As Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers marched up and down the field on an uncharacteristically weak New York Giants defense, NFL fans watched the score go from 7-0, to 14-0, to 17-0, to 24-0, and likely wondered, “The Giants are getting shutout by Carolina?”
By 4:30 EST, the Giants were on the bad side of a 38-0 beating at the hands of the Panthers. In three games, New York has given up 36, 41, and 38 points. For a team traditionally known for their talented front four and overall strong defensive unit, an average of 38.3 points allowed doesn't exactly exude excellence on that side of the ball.
What's more surprising is the poor play by the Giants offensively. The offensive line has allowed 11 sacks of quarterback Eli Manning, tied for 2nd-most in the NFL, The Giants' running game ranks dead last in the NFL, rushing for 44.3 yards per game so far this season, which is a far cry from the 116 yards per game they reeled off last year. Sure, Eli has the 5th-most passing yards in the league (931), but of course, he also leads the league in interceptions through Week 3 with 8.
This brand of New York football looks horrible. For all Giants fans, it was unbearable to watch and comprehend. A team that's two years removed from a Super Bowl title has started their season 0-3, with each game looking more embarrassing than the last.
But the Giants are known for lulls during the season. It regularly happens with Tom Coughlin's team. Whether it is losing five of six during the 2011 championship season after starting 6-2, or ending last season with five of eight losses and losing the division to the Washington Redskins, the Giants just happen to find rough patches during the season.
Manning can play great, but he can also play terribly. The Giants have featured a steady running game in the past with Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, but they now feature David Wilson, who continuously has a hard time holding on to the football, an older Jacobs that only gets time in the backfield during goal line situations, and Da'Rel Scott, who is a traditional backup.
The Giants are known for lulls during the season. It regularly happens with Tom Coughlin's team.
They still boast a talented receiving corps, highlighted by Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. However, that is reciprocated by a usually quality offensive line featuring Chris Snee, Will Beatty, and first round pick Justin Pugh, that hasn't protected Manning AT ALL so far this season.
The Giants have always been known as an elite defensive team as well. Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Jason Pierre-Paul, Corey Webster, and Antrel Rolle are all quality defenders that have been impact players for New York and other teams in years past. This season, they have been all but elite. Maybe Osi Umenyiora is missed more than most thought he would be.
The major question is, “Where to for now?” The 0-3 Giants take on the 3-0 Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City on Sunday. The Chiefs have been sound offensively and tough on defense, allowing just 11.3 points per game, ranking them second in the NFL.
It couldn't get much worse for the Giants. First off, they need to protect Eli Manning. He can get going, but not from his backside.
They need balance offensively, which means David Wilson has to be more effective. If there's no threat of the run game, defenders will tee off on Eli.
Tuck and Pierre-Paul, though a bit banged up, need to make plays on the defensive line. Those athletic defensive backs need to make plays, turn the opposing team over, play faster and nastier.
Luckily for them, their division is wide open. Two teams are sitting at 0-3, the Dallas Cowboys are at the top at 2-1, and the Philadelphia Eagles are just 1-2. The NFC East doesn't have a juggernaut that already has laid claim to the division.
However, New York is going to have to turn things around soon. Their next 5 games are winnable, the toughest of which is against NFC North leading Chicago Bears. Division games versus the Philadelphia Eagles await in the next four weeks, and games against the Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders are games they have to win.
It has to happen soon, as late in the season, games versus the Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, and Redskins will provide a huge test for the Giants. If they end this season around 6-10, Tom Coughlin has to be gone. It may be time for a change anyways.
Whatever the case may be, as inconsistent as the Giants have been, they consistently find ways to overcome it. They'll have to do that again. To what degree will they turn things around? That remains to be seen. But they need to do it soon. Too deep a whole may prove impossible to rebound from.