By Curt Macysyn
If any team had reason for concern, prior to Sunday’s contest between the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers, it would have been the injury-ravaged Panthers. After losing three of four starters in their defensive backfield and facing the league’s top passing offense, the Panthers opened the game at a decided disadvantage. But Carolina outworked New York in every aspect of the game, including winning the opening coin flip, and the Panthers shut out the Giants 38-0 in sunny Charlotte, NC.
The Giants offense sputtered all afternoon and had an unbelievable 18 yards of total offense in the first half. Carolina running back Mike Tolbert took the ball in from two yards out on fourth down and inches to put the Panthers ahead 7-0 after one quarter. With the Giants offense continuing to scuffle, Carolina moved the ball effectively, but did not put points on the board until Graham Gano’s 53-yard field increased the Carolina lead to 10-0 with 6:44 left in the second.
With 12 seconds left in the first half, quarterback Cam Newton hit Brandon LaFell with a 16-yard touchdown strike, and Carolina took a commanding 17-0 lead into the locker room. The Carolina defense hurried Giants quarterback Eli Manning all afternoon and had six quarterback sacks by the time the halftime whistle sounded.
Things did not get any better for Big Blue in the second half, as Carolina took the kickoff and marched downfield quickly. Newton hit an open Brandon LaFell, who had beaten cornerback Aaron Ross, from 20 yards out, and Carolina opened up a 24-0 lead on LaFell’s second TD of the game. Before the third quarter ended, Newton carried the ball in from two yards out and the rout was on, Carolina lead New York 31-0 as the quarter ended.
Mercifully for the Giants, Newton and company had only one scoring drive in the fourth quarter. Newton hit speedy Ted Ginn Jr. with a 47 yard touchdown pass to conclude the massacre 38-0. The Panthers moved to 1-2 on the young season, while the Giants dropped to 0-3.
Offense Grade: F
Grading the Giants position players for this game is tough. The inability of New York’s offensive line to pass or run block caused the game plan to deteriorate almost immediately. Tackle Will Beatty had two key holding penalties, including one that negated a David Wilson touchdown run. The rushing game mustered only 60 yards on the ground, but Wilson ran hard and protected the ball. He was the lone offensive bright spot, as the rushing attack could only grind out 60 yards.
Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks was shut out in his return to his home state, and Victor Cruz only had three catches for 25 yards. Manning had 119 passing yards and a 49 quarterback rating. Manning also threw an interception for the third straight game, and the offensive line of the Giants allowed the Panthers to continually dominate the line of scrimmage. Manning was harassed in the pocket continually, and the running back rarely had an open hole to run through.
Defense Grade: F
The defensive front, with the exception of Linval Joseph, was highly ineffective. Mathias Kiwanuka did record a sack of Cam Newton and did a decent job, at times, of setting the edge. Justin Tuck was again invisible with only two tackles. Ryan Mundy had a team-high nine tackles from his safety position.
The linebacking corps was a complete disaster, as no one was effective. Mark Herzlich could not fend off blockers and continually was pushed several yards downfield. Jacquian Williams missed several tackles that cost the Giants field position and first downs. Keith Rivers was mostly invisible, and Spencer Paysinger got dinged up early and was ineffective.
The secondary could not overcome the lack of production by the front seven and gave up several big plays. Aaron Ross was beaten twice for touchdown passes, including Ted Ginn’s 47-yard TD early in the fourth quarter. Terrell Thomas allowed Brandon LaFell to get behind him for a 20-yard touchdown.
Special Teams Grade: F
After a perfect start to the season, Josh Brown missed a 38-yard field goal that would have cut Carolina’s lead to 7-3. Punter Steve Weatherford struggled through an inconsistent afternoon again this week. Weatherford punted six times for a colorless 40.8 average, although he did have two of six punts downed inside the 20-yard line.
Larry Donnell recovered a muffed punt by the Panthers that was more good fortune for New York than it was a forced turnover. The Giants did not capitalize on the field position.
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Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on Examiner.com.