the Giants have played their worst possible game.
That may be true. But how could they possibly have gotten to this point against this opponent? How does Hakeem Nicks see just one pass thrown his way on Sunday? How does Victor Cruz have just three catches for 25 yards? How does the Giants’ defense come up short like this in a critical game?
The Giants were overmatched and outflanked, and by the third quarter, you could turn away, because they were well on they were to 0-3. They won't be very effective if Manning is under the sort of pressure he was on Sunday. But they need to think about a counter-punch following that very humbling defeat.
The calendar (September) and the math (13 games left) are in the Giants' corner. The game tape is not.